Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Leavitt and Pierce Houses

The Leavitt and Pierce Houses were located on Congress Street, near the intersection where Congress Street, Middle Street, Islington Street, and Maplewood Avenue meet. The Cutter House was located on the southeast corner, the Leavitt House was the next east on Congress Street, and the Pierce house was east of the Leavitt House.

The exact construction date of the Leavitt House is unknown. The home was built sometime before 1761, the year when Wyseman Clagett moved here after his residence on Daniel Street (see Noah’s Ark) was severely damaged by the fire that destroyed the original Stoodley’s Tavern.

Later owners included a painter named George Diog, J. Tufts Pickering, and John Abbott. The home became known as the Leavitt House simply because Charles Brewster, in his 1859 book Rambles About Portsmouth, described the house as “now owned and occupied by Miss Leavitt. It was for some years occupied by her father” whose first name he does not mention. The Portsmouth Guide Book of 1876 describes it as “Miss Leavitt’s House”, and "Leavitt House" was the name used in C. S. Gurney’s 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque.

William Sheafe built the house next door around 1785. Upon his death in 1839, his daughter, Emily Sheafe lived here with her husband, Colonel Joshua Winslow Peirce, the house’s namesake.

A merchant who went to school at Phillips Exeter Academy, Peirce served as Captain of the Gilman Blues, a Portsmouth militia company named for Governor John Taylor Gilman, starting in 1813. He was a Major in the First New Hampshire Regiment in 1816, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1819, then to full Colonel in 1820 and served as the regiment’s commander until 1823. He was an agent of the Salmon Falls Manufacturing Company until 1938, when he retired to this home.

The Leavitt House was later replaced with retail space and  occupied by a Montgomery Ward's catalog showroom until 1973. Flatbread Pizza and the Portsmouth Beauty School are the building's current tenants. The Peirce House location is home to Celtic Crossing, Nahcotta, and Joe's New York Pizza.

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