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.