Thomas Daniel, another wealthy merchant and landowner from Portsmouth’s early days, built a mansion at this location around 1680. He died a few years later, and his widow, Bridget, married Thomas Graffort in 1684.
In 1700, after her second husband died, Bridget Graffort gave the town a fenced strip of land across her property to be used as a public lane from Market Street to the river. The roadway was known as Graffort’s Lane for fifty years but was later renamed Daniel Street after Bridget’s first husband.
She also donated a plot of her land to Portsmouth on the condition that the town build a schoolhouse there. The lot was opposite her mansion, probably near the northwest corner of State and Chapel Streets, but was destined never to be used as a school. In 1735, the town swapped the “Madam Graffort lot” for an old privately-owned schoolhouse farther west on State Street that was more centrally-located.
Prosperous Mark Hunking Wentworth, a son of Lieutenant Governor John Wentworth, lived in Thomas Daniel’s mansion during the Revolutionary War and died at this location in 1785.
Portsmouth demolished the mansion and constructed the current building as a new High School in 1858. Previously there had been two High Schools in Portsmouth: one for boys and one for girls. Although both genders went to school here, boys and girls continued to attend separate classes until 1873.
This building remained Portsmouth High School until 1905, when a larger facility was needed. At that time, Portsmouth built a new High School next to The Academy on Islington Street, a building that still stands but is now used for Senior Housing.
This building was still Portsmouth High in 1902 when the vintage photograph to the right appeared in C. S. Gurney’s book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque.
When the High School moved out, this building became Portsmouth City Hall. The photo below is from the 1953 City of Portsmouth Annual Report:
Today the old High School and City Hall is used as a business condo.