Reverend John Murray, a founder of Universalism, preached the first Universalist Sermon in Portsmouth in 1773. A decade later, in 1784, a Universalist Church was built on Vaughan Street. Reverend Noah Parker was the first Universalist pastor in town.
The parish built a large wooden church here on Pleasant Street in the early 1800s and held its dedication on January 28, 1808. The church served for almost ninety years; however, a fire on March 28, 1896, destroyed the building. The parish began rebuilding almost immediately. A new, brick church was dedicated on April 21, 1896, and this is the one that appears in the old photograph below from C. S. Gurney’s 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque.
The Universalists suffered another catastrophic fire when their brick church burned in 1947. Afterwards, they merged with the Unitarians in the South or Stone Church.
The old books about Portsmouth do not give a specific location for the Universalist Church. They simply say that it was south of Reverend Samuel Langdon’s house, probably in the belief that it would always be there, and that anyone walking by could not miss it. Today, the church and Reverend Langdon's house are gone – replaced by Citizens Bank and the Parrott Street parking lot – and it is difficult to know exactly where the church stood.
The vintage photograph gives us a couple of clues. The church is close to the road, not set back with a parking lot in front. Also, the corner of Pleasant Street and Junkins Avenue is not visible in the old picture. My best guess is that the Universalist Church was located near the north side of the Parrott Avenue parking lot.