Friday, October 14, 2011

Old Parsonage

The Old Parsonage is located at 118 Pleasant Street, next to the Joseph Sherburne Ayers House on the southwest corner of Court and Pleasant Streets.

The story of the Old Parsonage starts in 1657, when the North Parish established its first meetinghouse at the southwest corner of South and Marcy Streets. Sixteen years later, Captain John Pickering donated a path through his lands to the growing Portsmouth community to serve as a public way for townspeople traveling to the meetinghouse. This pastoral shortcut became known as Pleasant Street.

Old North Meetinghouse
The North Parish built their centrally
located meetinghouse in the middle of Market Square from 1711-1714. This wooden church was officially called the North Meetinghouse but nicknamed the “Three-Decker Church” because it was three stories high.

When Reverend Dr. Joseph Buckminster became minister of the North Church in 1779, the North Parish did not own a parsonage. For thirteen years, Reverend Buckminster boarded with a deacon of the church, Samuel Penhallow, whose house once stood on the southeast corner of Pleasant and Court Streets.

To raise money for a parsonage, the North Parish sold thirty-eight acres of its donated Glebe land situated around the old powder house on Islington Street. The auction took place at Stoodley's Tavern on October 27, 1791.

The North Parish built the Old Parsonage in 1792.  Reverend Buckminster lived here for 18 years, until 1810, when he moved to the mansion on Islington Street now known as the Buckminster House.

During the Great Portsmouth Fire of 1813, Daniel Webster’s house, which stood on the northwest corner of Pleasant and Court Streets, burned to the ground. Fortunately, the Joseph Sherburne Ayers House across the street and the Old Parsonage next door survived and still stand today.

The house was used as the North Parish parsonage for about 40 years and then sold to Charles Robinson as a private residence.

The Old Parsonage has recently been beautifully renovated. Although the front doorway was reconfigured sometime after the vintage photograph above appeared in C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque, the house is easily recognizable today.

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