Thursday, September 29, 2011

Underwood House

John Underwood’s House once stood on the northeast corner of Deer and Vaughan Streets.

Michael Whidden, a local joiner, built the house around 1750, and John Underwood lived here in the early 1800s. At that time, Vaughan Street ran straight south, crossed Deer Street at what became known as “Underwood’s Corner”, and continued through today’s Vaughan Mall to Congress Street.

John Underwood was a rope maker who owned a ropewalk, a long, covered lane where hemp and yarn were spindled and twined into cordage and rigging for Portsmouth's shipyards. Underwood's ropewalk was across the street from his house and stretched west, from the southwest corner of Deer and Vaughan Streets to the North Mill Pond.

In 1815, Portsmouth ropemakers manufactured a huge rope at this ropewalk for the 74-gun warship U. S. S. Washington being built at the new Navy Yard. The rigging required a parade of 80 sailors to haul it to the shoreline.

My recent photograph shows the approximate location of John Underwood's house, where Vaughan Street would have intersected Deer Street. Today the area is overflow parking for the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel.

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