Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Judge Sherburne House

Judge John Sherburne's House was located on the northwest corner of Daniel and Bow Streets, facing Daniel Street.

John Sherburne built the large house around 1760, when he was forty years old. He was a descendant of Henry Sherburne, one of the very early residents of Portsmouth who joined the settlement in 1631. John Sherburne was married to Elizabeth Moffatt, the daughter of wealthy merchant Captain John Moffatt, who built the Moffatt-Ladd House on Market Street.

Judge Sherburne was a Royal officer before the Revolutionary War who held several public offices in Colonial New Hampshire, including Representative to the Provincial Legislature, a member of His Majesty's Council for the Province, Register of the Court of Vice Admiralty, and Judge of Probate. Despite his lifelong work for the British Crown, he supported the American fight for independence.

After John Sherburne died in 1797, his son, John Samuel Sherburne, lived here. John S. Sherburne lived a remarkable life of public service: During the American Revolution, he served as an aide to General John Sullivan until a cannonball took off one of his legs in 1778. He returned to Portsmouth and was District Attorney until 1793. His political career included three years as a State Representative, four years as a United States Congressman, and then two years as a State Senator. During his last years, he served as a District Judge of the United States until his death in 1830.

Today, the location is a parking lot. Note: the tall building in the background is the old Portsmouth Brewing Company warehouse.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Portsmouth Brewing Company

The beer warehouse of the original Portsmouth Brewing Company is located at 121 Bow Street.

Brewers have been crafting beer in Portsmouth for more than 300 years. The first person to be granted the right to brew and sell beer was Samuel Wentworth, in 1670. The first commercial brewery was opened in 1766 by Robert Trail, comptroller of the Port of Portsmouth until the Revolutionary War. His business was located on the corner of Court and Fleet Streets.

In 1871, Arthur Harris partnered with a man named Mathes to establish the Harris & Mathes Company. Within three years, Harris became president of the firm, which he renamed Arthur Harris & Company.

It became the Portsmouth Brewing Company in 1875. 

Before Prohibition, Portsmouth was an important New England beer producer. There were three major breweries in the city: the Portsmouth Brewing Company, the Eldredge Brewing Company, and the Frank Jones Brewing Company. The smallest of these was Portsmouth Brewing Company, which should not be confused with today’s Portsmouth Brewery.

According to Beer, Its History as a National Beverage, published in 1880, New Hampshire had 5 breweries in 1878 that sold 127,071 barrels of beer. The numbers for Portsmouth were 66,398 barrels by Frank Jones Brewing; 40,181 by Eldredge Brewing; and 15,634 for the Portsmouth Brewing Company.

India pale ale, stock and cream ales, hop beer, and old brown stout were sold by the Portsmouth Brewing Company. They also advertised a variety called Portsburger Lager Beer.

Like many brewers in America, the company went out of business around 1919, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” in the United States.

The original warehouse is still recognizable, although several upper floors were added in 1905 and the adjoining glass lobby in 1980. The old Portsmouth Brewing Company warehouse is now occupied by several businesses, including Ale House Inn and Seacoast Repertory Theatre.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Noah's Ark

Noah’s Ark, also known as the Hart House, was located on the southwest corner of Daniel and Penhallow Streets, west of the Old Custom House and Post Office.

The home was built around 1740. The first known owner was Wyseman Claggett, an irascible lawyer who came to Portsmouth in 1758 when he was appointed King’s Attorney. He married Lettice Mitchell (the fiancĂ©e of Nathaniel Warner) in 1759, and they lived here until 1761.

Stoodley's Tavern
On January 25, 1761, a fire in a barber shop on Daniel Street spread to the original Stoodley's Tavern, on the north side of Daniel Street, and then leaped across the street to the Claggett’s house. The blaze completely destroyed James Stoodley’s inn and so severely damaged the Claggett home that they moved to Congress Street.

Claggett later supported the American independence movement and held the office of New Hampshire’s Solicitor General until 1784.

Blacksmith and whitesmith Noah Parker resided here during the American Revolutionary War years. Parker was a very religious man, and his large home became known as “Noah’s Ark.” Penhallow Street was originally called Ark Street, named after Noah’s Ark. Reverend Parker moved to the Noah Parker House on Market Street around 1784, when he became the first Universalist minister in Portsmouth.

Hart House
Jacob Sheafe, a wealthy landowner and father of Thomas Sheafe, purchased Noah’s Ark in 1791 for his daughter, Hannah, and her new husband, Hugh Henderson. After Henderson died, his widow married William Hart. The Harts lived in a corner apartment and ran a shop that faced Daniel Street.

Mrs. Hart lived in the Hart House until she died in 1845 at the age of 99.

The photograph above of Noah’s Ark, which at the time was known as the Hart House, appeared in C. S. Gurney’s 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. Today, the location is a parking lot.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Christian Church

The Christian Church, also known as the Central Baptist Church or Christian Baptist Church, is located near Haymarket Square, on the north side of Court Street between Middle and Chestnut Streets.

The church is associated with Elias Smith, founder of the First Baptist Society of Portsmouth, later known as the First Christian Church or the Portsmouth Church of Christ. Rev. Elias Smith began publishing The Christian Magazine in 1805, and the Herald of Gospel Liberty Christian newspaper in 1808, the first religious paper published in the United States. Both were printed here in Portsmouth, and two sources (Elias Smith by J. F. Burnett and  The Centennial of Religious Journalism by Reverend J. Pressley Barrett) include a photograph of Fowle’s Printing Office as the publication location.

The congregation worshiped at several houses of worship around Portsmouth, the most important being The Temple, a church that used to be located on Chestnut Street where the Music Hall is today. The congregation built the Temple in 1803 and worshiped there until about 1839; the Pleasant Street Church, on the southwest corner of Pleasant and Livermore Streets, from 1839 until 1856; and this church from January 8, 1862.

When the First Christian Church purchased this building in 1862, it was only one story high and known as the Brodhead Methodist Church.

The First Christian Church remodeled it in 1899, and the church was rededicated on February 4, 1891 after being enlarged to its current configuration and extensively improved.

I almost froze taking this picture on a cold day in December! The Christian Church is currently empty and available for sale or lease. I would appreciate any information on the recent history of this building.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

South Creek Painting

A few weeks ago, I received an email from someone who had read my blog post on the Daniel Fernald House. This is an excerpt from the letter:

“I live in London, England and my mother who lives in Sussex has been having some of her pictures restored. She showed me a painting which I originally thought was an old landscape in Portsmouth, England but have discovered it is New Hampshire. I have attached photos of the front and reverse. As you will see the inscription on the reverse refers to the house in your blog. Do you think it is the house in your photograph pre restoration? I know a little about paintings of this era and can tell that the estimated date of around 1800 is correct due to bitumen use in the paint.”

The reverse side of the painting has the following text:

from the Old Fernald House
Cor. Manning and Howard Streets
Portsmouth, N.H.
About 1800

I immediately knew that the house in the painting was not the Fernald house because it is on the banks of a river, and the Daniel Fernald House is on top of Meetinghouse Hill, west of the South Meeting House. I had a theory about the painting’s landscape, and that weekend I walked Portsmouth to search for the location.

I believe the painter was looking southeast “from the Old Fernald House” on the corner of Manning and Howard Streets. The painting is of John Pickering’s South Mill Bridge over the South Creek, which is less than a quarter mile from the Fernald House. The road is Pleasant Street, also donated to the town by John Pickering, where it joins Marcy Street (Water Street in 1800). The house in the picture appears to be the home of a fisherman or boatbuilder. It might have belonged to Isaac Nelson, a Portsmouth boatbuilder who constructed a house across the street in 1800.

The landscape can no longer be viewed from the Daniel Fernald House because of “new” construction. I captured my photograph from the south end of Pleasant Street at approximately the same angle as the painting; however, even from here, the boatbuilder’s house is obstructed.

Below is a comparison of the boatbuilder’s house in the painting and a modern view of the current condominium building.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

South Mill Bridge

The South Mill Bridge, or South Bridge, is located just south of the intersection of Marcy and Pleasant Streets. The bridge carries Marcy Street (Route 1B) across South Creek.

Site of the Old Meetinghouse

Early Portsmouth settlers built a meetinghouse at the triangle of roads leading to New Castle and South Street in 1657. The building was forty feet square, with twelve windows, three doors, and a low belfry.

The following year, Portsmouth gave John Pickering permission to build a mill and dam here. The approval required that he also construct a bridge over the dam for townspeople walking to the meetinghouse. Pickering’s original bridge was only six feet wide.

Around 1731, Portsmouth dismantled the old meetinghouse. The congregation had divided into the North Parish, which worshiped at the North Church in Market Square (built in 1712) and the South Parish, which worshiped at the South Church on Meetinghouse Hill (built in 1731, at the current location of the South Meeting House).

The original John Pickering died in 1668. His son, also named John Pickering, buried him at the Point of Graves burial ground. Pickering descendants continued to own the mill property until 1790. Portsmouth purchased the mill in 1881, demolished it, and built the store at left in the photographs below.

The vintage picture above is from C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. My photograph was taken a few feet right of the original because I would have had to stand in the road to duplicate the exact location, and my vantage point prevents the signs at the left from obstructing the store.

The building near the center (it is yellow in my photo) is the same in both pictures and was the location of the original Portsmouth meetinghouse. The building on the right also still exists (it is blue in my photo).

Today, the store at 367 Marcy Street is home to Sanders Fish Market.

Friday, January 6, 2012

South Meeting House

The South Meeting House, also known as South Ward Hall or South Ward Meeting House, is located at 280 Marcy Street, atop Meetinghouse Hill. It is bordered by Marcy Street, Manning Street, and Meeting House Hill Road.

The current South Ward Meeting House is the second building that has occupied this site. In 1731, John Pickering, the son of the original John Pickering, donated the land on top of Meetinghouse Hill for the establishment of a new South Church. The previous South Church, located near John Pickering’s South Mill Bridge at the triangle of roads leading to New Castle and South Street, was under disrepair and needed to be replaced.

Parishioners cleared the trees atop Meetinghouse Hill and used the lumber to build what is now remembered as the Old South Church. The building served as the South Parish’s meetinghouse from 1731 until 1824. Ministers included William Shurtleff from 1731-1747, Job Strong from 1748-1751, Dr. Samuel Haven from 1752-1806, Timothy Alden (assisting Rev. Haven) from 1798-1805, and Dr. Nathan Parker from 1808-1826.

The congregation moved to the new Stone Church, also known as the South Church, on State Street in 1826.

After 1826, the town used the old meetinghouse on Meetinghouse Hill for various purposes until it was razed in 1863.

Portsmouth built the current South Meeting House in 1866. The first floor was originally used as a school and the second as ward room for public functions.

The Freewill Baptists, the first African-American church in Portsmouth, worshiped on the second floor starting in 1873 and celebrated Emancipation Day here annually starting in 1882. Another African-American denomination that became the People’s Baptist Church began meeting here in 1890. This congregation moved to the building on Pearl Street, known as The Pearl, in 1915.

Portsmouth replaced the tower clock in 1901. I believe the eagle weathervane and slate roof are the originals from 1866.

The black-and-white photographs below are from the U. S. Library of Congress. Jack E. Boucher photographed them in 1961 for an Historic American Buildings Survey by the National Park Service. The pictures show its dilapidated condition at the time.

The South Meeting House was used as a schoolhouse until around 1915, and the local military draft for WWI and WWII were held here. The Disabled American Veterans rented the space from 1960-1962. To prevent the building’s destruction by urban renewal, Strawbery Banke Museum took over the lease in 1963 and signed a 50-year lease in 1966.

The Children’s Museum of Portsmouth rented the building from 1982 until 2008. The current tenant is Portsmouth Public Media, a nonprofit organization that has its offices and production studio in the historic building and hosts Portsmouth’s first public access cable television station, PPMTV.

The South Meeting House is on the National Registry of Historic Places.