Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Pearl

The Pearl, also known as The Portsmouth Pearl, is located at 45 Pearl Street, on the southeast corner of Hanover and Pearl Streets. Former names have included the Free Will Baptist Church, the Pearl Street Baptist Church, the Peoples Baptist Church, the New Hope Church, and the Pearl Street Church.

The Pearl was built by the Free-Will Baptist Church in 1857-1858 as a 40-foot by 50-foot meetinghouse without a steeple. The building was extensively remodeled and expanded in 1866, including the addition of the steeple and its current exterior.

The Free Will Baptist Church combined with the Middle Street Baptist Church in 1915 and left The Pearl. The People’s Baptist Church, an African-American congregation, purchased the building and moved here from the South Meeting House. More interior renovations were made, and the People's Baptist Church opened in June 1915.

The original steeple was replaced sometime during the early 1900s with the current steeple.

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. preached a sermon here on October 26, 1952, titled “Going Forward by Going Backward.” A choir from Malden, Massachusetts sang during the services, including a soloist named Coretta Scott. A year later, Reverend King and Coretta Scott married.

During the 1970s through the early 1980s, the church reorganized as the New Hope Church.

In 1984, the building became the 72 Restaurant. Today it is known as The Portsmouth Pearl and serves as a function room hosted by a catering service.

The Pearl is listed on the New Hampshire Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places.

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