Tuesday, January 8, 2013

McIntosh Block

The McIntosh Block is located at 62 Congress Street, on the southwest corner of Fleet and Congress Streets.

The first building to stand on this corner was a one-story home with two rooms owned by an eccentric but good-humored gentleman named Joseph Moses. Although known as “Doctor Moses”, he was actually a house carpenter. He, his wife, and his nine children lived in one room; the other room was occupied by the family cow. After Doctor Moses died, his widow ran a school at this location during the Revolutionary War.

The gambrel-roofed building that appeared in C. S. Gurney’s 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque (below) was originally the home of Nathaniel Dean, who built the house around 1783 and lived here for nearly forty years. Before construction of the McIntosh Block (left) in 1919, the property was known as the Dean Building.

The home was later owned by Willis Barnabee, one of the talented stagecoach drivers, known as Whips or "Knights of the Whip", who worked the Boston-to-Portsmouth-to-Portland circuit. It was Barnabee who had the honor of chauffeuring the Marquis de Lafayette up Route 1 from Boston to Portsmouth in 1824. The road has been known as Lafayette Road (or Lafayette Highway) ever since. Willis Barnabee's son, Henry Clay Barnabee, was born in the Dean Building in 1833 and became a famous comic actor and singer, known as “The Dean of Comic Opera”. He talks about his hometown in his biography, My Wanderings: Reminiscences of Henry Clay Barnabee, published in 1913.

The Dean Building was later occupied by the bakery of George W. Plummer, as seen in this Portsmouth Athenaeum photograph. The 1902 picture below shows a cobbler’s shop, but the photo is out of focus, and I have been unable to determine the name or the proprietor.

A plaque on the current McIntosh Block indicates that the building was constructed in 1919 by a Portsmouth merchant named D. H. McIntosh. The retail space fronting Congress Street has been occupied by the Portsmouth Candle Company for a number of  years.

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