Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Portsmouth Athenaeum

The Portsmouth Athenaeum is located at 9 Market Square in Portsmouth, across the street from the North Church.

John Pierce constructed this building in 1803 for the Marine and Fire Insurance Company. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry captured the twin cannons that guard the door at the Battle of Lake Erie. Ironically, losses during the War of 1812 bankrupted the insurance company.

The Portsmouth Athenaeum, a non-profit organization that collects books, manuscripts, photographs, and other information about Portsmouth for educational and research purposes, purchased the building in 1823. Plaques beside the door with "1817" inscribed refer to the year the “Proprietors of the Portsmouth Athenæum” incorporated.

The left photograph, circa 1902, appeared in Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque by C. S. Gurney. I took the right photo in May 2011. The building's exterior has changed little over the last century; however, looking closely at the old photo, you can see that the cannons were once located beyond the original sidewalk, about 6 feet away from the door.

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