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.


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