Historic house signs, markers and plaques always seem to grab our attention. Whenever we stroll through historic neighborhoods in New England, we always pause and take notice of a wooden or bronze sign displayed near a main entrance that reveals bits of history as to who built the house and when. Sometimes an occupation such as sailmaker, barrister, or reverend graces the sign. As we stand on the sidewalk admiring the lettering, we can’t resist imagining what life was like for the original occupants so long ago.
Oddly enough, one important element is often missing from historic house markers. Namely, a woman’s name. Historians explain that women’s names did not appear on deeds unless they were the primary owner of a house. As a result, only the owner is immortalized on a historic house marker. Putting all bureaucracy aside, we all know that women have always played a pivotal role in domestic affairs.
While researching the Sherman House, we learned that the house was built for Isaac Sherman and his bride Elizabeth Sherman in 1811. Isaac worked as a butcher and his shop was located in the Brick Market. The Shermans raised ten children in their lovely Federal home located in the heart of Newport’s Historic Hill neighborhood.
The house remained in the Sherman Family for about 70 years. Every time we run our fingers across the intricate detailing on the mantels and chair rails, we cannot help but think a woman’s touch was involved in their selection and care.
To honor dear Elizabeth Sherman, we decided to break from tradition and craft a more fitting sign. When people pass by the rejuvenated Sherman House they no longer have to cherchez la femme. Now they can simply take notice of a custom sign that proudly states:
We hope our sign will inspire other historic house owners to put more brave women in their place…..proudly on a plaque.