Friday, April 6, 2012

Captain Samuel Chauncy House

The Captain Chauncy House, also known as the Captain Barnes House, is located at 202 Islington Street, on the south side directly across from the intersection of Islington and Langdon Streets.

Captain Samuel Chauncy was born in 1767. Early in his career as a mariner, he captained a merchantman owned by Colonel Eliphalet Ladd, who lived in the Buckminster House. Captain Chauncy married one of his employer's daughters, Betsy, in 1795, and later became a business partner with Ladd’s sons, Henry and Alexander. 

Captain Chauncy and his wife built their large three-story home on the south side of Islington Street, opposite Ann (now Langdon) Street in 1807. They only lived here about five years, then sold the home to Captain Lewis Barnes and moved to a farm in Stratham. Sadly, Samuel Chauncy committed suicide while captaining the Portsmouth trader Hannah overseas, in 1817.

Captain Barnes was born Jacobi Ludwig Bäarnhielm at Gottenburg, Sweden in 1776. When he was fourteen years old, he sailed on a military expedition with his uncle, who commanded a flotilla of gunboats. Feeling that his uncle was mistreating him, one day he jumped overboard and swam to a nearby American ship. He ended up in Salem, Massachusetts and changed his name to Lewis Barnes.

By 1803, Captain Barnes commanded a Portsmouth merchant ship on a trade route between Portsmouth, New Orleans, and Liverpool, England. He married in 1803 and purchased the Captain Chauncy House around 1812. Captain Barnes lived here for the rest of his life and died in this home on June 27, 1856.

Upon his death, the house transferred to his wife, Abby Maria (Walden) Barnes. When his widow died, Captain Barnes’ house came into the possession of one of his daughters, Esther Walden Barnes, in 1894. Esther never married and had no children. When she died in 1903, her heirs sold the house to Elizabeth A. Kenney in 1910. The house again changed hands in 1929, 1934, and 1936.

Between 1936 and 1937, the beautiful house on Islington Street where two Portsmouth sea captains had lived was gutted and transformed into a Sunoco gas station.

All of these vintage pictures were taken in the mid-1930s for an Historic American Building Survey.

The first photograph below was captured in 1936 before the transformation. The next one, from 1937, is titled, "Remains of Capt. Barnes House." 

Today, the AR&T Auto Repair and Towing company occupies the building.

I suspect most people in Portsmouth do not realize the history of this building. It looks like an antique gas station of the 1930s, but once was the stately mansion of a Swedish immigrant who became a successful Portsmouth merchant. Captain Barnes lived here with his wife, Abby, for over forty years. They had nine children during their marriage, six of them while they lived in this house.


  1. It makes me cry.

  2. How long was the Sunoco open, what year did it close?

    1. I do not know and have been unable to find the answer to your question. It was converted to a Sunoco station in 1937, and when I moved to Seacoast New Hampshire in 1989, it was NOT a Sunoco station. If anyone knows the answer to this question, I hope you will let us know!
      Ron Campbell

    2. I own two chairs which are both BRANDED under the seats, "L. Barnes." They are part of a set of eight chairs made and purchased in Portsmouth circa 1810-1820. These chairs were purchased by Mr. Barnes for the house on Islington Street in Portsmouth. I only recently learned of the sad fate if this house and had always hoped that these lovely chairs could have been "reunited" with the house AND/OR find their way back to a descendent of the Barnes family. These chairs are a rare piece of Portsmouth history and are in mint condition.
      Bill Burdick

  3. Imagine my surprise. I have a book called "The Architectural Heritage of the Piscataqua" and it said the house was demolished. The pictures don't lie. The windows on the second story of the gas station line up exactly with those on the picture of the house.