Friday, August 19, 2011

Chase House

The Chase House faces Court Street, on the southeast corner of Court and Washington Streets.

John Underwood of Kittery built this home around 1762. He sold it to Barlow Trecothick, a future Mayor of London, in 1766. The house remained in Trecothick’s possession until 1799, when he sold it to Stephen Chase, a prosperous Portsmouth merchant who had been renting the home for at least ten years.

Stephen lived comfortably in this fine home with his wife, Mary, three daughters, and two sons. He was a substantial citizen who was one of the founders of the original Portsmouth Library and a member of Portsmouth’s Federal Fire Society. When President George Washington visited Portsmouth for a few days in 1789, the Chases entertained him in their beautiful Georgian home. Afterwards, the Father of our Country is said to have kissed each of the Chase girls as he departed.

Stephen Chase died at the age of 61 years in 1805. His widow continued to live in the home with her two sons, who were now prosperous merchants like their father. Chase family members resided in this house until 1881.

One of Stephen’s grandsons, George B. Chase of Boston, donated the house to Portsmouth for an orphans’ home, and it became the Chase Home for Children in 1883. The building served this purpose for about twenty-five years, until the orphanage required larger accommodations. They sold the home to the wife of Thomas Bailey Aldrich, whose former home, two doors down on Court Street, had been her famous husband’s boyhood home.

The Chase House is part of the Strawbery Banke Museum’s collection of 18th and 19th century homes. They continue to restore the interior and exterior to the period when Stephen Chase prospered here.

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