Friday, July 6, 2012

Thomas Haven House

The Thomas Haven House, also known as the Haven-Decatur or Octagon House, was located at 241 Middle Street, on the southeast corner of Middle Street and Richards Avenue. The current mansion is known as the Jones-Sinclair House.

The son of Reverend Samuel Haven and Margaret Marshall, Thomas Haven was born in 1783.  He previously lived on Pleasant Street, near Daniel Webster’s home on the northwest corner of Pleasant and Court Streets. Both houses burned in the Great Portsmouth Fire of 1813.

Afterwards, Haven built an impressive brick mansion here around 1818. It faced northeast, towards the corner where the two streets meet.

I can find very little about Thomas Haven, perhaps because he was the twelfth of seventeen children (two died in infancy). He was likely a wealthy merchant involved in the Haven family shipping business. He married three women during his lifetime: Eliza Hall, Mehitabel Jane Livermore, and Ann Furness.

Admiral George Washington Storer later purchased the house. The admiral’s claim-to-fame began early in life, when he was barely five months old. During President Washington’s visit to Portsmouth in 1789, he bounced the future admiral on his knee at the Tobias Lear House. The legend goes that George Washington placed his hand on the tot’s head and modestly commented that he hoped the boy would become a better man than “the one whose name he bears.” Admiral Storer’s illustrious U.S. Navy career included a stint as Commodore of the Brazil Squadron between the  years 1847-1850. He retired as a Rear Admiral in 1862.

The very old picture below was published in C. S. Gurney’s 1902 book Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque, but was photographed before the mansion was razed around 1865.

Admiral Storer’s daughter, Mary Washington Storer, inherited the house after her father’s death in 1864. She and her husband, Albert L. Jones, demolished the old octagonal-shaped house around 1865-1867. They replaced it with a villa-style mansion, which became known as the Jones-Sinclair House. This mansion still stands at this location and can be seen in my recent photographs.

Around 1890, Charles A. Sinclair and his wife, Emma, received the house as a gift from her father, the famous Portsmouth industrialist and politician, Frank Jones. They extensively remodeled the house and built a large stable next door.

A later owner was Arthur W. Horton, who was born in Portsmouth in 1878 and went to the Haven School. In 1911, he became proprietor of the mansion that was now called the Sinclair Inn. The stables just south of the villa were converted into the Sinclair Garage, a facility that serviced Studebakers. You can see a photograph of the Sinclair Garage on this blog: The

The garage was demolished in the early 1970s to make way for the Margeson Apartments, an elderly and disabled housing unit.

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