Monday, August 29, 2011

Cushman House

Samuel Cushman’s House is located at 58 Washington Street, on the west side of the road and just south of the intersection with Court Street.

Captain John Salter, who lived next door (south), built this house in 1791.  The house is named for Samuel Cushman, a Portsmouth native born on June 8, 1783. Cushman married one of Salter’s daughters and moved into this home in 1816. He held many public offices, including a member of the N. H. House of Representatives from 1833-1835 and U. S. Congressman from 1835-1839.

As you walk north on Washington Street and approach Court Street, Strawbery Banke is to your right. You pass the Daniel Webster House, the Walsh House, the Penhallow House, the Conant House, and the Chase House. Most pedestrians probably do not notice the unmarked, boxy white building across the street.

Still a privately-owned residence, the Cushman House is easily recognized as the mansion built by John Salter when George Washington, hero of the American Revolution, was President of the United States. Samuel Cushman moved in shortly after the second conflict with Great Britain, the War of 1812. The building's namesake lived here while serving in Congress under Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren.

Even the stone sidewalk in front of the house dates from the 19th Century!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

William Pitt Tavern

The William Pitt Tavern is located on the southwest corner of Court and Atkinson Streets.

A plaque placed on the building in 1901 by the NH Society of the Sons of the Revolution incorrectly gives the construction date of this building as 1770. Researchers have discovered that John Stavers purchased the land from Theodore Atkinson in 1765, and that this establishment was open for business as the Earl of Halifax Hotel by May 1768.

This was the second Halifax Hotel in Portsmouth.  Previously, John Stavers operated a Halifax Hotel on State Street and, in 1761, began a weekly stagecoach circuit to Boston called the “Flying Stage Coach”. This may have been the first regular stagecoach service in America.

When he moved his hotel to this location, John Stavers brought his Earl of Halifax tavern sign with him. Because of that noble name and Stavers’ sympathies towards England, the local Tory Party began congregating here. In 1777, anti-British patriots mobbed the hotel and caused substantial property damage. Following repairs and a lesson in patriotic duty, Stavers renamed the hotel and tavern after the less controversial William Pitt, who had been Prime Minister of Great Britain and sympathetic to the American independence movement.

The Pitt Tavern became a patriot meeting place. Several signers of the Declaration of Independence stayed here, including John Hancock. General Henry Knox was a frequent visitor. During September 1782, the Marquis de Lafayette stayed here and visited with officers of the French fleet who were in town. The future King of France, Louis Phillipe, and his two brothers stopped in during the French Revolution. George Washington met with the President (Governor) of New Hampshire, John Sullivan, and the Council of New Hampshire at the William Pitt Tavern on November 4, 1789.

At the time of the old photograph above, the building had been converted into a multi-family home. Now in the possession of  Strawbery Banke Museum, the William Pitt Tavern has been restored to its original configuration.

The white house to the right (west) in both pictures is the Thomas Bailey Aldrich House.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Aldrich House

Also known as the Bailey House and the Nutter House, the Aldrich House  is on the south side of Court Street between Washington and Atkinson Streets, the next west of the William Pitt Tavern.

An unknown builder erected the house during the 1790s. Thomas D. Bailey lived here in 1836 when his grandson, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, was born up the street in the Laighton House.

Thomas Bailey Aldrich became a revered American poet and author. Although he grew up in New Orleans and New York City, some of his fondest childhood memories were of the years 1849 to 1852 when he lived with his grandfather in this house. He wrote two books about the city: The Story of a Bad Boy and An Old Town by the Sea. In The Story of a Bad Boy, he referred to Portsmouth as "Rivermouth" and Thomas Bailey as "grandfather Nutter".

From 1877 to 1883, the Society for the Benefit of Orphan and Destitute Children ran their Children's Home in this building. After the Children's Home moved to the Chase House in 1883, the first hospital in Portsmouth operated in the Aldrich House until the Cottage Hospital overlooking the South Mill Pond opened in 1895.

Thomas Bailey Aldrich died on March 19, 1907. A few months later, on August 1, 1907, the Thomas Bailey Aldrich Memorial Association purchased this building, restored it to the time period when Aldrich was a boy here, and opened it as a memorial museum.

Strawbery Banke museum added the Aldrich House to their collection of historic homes in 1979.

The early photograph above, from C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque, was taken before the TBA Memorial Association converted the home into a museum. In my recent picture, the brick structure behind the Aldrich House is a "fireproof" building the Memorial Association constructed to hold Thomas Bailey Aldrich's memoirs and papers. The William Pitt Tavern still stands to the east of the Aldrich House and can be seen in the left background of both photos.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chase House

The Chase House faces Court Street, on the southeast corner of Court and Washington Streets.

John Underwood of Kittery built this home around 1762. He sold it to Barlow Trecothick, a future Mayor of London, in 1766. The house remained in Trecothick’s possession until 1799, when he sold it to Stephen Chase, a prosperous Portsmouth merchant who had been renting the home for at least ten years.

Stephen lived comfortably in this fine home with his wife, Mary, three daughters, and two sons. He was a substantial citizen who was one of the founders of the original Portsmouth Library and a member of Portsmouth’s Federal Fire Society. When President George Washington visited Portsmouth for a few days in 1789, the Chases entertained him in their beautiful Georgian home. Afterwards, the Father of our Country is said to have kissed each of the Chase girls as he departed.

Stephen Chase died at the age of 61 years in 1805. His widow continued to live in the home with her two sons, who were now prosperous merchants like their father. Chase family members resided in this house until 1881.

One of Stephen’s grandsons, George B. Chase of Boston, donated the house to Portsmouth for an orphans’ home, and it became the Chase Home for Children in 1883. The building served this purpose for about twenty-five years, until the orphanage required larger accommodations. They sold the home to the wife of Thomas Bailey Aldrich, whose former home, two doors down on Court Street, had been her famous husband’s boyhood home.

The Chase House is part of the Strawbery Banke Museum’s collection of 18th and 19th century homes. They continue to restore the interior and exterior to the period when Stephen Chase prospered here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Penhallow House

Penhallow House is located on the east side of Washington Street, halfway between Court Street and Hancock Street.

Samuel Penhallow built this modest saltbox house on the southeast corner of Pleasant and Court Streets around 1750. A greatly respected resident of Portsmouth, he served as the local magistrate and a deacon of the North Church.

Judge Penhallow held court in a small room on the front right (southwest) corner of the building. Guilty offenders were subject to fines, time in the stocks, a number of lashes, or (rarely) hanging. Portsmouth used the town pump, located in the center of Market Square near the intersection with Daniel Street, as their whipping post. The town stocks, where shamed people were confined, stood near the southeast corner of the old North Church.

Samuel Penhallow and his wife, Prudence, kept a small shop in the front left room, opposite the courtroom, where they sold sewing items, snuff, and other sundries. John Paul Jones is said to have visited the store while boarding at the home of Captain Gregory Purcell's widow.
(See John Paul Jones House)

The Reverend Dr. Buckminster, who later owned the Buckminster House on Islington Street, boarded with Deacon Penhallow when he first came to Portsmouth in 1779.

Samuel Penhallow died in this house in 1813 after having lived here for more than 60 years.

The building was moved to Washington Street in 1862. Today the Penhallow House belongs to Strawbery Banke Museum, which is restoring it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pease Tradeport - Boston-Portsmouth Air Show

I spent more time gawking than walking last weekend! Pease International Tradeport, which is located approximately four miles northwest of downtown Portsmouth, hosted the second Boston-Portsmouth Air Show over the weekend of August 13 & 14, 2011.

Photo by Edith Campbell

My camera malfunctioned on Friday during the air show practice, so my wife captured the best photograph of the day (left) and arguably the shot of the weekend.

Edith's picture shows the United States Air Force Thunderbirds flying in formation over Portsmouth.

She snapped this photo using her Casio EX-S600 Exilim, a pocket camera with only a small LED screen and 3X zoom!

(Click any of these pictures for a larger view)

I took the remaining photographs on this page with my Canon PowerShot A95 on Saturday. The PowerShot is also a small digital camera with only a 3X zoom but has a convenient viewfinder that makes photography of fast-moving jets much easier.

Capturing photographs like these with compact cameras takes practice and knowing in advance where the flight paths pass overhead.
Team Heavy Metal
USN F/A-18 Super Hornet

USN F/A-18 Super Hornet
USAF Thunderbirds

Thunderbirds Power Climb
Thunderbirds Diamond Formation
I was walking Portsmouth again on Sunday, lurking around Strawbery Banke and taking updated photographs of the Penhallow House, Chase House, Aldrich House, and Pitt Tavern. Posts about these locations will be published in the near future.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

19 Market Street

The mercantile stores at 19 Market Street are on the east side of the avenue, between Commercial Alley and Daniel Street.

I can find very little information about the history of this property. The Great Parade Fire of 1802 burned every building on Market Street. In 1803, Portsmouth widened the street and built many of the brick buildings that still remain near Market Square. Although the Great Market Street Fire of 1845 destroyed several brick blocks, I believe the flames traveled only as far as Ladd Street and Commercial Alley. For those reasons, I estimate the date of construction to have been 1803.

The photograph below appeared in my favorite source for vintage photographs of the city, C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. Like the Portsmouth Brewery building and several other merchants on Market Street, a dry goods store sold their wares here at the turn of the 19th Century. This one belonged to D. F. "Fred" Borthwick, who was also a trustee of the Portsmouth Savings Bank.

The Portsmouth Directory of 1905 lists the address of D. F. Borthwick's as 11 and 13 Market Street; however, the street has been renumbered. To find the building, I printed the old photograph and carried it with me on a search down Market Street. The 2nd and 3rd floors are almost identical in both pictures and helped me to identify the building.

The store front has changed considerably! Later owners removed the door on the right to expand the retail space, installed a new entrance on the left, relocated the hexagonal sales pavilion to accomodate the new configuration, and lowered the awning. The left door in the vintage photo now opens on two clothing stores: Angelica's Muse on the left and Clay's on the right. The new entrance opens on LeRoux Kitchen, which occupies the building next door.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

General Fitz John Porter Statue

The equestrian statue of General Fitz John Porter is located in Haven Park near the intersection of Pleasant and Edward Streets.

Fitz John Porter’s birthplace is the Matthew Livermore House at 32 Livermore Street, within sight of his statue. The home originally stood on the north side of Livermore Street but was moved to the opposite side to make room for Haven Park.

General Porter attended West Point, commanded troops during the Mexican-American War, instructed Cadets at West Point, and then served as a Union general in the American Civil War. He became a trusted advisor and friend to controversial General George McClellan and expertly commanded his V Corps.

During the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862, Major General John Pope managed to snatch defeat from certain victory by losing control of the battlefield and mismanaging his troops. Among his mistakes were several conflicting and misinformed orders to the V Corps, which was reinforcing his Army of Virginia. Had General Porter followed Pope’s instructions to the letter, the V Corps would have suffered complete destruction and the Union an even more decisive loss. Unimpressed, General Pope arrested General Porter for disobeying his orders.

The kangaroo court martial that followed involved political cronyism, media sensationalism, and ignorance of the facts. They convicted Fitz John Porter of disobedience and misconduct in the face of the enemy. Kicked out of the army on January 21, 1863, he was lucky to have escaped hanging. The public branded him a coward.

I attended a short ceremony in Haven Park on the morning of August 6, 2011, marking the 125th anniversary of General Porter’s complete exoneration. He had spent the rest of his life battling the charges against him and finally prevailed when, in 1878, an army commission reviewed all the facts and ruled that he had acted commendably. The President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, reversed the original court martial verdict on August 5, 1886.

After Civil War hero Fitz John Porter died on May 21, 1901, Portsmouth received a $30,000 donation from the estate of R. H. Eddy of Boston, whose will stipulated that the money be used to erect a bronze equestrian statue of his long-time friend. A gifted historical sculptor, James E. Kelly of New York, created the monument, and Mayor William E. Marvin dedicated the sculpture on July 1, 1906.

The memorial plaque reads as follows:

On this site
was born
Fitz John Porter
Aug. 31, 1822
While his father
Capt. John Porter, U. S. N.
commanded the Portsmouth Navy Yard.
Graduated from West Point, July, 1845.
Distinguished himself and was wounded in war with Mexico
1846 – 1847.
Instructor of Artillery and Cavalry
West point 1854 – 1855.
Asst. Adjt. Gen. Utah Expedition 1857.
During Civil War
Brev. Brig. Gen. U. S. A. June 27, 1862.
Maj. Gen. U. S. Vol. July 4, 1862
Commanded 5th Army Corps.
Cashiered Jan. 21st, 1863.

The case of Gen. Porter was reviewed by
a Board of Officers appointed by
President Hayes
consisting of
Lieut. Gen. J. M. Schofield
Brev. Maj. Gen. A. H. Terry
Brev. Maj. Gen. G. W. Getty

Hon. Joseph H. Choate, counsel for Gen. Porter

The Board fully exonerated him.
Their judgment was approved by
General U. S. Grant
Finally by both Houses of Congress.
He was restored to his former
rank in the Regular Army
President Cleveland.

Died at Morristown, New Jersey,
May 21st, 1901.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Langley Boardman House

The Langley Boardman House is on the west side of Middle Street, near Haymarket Square, next door to the brick Parrott House.

Langley Boardman was a carpenter and accomplished home builder with the Portsmouth firm of Boardman & Miller. In 1800, they constructed two apartment houses on the north side of Congress Street that became the Portsmouth Hotel and Stage House, where passengers boarded stagecoaches bound for Portland, Concord, and Boston. Later owners replaced the buildings with the Franklin House and Franklin Hall, and the property became known as the Franklin Block.

Langley Boardman later served as a Constitutional Councilor and N. H. State Senator. He built his mansion on Middle Street in the early 1800s and lived here until his death in 1833. His son, Dr. John Boardman, owned the home until 1900.

The next owner was an attorney with the law firm of Frink, Marvin, & Batchelder. William E. Marvin served as the city mayor at the time of the Treaty of Portsmouth that ended the Russo-Japanese War and also presided at the dedication ceremony for the General Fitz John Porter equestrian statue in Haven Park.

The Langley Boardman House is still a private residence, beautifully preserved by later owners. Even the granite hitching posts out front remain!

The mansion is remarkable for its mahogany front door with ovals lined by whalebone, a rounded porch above the door, and the distinctive second-floor Palladian window.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Peirce House and Parrott House

The Joseph W. Peirce House is located on the west side of Middle Street, opposite Haymarket Square.
Captain William F. Parrott House

The next house south is a brick residence known as the Parrott House. Union soldier Captain William F. Parrott built this brick home during the Civil War.

Haymarket Square is in the center of the intersection between Court Street and Middle Street. The first hay market was established here in 1755. It was equipped with scales for weighing hay brought to market from nearby farms. Today Haymarket Square is a traffic island surrounded by stately homes dating from the 1800s.