Friday, September 27, 2013

Kennard House

The Kennard House was once located on the northwest corner of Islington and Tanner Streets.

This old building that stood next to the Remick House was constructed around the year 1700 as a public house known as the Eagle Tavern. The Kennard House name originates from a later owner, Oliver P. Kennard, who probably lived here in the mid-1800s.

Very little is known about the old Kennard House, except for an event that occurred during the “Great Snow” of April, 1717. The storm is reported to have dropped eight feet of snow in Portsmouth. As luck would have it, a woman who resided in this home went into labor, and a doctor was summoned. How times have changed: imagine a doctor making a house call at all, let alone in the middle of a blizzard. When the physician and an accompanying nurse arrived at the house, the snow was piled so high that they were forced to climb through a bedroom window to get inside.

The vintage photograph above was published in C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. My recent photo shows the controversial new business and residential condo building that now occupies this Islington block.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Remick House

The Remick House, sometimes called the Remark House or the Jenny Stewart House, was once located on the northeast corner of Islington and Parker Streets.

The house that once stood on this corner was remodeled in 1851. At that time, a board was found with the construction date, 1696, and the names of the original builders, including Daniel Remark, John Thompson, J. Thomson, and John Thomas.

Sometime in the late 1800s, an owner killed his three daughters and then himself in this house. According to C. S. Gurney, the man committed the murder-suicide “after shooting and wounding a person of whom he had convictions was holding improper relations with his family.”

The vintage photograph above appeared in Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. The Remick House was demolished years ago to make way for commercial development. Today, the location holds one of the ugliest of the new residential buildings being erected in Portsmouth.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Shillaber House

The Shillaber House was located at the north end of Langdon Street, on the west side.

View of North Mill Pond from Langdon Street
The Shillaber House was a modest, one-family home off of Islington Street. On July 12, 1814, it became the birthplace of Benjamin Penhallow Shillaber, a once-famous humorist and author. His family kept a large garden behind their house beside the waters of the North Mill Pond, which at that time covered the railroad tracks that exist today.

Shillaber lived from 1814-1890. He began working in a Portsmouth printing office in 1830. After moving to Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1832, he worked in the newspaper business, becoming an editor for the Boston Post in 1838. It was here that he wrote a short news filler featuring an imaginary woman named Mrs. Partington who was notorious for using malapropisms.

Benjamin Shillaber created a humor magazine, The Carpet-Bag, in 1851 that gave Mrs. Partington and her humorous adventures a home for two years. He spent the decade of 1856-1866 working on the staff of Boston's Saturday Evening Gazette. During his lifetime, he compiled many of his stories into a number of books, including Life and Sayings of Mrs. Partington, Ike Partington, and Mrs. Partington's Carpet-Bag of Fun.

The Shillaber House still existed in 1902, when the above photograph appeared in C. S. Gurney's Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque
Today, the location is home to the oldest electrical contractor in Portsmouth, Regan Electric Company, Inc.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The USS Constitution at PNSY

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY), also known as the Portsmouth Navy Yard, is located on Seavey’s Island in Kittery, Maine.

The USS Constitution, dubbed Old Ironsides because of her strong construction, is a 44-gun heavy frigate built in Boston and launched on October 21, 1797. 
USS Constitution, circa 1920

The history of the renowned warship is well known, especially for the defeat of five British warships during the War of 1812. Although the unlikely victories had little impact on the war’s outcome, they boosted American morale at a time when losses on land had hindered the war effort.

Less well-known is that the aging and obsolete warship spent a number of years parked at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The first visit began on June 14, 1855, when the Navy decommissioned Old Ironsides at PNSY. She remained on the Piscataqua River for the next five years.
USS Constitution in Dry Dock at PNSY, 1857

In 1857, the Navy moved the old frigate into dry dock and converted her into a training ship. Now with only sixteen guns, she was recommissioned in 1860 and sailed to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where she was used to train Union sailors during the Civil War.

Old Ironsides was retired from active service once more in 1881 and towed back to the Piscataqua River.

USS Constitution at PNSY, circa 1900
The training ship entered PNSY's dry dock again, this time to be converted into a receiving ship – a floating dormitory for Navy personnel. During this Seacoast visit, the Constitution stayed at the Portsmouth Navy Yard for fifteen years, from 1881-1897. During her long stay, she looked more like a floating hotel than a proud warship.

The future national treasure remained at Portsmouth Navy Yard until after the Revolutionary War’s centennial celebration. As national pride swept the country and the legendary warship’s hundred-year birthday approached, the Navy towed the Constitution back to Boston in September 1897.

Restoration back to a warship began in 1925 and completed in 1930 after a massive effort to save her. Commissioned again on July 1, 1931, the lofty USS Constitution returned to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard one last time on July 3-12, 1931, as her first stop on a three-year grand tour of ninety port cities before returning to her permanent home in Boston.

The above photographs are courtesy of the United States Navy. Below is a vintage photograph of Old Ironsides taken from the Portsmouth shore. This picture of the Constitution, configured as a floating barracks, appeared in C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. Below that is a recent photo I snapped of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle sailing past the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on August 2, 2013.