Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Y. M. C. A. Building

The old Portsmouth Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) building is located at 141 Congress Street, on the north side near the corner of Congress Street and Maplewood Avenue.

Previously at this location stood the residence of William Henry Young Hackett, who lived here for more than fifty years.  W. H. Y. Hackett was a prominent lawyer, banker, and politician who arrived in Portsmouth at the age of 22 in 1822. He began employment at the law office of Ichabod Rollins and four years later was admitted to the New Hampshire Bar.

W. H. Y. Hackett accompanied his boss, Ichabod Rollins, to the Massachusets border in September 1824, as a member of a seven-man delegation who welcomed the Marquis de Lafayette to New Hampshire. Hero of the American Revolution and friend of George Washington, Lafayette was 67-years-old at the time. His visit to Portsmouth included a tour of the Portsmouth Navy Yard, a Great Banquet at Jefferson Hall, and a Grand Ball in Franklin Hall, where the Franklin Block stands today.

When the Piscataqua Bank was established in 1825, W. H. Y. Hackett was the bank’s solicitor. He served as a bank director for many years and bank president from 1844 - 1878. The New Hampshire Senate appointed him President in 1861, where he served as a State Senator until 1863.

In 1869, he edited and published the second volume of Rambles About Portsmouth at the request of  the family of Charles Brewster, who had died the previous year. The book included a biographical sketch of the famous Portsmouth journalist by W. H. Y. Hackett.

After his death in 1878, his home became the Portsmouth Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), as shown in the 1902 photograph below from C. S. Gurney's book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque.

The Young Men's Christian Association was first established in Portsmouth in 1852. They built a new facility, the current building shown in my 2011 photograph above, on the site of Hackett's mansion in 1905. The YMCA occupied this building until 1957, when the organization moved its operations to Camp Gundalow in Greenland.

The Portsmouth YMCA merged with the Portsmouth YWCA in 1980 and still operates today as the Seacoast Family YMCA. They are currently located at 550 Peverly Hill Road in Portsmouth.

The 1905 YMCA building on Congress Street has been occupied by the Sake Japanese Restaurant since around 1997. Restoration of the building is fair. The facade has lost much of its original character, as shown in this 1907 drawing from the North Church's pamphlet, An Historical Calendar of Portsmouth.

The building contains a hidden gem: If you walk around the corner to the Worth Lot off Maplewood Avenue, on the rear of the building you can see original cathedral windows with the triangular YMCA seal.


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