Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Colonel Joseph Whipple House

The Colonel Whipple House was located on the northeast corner of State and Chestnut Streets. It still exists, at 599 Middle Street, on the northeast corner of Middle and Park Streets.

This house was constructed in 1760 and is best known as the residence and Customs Office of Colonel Joseph Whipple.

Joseph Whipple was one of the five offspring of Captain William Whipple. Sr. and Mary Cutt Whipple of Kittery, Maine. He was the younger brother of General William Whipple, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who lived in the Moffatt-Ladd House on Market Street.

Around 1759, the Whipple brothers ran a trading company on Spring Hill in Portsmouth called, appropriately, the firm of William and Joseph Whipple. They ran the store together until shortly before the Revolutionary War.

Colonel Whipple married Hannah Billings from Boston in 1762. Their house nearly burned down on March 15, 1781, when children set fire to a barn where the Music Hall stands today. The first of many major fires in Portsmouth’s history, the blaze consumed the town jail and Langdon Woodbury’s stately Langdon House. Exhausting work by firemen manning the pumps of a fire engine saved Colonel Whipple’s home by directing a continuous stream of water onto the end nearest the inferno.

He later became a Collector of Customs and Harbor Master for the port of Portsmouth. The Custom House was an office adjoining Colonel Whipple’s home until the Custom House and Post Office on Daniel Street opened around 1817.

He was the developer of the town of Dartmouth, New Hampshire, which was incorporated as Jefferson, NH. In 1986, a mountain in Jefferson, NH was named for him, Mount Joseph Whipple. For more information, try this article: Mount Joseph Whipple: How and Why It Got Its Name.

Chestnut Street has been divided into two segments. One segment connects Congress and Porter Streets, and the other connects State and Court Streets. For some reason, the middle section between Porter and State Streets no longer exists. It has been replaced by a lawn and parking lot for the Abraham Shaw House at 379 State Street. The former location of the Colonel Joseph Whipple House is now part of the TD Bank parking lot at 333 State Street (below).

The vintage photograph above appeared in C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. The Colonel Joseph Whipple House was the home of the History Club from 1961-1968 and moved to 599 Middle Street in 1969.
I was ready to publish this article, assuming that the building was gone forever, when I read a Portsmouth Athenaeum article that said the building had been moved to "399 Middle Street" in 1969. Of course, a bit more research revealed that "399" was a typo. I walked Portsmouth and found the building at 599 Middle Street, as shown in my 2012 photograph above. For amazing pictures of the move from State Street to Middle Street, go to the Portsmouth Athenaeum site for "Whipple House Being Moved".

The extension to the right, which now has an extra floor, was the Customs House when Colonel Joseph Whipple was the Collector of Customs for the Port of Portsmouth. The entire building is now an apartment house.

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