Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Walsh House

The Walsh House is located on Washington Street, the next structure north of the Daniel Webster House, on the property of Strawbery Banke Museum.

Keyran Walsh purchased this newly-built home in 1797. Captain Walsh had been a resident of Portsmouth for fifteen years and was quickly becoming a wealthy merchant. In 1799, he was the captain of America when the merchantman and its $6,000 cargo were captured by a British warship and taken to Jamaica. 

During his later years, he sailed for merchants in Boston and rented this house to tenants. Only ten years after he purchased this home, in 1807, he died at sea while transporting goods between South America and Charleston, South Carolina.
The Walsh House originally stood next door, approximately eighty feet south of its current location. It was moved by Strawbery Banke in 1969 to the site where the First Sunday-School  once stood. 

I have not found an existing vintage photograph of the Walsh House. In the 1961 black-and-white photo below of the old Sunday-school, the Walsh House can be seen in the background, at its original location.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

First Sunday-School

The so-called First Sunday-School in Portsmouth was once located on the east side of Washington Street, between Hancock and Court Streets, where the Strawbery Banke Museum’s Walsh House stands today.

The story of the small home that once stood on this spot began with the Great Portsmouth Fire of 1813. When the smoke cleared on the following morning, all that remained of the NH Union Bank, which stood on the southeast corner of Pleasant and State Streets, was its vault, standing defiantly among the ashes. 

In 1814, the Union Bank built this structure, which at that time was a single story, to enclose their safe and to serve as a temporary bank.

Four years later, when the bank had no more need of the little building, Joseph Haven purchased it for the South Parish. It served as the church's Sunday-School starting in June, 1818. The following year, it was moved to Wentworth Street, not far from the Livermore Street home of Reverend Nathan Parker, spiritual leader of the South Parish. In 1828, the Pleasant Street Congregational Society purchased the building and relocated it to Livermore Street, where the Livermore House stands today. It was used as a vestry for their church – now an apartment house – on the southwest corner of Pleasant and Livermore Streets.

The little house that could took one last journey when, in 1884, a new owner moved it to Washington Street. He added a half-story to the structure and converted it to a two-family rental property. 

At the time, the Walsh House stood about 80 feet farther south (on the right in this photograph), and the First Sunday-School sat between it and the Penhallow House. After urban renewal ended the building's travels in 1963, Strawbery Banke moved the Walsh House to its present location.

By the way, I call this the First Sunday-School because that is the name it was given by C. S. Gurney in his 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. It was first used as a Sunday-School in June, 1818, although even he admits that “This, however, was not strictly speaking the first Sabbath-school in Portsmouth.” That honor, apparently, goes to a religious school for African-American children that was held in a room of a private home. The First Sunday-School was probably the first building in Portsmouth to serve in this capacity.

Gurney did not include a photograph of the building in his book, so these black-and-white pictures are from the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), created in 1961.

As you can see from my photograph of this scene, almost three feet of snow in the last two weeks is hampering my Walk Portsmouth excursions! The yellow house in my picture is the Walsh House, which was moved to this location in 1969. The next house north (left background) in both photos is the Penhallow House.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cotton Tenant House

The Cotton Tenant House, once known as the Ingraham House, is located on the southwest corner of Atkinson and Jefferson Streets, within the boundaries of Strawbery Banke Museum.

The Cottons were an old Portsmouth family who first settled in the area in the mid-1600s. Pasture land owned by the family on the corner of South Street and Sagamore Avenue became the Cotton Burial Ground and later part of the South Cemetery.

Leonard Cotton, a descendant born in 1800, constructed this small dwelling as a rental property around 1835. His own home, known as the Leonard Cotton House, is nearby on Washington Street. 

Leonard began as a skilled cooper – a barrel maker, and later became a prosperous merchant. He used his wealth to purchase and build rental properties in the area. By the time of his death in 1872, his holdings included more than forty properties throughout Portsmouth. 

A son of Leonard Cotton, William Cotton, continued his father's business. One of the new properties he established was the Gookin House in 1878.

These black-and-white photos were taken in 1961 for an Historic American Building Survey (HABS) by the National Park Service.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Rider-Wood House

The Rider-Wood House, sometimes spelled Ryder-Wood, is located on the southwest corner of Jefferson Street and Whidden Place, on the property of Strawbery Banke Museum.

Before the American Revolution, George Walton opened a tannery on this lot, where he converted animal hides into leather. Walton is also associated with the Conant House at Strawbery Banke.

One of the many Samuel Jacksons to reside in Portsmouth built the current house around 1780-1800. He was a skilled carpenter who also built his own home, the Jackson House, around 1795-1800. 

Although the Rider-Wood House is a small, four-room building representative of a middle-income wage earner of the late 18th Century, Jackson added fine details – like the transom and pediment above the front door – that were personal touches and showed that he took pride in his work. 

Compare this house with the Peacock House, constructed around 1821, which was built strictly as a rental property. The tenant houses are simply constructed and plainly ornamented.

John and Mary Rider, who came to the United States from Devonshire, England in 1790, purchased this house from Henry Jackson, probably a son of Samuel Jackson, in 1809. They added the two sheds to the house. The one on the west side facing Jefferson Street was added around 1811 and most likely used as a retail shop.

After John Rider died in 1818, Mary ran a grocery shop until the 1830s. By then, she was a wealthy woman who lived on profits from her rental properties as well as dividends and interest from stocks and bank accounts. When she died in 1861, this house became the property of her nephew, James Wood, who lived here until 1900.

Later, the house served as a Kosher butcher shop and then rental apartments. Slated to be torn down by Portsmouth’s urban renewal in the 1960s, the Rider-Wood House was preserved by Strawbery Banke Museum.

The black-and-white photographs are from a 1961 Historic American Building Survey (HABS) by the National Park Service. The report refers to this structure as the Ryder-Wood House and claims that the home was built around 1740 and the shop addition added around 1820-1830. The statistics I used for this article came primarily from more recent studies by Strawbery Banke Museum and from the book, Building Portsmouth: The Neighborhoods and Architecture of New Hampshire's Oldest City, by Richard M. Candee.