Friday, August 24, 2012

George B. French Company

The George B. French Company was located at 41 Market Street, on the northeast corner of Market Street and Commercial Way.

George B. French lived from 1828-1900. He opened a dry goods and carpet house at this location around 1888. The store continued in operation long after his death, at least into the 1960s, although it later moved to a Market Square location.

An 1887 book called, Leading Manufacturers and Merchants of New Hampshire, wrote, “Mr. French has been engaged in the dry goods trade in this city for the past thirty years and by force of energy, enterprise, and close attention to the popular want, has reached a preeminence in the trade of which he has just reason to be proud. He occupies the largest and finest salesroom in this line in the city, together with two floors above and a basement, for the exhibition and storage of the stock that is constantly carried.”

The old photograph below, from Caleb S. Gurney's book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque, shows what the store looked like in 1902, when it was owned by George E. French, who was probably George B. French's son.

The 1905 Portsmouth Directory included the store under the following categories: Carpets; Crockery, China, and Glassware; Dry Goods; Fancy Goods; Hosiery and Gloves; and Upholstery and Goods.
The retail space has been occupied by the Kennedy Gallery for many years.
This building is very distinctive and a Market Street landmark, yet I spent a frustrating week researching this location and found very little information.
For example, I cannot determine the significance of two dates near the roof: 1780 and 1880. The building could not have been constructed in 1780, because every structure on Market Street was destroyed by the Great Parade Fire of 1802. The building at this location may also have burned down in the Market Street Fire of 1845. I suspect the 1880 refers to either the date when the building was erected or when it was significantly redesigned.
If anyone has more information about 41 Market Street, I would appreciate a comment on this page, or drop me a line at

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