Thursday, March 28, 2013

Davenport House

The Davenport House, also known as the Nathaniel Treadwell House, stood on the northeast corner of State and Fleet Streets. It is now located near Haymarket Square at 70 Court Street.

Charles Treadwell and his wife, Mary Kelley Treadwell, were wealthy Portsmouth merchants who built some of the finest homes in the city, including the National Hotel in 1745 and the Cutter House around 1750. Mary Treadwell built this two-story dwelling on the corner of State and Fleet Streets in 1758 for her son, Nathaniel. 

At that time, the Treadwells owned all of the property from Congress Street to State Street, on either side of Fleet and Chestnut Streets.

The building was named for John Davenport, a Boston silversmith and goldsmith who lived here when he moved to Portsmouth. He specialized in shoe buckles and ran a silversmith shop on the corner of State and Penhallow Streets. When shoe laces were introduced and buckle-making became unprofitable, he converted his silversmith shop into a public house, which he called Ark Tavern. (At that time, Penhallow Street was known as Ark Street; see Noah’s Ark for more information). The tavern was destroyed during the Great Portsmouth Fire of 1813.

Davenport later turned his home into a boarding house known as the Davenport Hotel. During the War of 1812, Governor John Taylor Gilman kept his headquarters here. In 1814, Governor Gilman commanded 5,000 militia troops who ringed Portsmouth and the harbor, expecting an attack by the British that never transpired.

The Davenport House was owned by the Mechanic Association during the mid-1800s and became home to Portsmouth’s YWCA from 1920-1949. It was moved to 70 Court Street in 1956, on the southeast corner of Court and Mark Streets. Opposite the Christian Church, the old Davenport Hotel now serves as office space.

The three photographs above show the Davenport House's original location, how it appeared in C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque, and its current location on Court Street.

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