Friday, September 2, 2011

Treadwell Jenness House

The Treadwell Jenness House is located at 93 Pleasant Street, on the northeast corner of Pleasant and Court Streets.

After the death of Robert Treadwell, an affluent Portsmouth merchant, his widow built this mansion in 1818. Construction of the house complied with the 1814 Brick Act that required every new building in downtown Portsmouth over one story high to be built of bricks. The controversial Brick Act was a legislative measure meant to prevent another devastating "Great Fire of Portsmouth".

When Richard Jenness moved to Portsmouth in 1829, his family and descendants lived in this home for a number of years.  A successful hardware merchant, Jenness later went into politics. He served as a N. H. State Representative from 1838 – 1841, Navy Agent for the district from 1845 – 1849, and N. H. State Senator from 1849 – 1851. He also served as Mayor of Portsmouth in 1856.

At the turn of the 20th Century, Elias G. Merrick owned the mansion and ran a boardinghouse he called the Hotel Merrick, as seen in the 1902 photograph below.

Today the mansion is occupied by Northeast Auctions whose owner, Ronald Bourgeault, frequently appears on the PBS hit program, Antiques Roadshow.

The castle-like mansion that previously stood on this corner had an even more amazing history. The High Sheriff of the Province of New Hampshire, Thomas Packer, lived here during the 1700s. Sheriff Packer is best known for executing Ruth Blay, a woman found guilty of murdering her illegitimate newborn because there were no witnesses to testify that the baby was actually stillborn.

According to Portsmouth lore, shortly after her death on a gallows on December 30, 1768, at the highest point of Proprietors’ Burial Ground (now part of the South Cemetery), Ruth Blay received a belated reprieve from the Governor. That night, angry townspeople gathered in front of her executioner's house on this corner and hanged an effigy of Sheriff Packer in protest. Today, these lurid details are known to be false and were based on rumors and oral histories passed down for generations.

Colonel William Brewster later converted the old mansion into a boardinghouse, and President George Washington stayed here during his four day visit to Portsmouth in 1789. Unfortunately, the original, historic mansion that could truthfully boast, “Washington Slept Here”, burned to the ground during the Great Portsmouth Fire of 1813.

1 comment:

  1. And was the home of the Portsmouth Lodge of Elks