Sayward-Wheeler House overlooks the York River, which was ideal for shipping merchant Jonathan Sayward, who purchased the house in 1735. In addition to being a successful businessman, Sayward was a judge and leading citizen in York. He enjoyed great community respect, although his Loyalist views were in the minority during the years leading up to the American Revolution.
In spite of his strong local ties, 1775 was a trying year for Sayward. He was stripped of his local positions and confined to the town by anti-Loyalist officials, suffering through many restless nights, of which he later wrote, "I heard the hourly chiming of the tall clock." The clock remains to this day in the sitting room beside Sayward's desk.
The house changed little in the century that followed, due to the declining financial resources of Sayward's descendants and in deference to the family's venerable patriarch. The parlor still contains the eighteenth-century furniture and portraits that were present on the eve of the Revolution. It is believed to be one of the best-preserved colonial interiors in the nation.