Thursday, January 3, 2013

Rogers Building

The Rogers Building was located on the south side of Congress Street between Church and Fleet Streets, opposite Congress Block.

A sign beside the door describes this area as part of the Glebe lands, "leased lots provided by the North Church Parish". A previous home built here belonged to Thomas Phipps, the first public school teacher in Portsmouth.

The Rogers Building was named for Reverend Nathaniel Rogers, pastor of the North Church from 1697-1723.

In October 1704, his home on Pleasant Street accidentally caught fire and burned to the ground. The tragedy took the lives of his mother-in-law, his 17-month-old daughter, and a female servant who was an African slave. With church assistance, he constructed a new house here on Congress Street one year after the fire. His home consisted of the upper two floors of the building shown in the old photograph below. Reverend Rogers died in 1723 and is buried in the Point of Graves burial ground.

In 1871, the home was sold out of the Rogers family. The new owners raised the building one level and constructed retail space beneath it. The first floor of the old Rogers Building, which was demolished years ago, had shops that were very similar to those that can still be found on Market Street. 

The old photograph below appeared in C. S. Gurney’s 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. At that time, the left (east) retail shop was occupied by Baldwin A. Reich’s Portsmouth Fancy Bakery. His awning advertises, “Robeck’s Famous Orange And Wedding Cake”. He also sold ice cream and sherbets.

The right (west) retail shop held W. F. & C. E. Woods’ Harness Manufactory. Originally owned by John S. Tilton, mayor of Portsmouth in 1898, the business opened in 1868 and specialized in horse tack, including blankets, bridles, collars, fly nets, halters, harnesses, and saddles. 

After William F. Woods and Charles E. Woods purchased the business, their wares included bicycles and luggage.  In the 1905 Portsmouth Directory, the shop was listed under the following categories: Bicycles, Carriage Trimmers, Horse Clothing, Suit Cases, Trunks and Valises. The Woods also owned a shop on Porter Street where they sold automobiles.

The current building was constructed a few years ago. The retail space is occupied by Good Vibes, a 'Genuine Neighborhood Shop' that carries the Life is Good® brand, and Kilwins', a chocolate, fudge, and ice cream shop.

East of the Rogers Building, on the corner of Congress and Church Streets where Popovers on the Square is located today, lived  Hunking Wentworth. He was an American patriot who served as the chairman of Portsmouth's  branch of the Committee of Public Safety, a pre-Revolutionary War group opposed to British rule. The Committee, whose predecessor was the Sons of Liberty, held their meetings at his home. 

Amazingly, despite his zealous support of American Independence, many members of Hunking Wentworth's family governed the Royal Province of New Hampshire. His father, John Hunking Wentworth, was Lieutenant Governor, his brother was Governor Benning Wentworth, and his nephew was Governor John Wentworth, the last Royal Governor of the province.

For many years, the Portsmouth's Colonial Theater stood between Hunking Wentworth's home and the Rogers Building, as shown in this Portsmouth Athenaeum photograph: Crowd in Front of Colonial Theater.

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