Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Episcopal Chapel

The Episcopal Chapel, also known as St. John's Chapel, stood on the south side of State Street, just west of the former Rectory of St. John’s Parish, between Pleasant and Penhallow Streets.

Reverend John Emerson, controversial leader of the South Church from 1715 until his death in 1732, lived in a home on this lot. Jacob Sheafe then purchased the property and moved here from Newcastle. Later, Sheafe built a larger mansion for his family across the street, where the Rockingham County Court House once stood. 

The Great Portsmouth Fire of 1813 destroyed both buildings.

John Fisher Sheafe, a descendant of Jacob Sheafe, donated the land to the parish of St. John's Church. In 1832, a master builder named William Tucker constructed an Episcopal Chapel here using a Greek Revival design chosen by Reverend Dr. Charles Burroughs. Reverend Burroughs was minister of St. John’s Church from 1812 until 1857 and lived in the Governor John Langdon House on Pleasant Street.

The Brattle Organ that is now in St. John’s Church, probably the first pipe organ in America, made its Portsmouth debut in this chapel. It was built by John Preston of York, England around 1708. The name is derived from its original owner, Thomas Brattle, who donated the organ to King’s Chapel of Boston, where it remained until 1756. After entertaining the congregation of St. Paul’s Church in Newburyport for eighty years, the Brattle Organ was purchased by Rev. Burroughs for $450 in 1836. Portsmouth has been its home ever since, except for a brief stint at a Boston musical exhibition in December, 1901.

The vintage photograph above was taken from C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. The location is now retail space, currently occupied by Orange Leaf frozen yogurt and the Canine Cupboard, purveyor of gourmet dog treats.

My recent photograph to the right shows the St. John's Rectory building today, with "Schoolhouse Hill" on the left where the Old Brick Schoolhouse once stood, and what remains of the hill on the right, where the Episcopal Chapel was constructed.

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