Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pickering Block

The Pickering Block, also known as the Sheafe Block, is located in Market Square on the northeast corner of Daniel and Market Streets.

This corner lot was originally owned by Captain Richard Cutt, a very early Portsmouth pioneer who helped build the first South Meeting House near the South Mill Bridge in 1657. He was appointed the first commander of the new fort on Great Island (now New Castle) in 1666. Upon his death in 1676, the lot on this corner was willed to his daughter, Bridget.

Bridget Daniel Graffort and her first husband, Thomas Daniel – the namesake of Daniel Street – lived in a mansion where the old High School and City Hall are located today. They owned a large two-story house on this corner that was home to Ichabod Plaisted and later Daniel Rindge. The Great Parade Fire of 1802 destroyed the building.

The Pickering Block was built around 1812. It was originally intended to be a hotel; however, during construction, the builder modified the block to be used for retail stores and apartments.

The vintage photograph of Pickering Block (below) appeared in C. S. Gurney’s 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. At that time, the retail stores were Lewis E. Staples Dry Goods and Furnishings Store on the left and J. H. Hutchinson & Company, Jewelers and Opticians on the corner. The center store appears to be vacant.

According to the Portsmouth Directory of 1905, a jeweler named Arthur B. Duncan had succeeded J. H. Hutchinson & Company in the corner shop.
The central space had become a shoe store called Duncan & Storer (owned by C. T. Duncan and W. E. Storer), and Lewis E. Staples still sold dry goods.

The corner shop appears to have been a jewelry store since at least the 1890s. Today it is a family-owned business called Alie Jewelry. The store where Duncan & Storer sold "fine boots, shoes, slippers" is still a shoe store, called Footnotes, and Lewis E. Staples' Dry Goods Store has been occupied by the G. Willikers! Toy Shop since 1978.

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