Friday, August 17, 2012

Immaculate Conception Church

The Immaculate Conception Church is on the southwest corner of Summer and Chatham Streets.

The first Roman Catholic Church in New Hampshire was built at Claremont in 1823. Portsmouth’s first Roman Catholic mass was held in 1836, over the confectionary shop of Dominick Peduzzi, an immigrant from Italy, The building, on the northwest corner of Congress and High Streets, was razed in 1890 and replaced by the current Fay Block.

An old circus field once occupied the block where the Catholic Church and Parochial School are located today, bordered by Summer, Chatham, Austin, and Winter Streets. The 1680 will of John Cutt referred to the space as the “windmill field” because of the old mill that stood here.

The first Catholic Church in Portsmouth, St. Mary’s, opened on this site in 1852. At the time, there were about three hundred parishioners. Like so many wooden buildings in this city, the church burned down in November 1871.

The cornerstone for a new, brick church was laid the following year. The first Immaculate Conception Church opened in 1873 after a cost of $30,000.

The large Parochial School on the northeast corner of Austin and Winter Streets (right) was added in 1887. 

By 1902, when the photograph below appeared in C. S. Gurney’s book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque, the congregation had grown to approximately two thousand members.

The second church at this location was razed in 1932 and replaced by the second Immaculate Conception Church in 1933. This is the church that stands there today. The stained glass windows from the former church were saved and included in the new edifice.

I promise to return in the fall and capture some better photographs of this beautiful building!

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