Sunday, July 21, 2013

Boyd-Raynes House

The old Boyd-Raynes House –  sometimes referred to as the Boyd House, the Raynes House, and the Colonel Nathaniel Meserve House – was situated on the southwest corner of Raynes and Maplewood Avenues, opposite the North Cemetery.

Colonel Nathaniel Meserve, a skilled Portsmouth shipwright, built himself a home here around the year 1740 and a shipyard on the waterfront nearby. The most famous ship he constructed was a fifty-gun man-of-war christened “America”, built in 1749 for the Royal Navy. 

Colonel Meserve served as a commissioned officer in the British Army before the American Revolution. He was a Lieutenant Colonel at the Siege of Louisburg in 1745 and used his carpentry skills to build sledges that were essential in moving siege cannons through a swamp. Later promoted to full Colonel for this service, he commanded all of the troops from the Province of New Hampshire during the Crown Point (New York) Expedition of 1756, during the French and Indian War. He and his oldest son tragically died of smallpox during the second Siege of Louisburg in 1758. The same smallpox outbreak also killed Colonel John Hart, who had sold the North Cemetery land to Portsmouth in 1753.  Another son of Colonel Meserve, George Meserve, was notorious for being appointed the Stamp Master of Portsmouth. In 1765, he was burned in effigy at Haymarket Square.

In 1764, the house became the property of a wealthy merchant named Peter Livius and his wife, who lived here for several years. Livius dammed the creek and built several mills.

Another British officer, Colonel George Boyd, purchased Colonel Meserve’s home around 1771. Colonel Boyd enlarged the house and added an elaborate garden, with outbuildings and decorations, surrounded by a white fence. The property was so large that it became known as the “White Village”. At the time, this part of the North Mill Pond was known as Boyd’s Creek.

As an aging and loyal subject of the British Crown, Colonel Boyd chose to sit out the Revolutionary War in England and sailed to his home town in 1775. After peace was declared, he boarded a ship bound for Portsmouth in 1787 with a peculiar piece of cargo, a sarcophagus  He died two days before reaching the United States and now lies beneath it in the North Cemetery, opposite the site where his house used to stand. His son, William Boyd, inherited the estate.

George Raynes purchased the property in 1832 and turned the shipyard into a booming business. From 1832-1855, he constructed from sixty to seventy ships of all sizes. Below is a partial list published in The Portsmouth Jubilee, an account of a celebration that took place on July 4, 1853.

Some of the largest and fastest clipper ships that ever sailed were constructed at the Raynes shipyard, including the Sea-Serpent (1850), the Witch-of-the-Wave (1851), the Webster (1853); and the Sierra Nevada and Coeur de Lion (1854). 

Colonel Nathaniel Meserve's original house is on the right; Colonel George Boyd built the center portion, and master shipbuilder George Raynes later constructed the addition on the left. These 1935 photographs from the Library of Congress Online Catalog were captured for an Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). My 2013 photograph shows the approximate location of the building, which was torn down in 1939.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Nathaniel Walker House

The Nathaniel Walker House, sometimes called the Arthur W. Walker House, is located at 171 Middle Street, on the east side between Court Street and Richards Avenue. The Samuel Larkin House, at 180 Middle Street, is directly across the street.

This house was built for Nathaniel Walker in 1857-1860. Nathaniel Kennard Walker, a Portsmouth native born in 1807, was a ship owner and proprietor of a hat shop on Congress Street, opened around 1837. 

During his lifetime, Nathaniel married Sarah Ann Pray, and they had eight children from 1839 to 1856. He died in 1880.

The home was inherited by their youngest of five sons, Arthur Willard Walker, born in 1855, who married Mary Louise Foster around 1887 and had two children: Willard Foster Walker and Geraldine Walker.

During the late 1800s, the Walkers became rich coal barons. Charles E. Walker and J. Albert Walker ran a Portsmouth coal wharf as Walker & Co. in 1879. The company broke up the following year, when J. Albert opened his own coal "pocket" in 1880, and Charles' coal pocket began business in 1881. The most successful venture seems to have been one partnered by J. Albert and Arthur W. Walker, the owner of this house, who opened the Portsmouth Coal Pocket around 1893.

Wealthy Arthur W. Walker built an impressive stone summer cottage near the banks of the Sagamore Creek. The bungalow no longer exists; however, the street is still known as the Walker Bungalow Road.

The Walker House on Middle Street was extensively remodeled in the Colonial Revival Style around 1900. Four years after Arthur's death in 1906, the house became the property of Oskar Aichel, who was the brewmaster at the Portsmouth Brewing Company

The black-and-white photographs above were published in C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. The house looks remarkably similar today and currently serves as the law offices of Attorneys Harry N. Starbranch and Stephen T. Jeffco.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Montgomery-Eldredge House

The Montgomery-Eldredge House, also known as the H. Fisher Eldredge House and now called the Merrimac Arms, is located at 10 Merrimac Street, on the southwest corner of Merrimac Street and Miller Avenue.

D. H. (David Henry) Montgomery purchased this empty lot in 1880 and promptly built a modest home here. Montgomery was the proprietor of a successful music store, opened in 1862, that dealt in pianos, organs, sheet music, violins, guitars, banjos, and other musical goods. The store was located in the Exchange Block on Pleasant Street.

After Montgomery's death five years later, H. Fisher Eldredge bought the property. 

Eldredge was the second son of Heman Eldredge, one of the founders of Portsmouth's Eldredge Brewing Company. Patrons of Portsmouth, the wealthy Eldredge family purchased a parcel of land from Ichabod Goodwin’s heirs in 1887 and presented it to the city of Portsmouth. This became Goodwin Park.

H. Fisher Eldredge served one term in the NH State Legislature, in 1889, and later succeeded his elder brother, Marcellus Eldredge, as President and Treasurer of the family's thriving beer business. Married with two children, Nettie and Sadie, he improved the new property for his family in 1887. Later additions, made from 1899-1902, included a porte cochere and the two-story semicircular bay to the right of the front door. He also enlarged the grounds and added a large stable, tennis courts, and a garden with an ornamental pond.

H. Fisher Eldredge lived here until his death in 1919.

The vintage photograph above of H. Fisher Eldredge's mansion appeared in C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. Today, this property is a multi-family home known as the Merrimac Arms.