Friday, October 25, 2013

Exchange Block – Montgomery’s Music and Art Store

Montgomery's Music and Art Store once occupied the northernmost retail space in the Exchange Block, currently 15 Pleasant Street.

Nathaniel Adams, the Portsmouth chronicler who published the Annals of Portsmouth in 1825, is thought to have been born in a home near the corner of Pleasant and State Streets. His father, also Nathaniel Adams, owned the land where the Exchange Block sits today. After the Great Portsmouth Fire of 1813 destroyed the Adams’ home as well as other buildings in this area, the current Exchange Block was built. The commercial building was later extensively remodeled during the 1890s.

D. H. (David Henry) Montgomery founded Montgomery’s Music and Art Store at the north end of the Exchange Block in 1862, just when the American Civil War was heating up. He became the sole agent in Portsmouth of Knabe pianos from Germany, and his showroom included pianos by Chickering, Ives & Pond, Briggs, and Vose. He also carried organs by Mason & Hamlin, Wilcox & White, and the Smith American Organ Company.

D. H. Montgomery built a modest home on the corner of Merrimac Street and Miller Avenue in 1880. A later owner extensively remodeled and expanded the building, and it is now known as the Montgomery-Eldredge House. When D. H. Montgomery died in 1885, his son, Horace P. Montgomery, became the store’s owner and manager.

Montgomery's Music and Art Store ran the above advertisement in The Portsmouth Directory of 1905, and the shop was listed under the following categories: Artists’ Materials; Cameras; Engravings, Pictures, Etc.; Music and Musical Instruments; Photographic Supplies; Piano and Organ Tuning; Pianos and Organs; Picture Framing; Pictures and Picture Frames.

On the floors above Montgomery's shop were the publishing offices of three Portsmouth newspapers: a morning edition called the Chronicle, first published in 1852; an evening edition called the Herald, previously known as the Penny Post; and the weekly New Hampshire Gazette, the oldest newspaper in the United States.

According to Portsmouth’s annual reports, Montgomery’s Music and Art Store was in business at least through 1923, when the city paid H. P. Montgomery $14.50 for music.
The vintage photographs above were published in C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. The Piscataqua Savings Bank moved into the space once occupied by Montgomery’s Music and Art Store around 1924 and has been located there ever since.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Strawbery Banke Museum

The Strawbery Banke Museum Visitors Center is located at 14 Hancock Street. The property includes forty structures located within the boundaries of Court Street on the north, Washington Street to the west, Marcy Street to the east, and Hancock Street to the south.

Aldrich House

Portsmouth native Thomas Bailey Aldrich, a noted poet and author, wrote a book called, The Story of a Bad Boy, about visiting his grandparents at this house in the mid-1800s. 

Chase House

Built around 1762, the Chase House was the home of Stephen Chase, a prominent Portsmouth merchant whose family entertained President George Washington here in 1789. It later became the Chase Home for Children, a precursor of the Cottage Hospital.

Conant House

The Conant House is named for Aaron Conant, a stagecoach driver whose family lived here from 1834-1859.

Cotton Tenant House

This modest home was a rental property owned by Leonard Cotton, a prosperous Portsmouth merchant.

Gookin House

William Cotton, the son of Leonard Cotton, moved a small utility shed here and converted it to another Cotton tenant house.

Governor Goodwin Mansion

Originally located on Islington Street, the Goodwin Mansion dates from 1811 and became the home of retired sea captain Ichabod Goodwin and his family in 1832. Governor Goodwin led the state of New Hampshire from 1859-1861.

Hough House

Thomas Hough was a ship's carpenter who lived in the Hough House from 1851-1896.

Jackson House

This modest home was built around 1800 by the Jackson family of Portsmouth, who had owned this lot since 1695.

Jones House

Joshua Jones, a farmer and laborer, lived in this large house from 1796-1843.

Lowd House

A prosperous Portsmouth merchant named James Drisco built this home as a rental property in 1810. His widow sold the house to Peter Lowd, a barrel-maker, in 1824.

Marden-Abbott House and Store

After Walter Abbott died in 1938, widow Bertha Abbott single-handedly ran a small grocery and sundries store here during the tough years of World War II.

Built in 1821 as a tiny 1½ story home, the Peacock House was later enlarged in 1880 and 1940.

Penhallow House

Judge Samuel Penhallow constructed this building around 1750 to serve as his home and courtroom.

Reuben Shapley House

This large home was originally built around 1790 as a workshop or store by Reuben Shapley, a wealthy mariner, merchant, and shipbuilder.

Rider-Wood House

Samuel Jackson, who also built the Jackson House, constructed the Rider-Wood House between 1780 and 1800.

Shapiro House

Abraham and Shiva Shapiro, one of the first Jewish families in Portsmouth, lived in this home from 1909-1928.

Shapley-Drisco House

A mariner named John Shapley, brother of Reuben Shapley, built this home in 1794 and sold it to another mariner, James Drisco, five years later.

Sherburne House

The Sherburnes, one of the oldest families in Portsmouth, built this home circa 1695-1702. When Strawbery Banke Museum purchased the building in 1964, it had been converted to a typical suburban home of the period.

Stoodley's Tavern

Built by Colonel James Stoodley in 1761, the tavern hosted African slave auctions in the 1760s, and American patriots often gathered here at the time of the American Revolution.

Walsh House

Captain Keyran Walsh purchased this home in 1797 and died at sea ten years later.

Wheelwright House

John Wheelwright served as a 2nd Lieutenant on the USS Raleigh during the Revolutionary War.

William Pitt Tavern

Originally named the Earl of Halifax tavern, local patriots pressured John Stavers to rename his establishment in 1777. He chose to name it for William Pitt, a former British Prime Minister who was sympathetic to the American Independence movement.

Winn House, Yeaton House

Timothy Winn III and his brother-in-law, Thales Yeaton, built these connected houses in 1795.

Yeaton-Walsh House

Thales Yeaton rented this home to local workers, including Michael Walsh, a sawyer who lived here around 1850.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Music Hall

The Music Hall is located at 28 Chestnut Street, on the northwest corner of Chestnut and Porter Streets.

This corner of downtown Portsmouth has a long and storied past. 

The town voted to build an almshouse, or poorhouse, on the corner of Chestnut and Porter Streets in 1711 and completed construction in 1716. This was believed to be the first almshouse anywhere in the world, as the first in England was not built until 1723. The Portsmouth Almshouse remained open until 1755, when it moved to Court street and replaced the Old County Court House, where the Central Fire Station is located today.

According to the Annals of Portsmouth, by Nathaniel Adams, a two-story “gaol was built in this town, at the corner of Prison-lane and Fetter-lane” in 1759. Prison Lane was later renamed Chestnut Street, and Fetter Lane became Porter Street. Some sources claim the jail stood on The Music Hall's location; however, the jail was actually built on the southeast corner of Chestnut and Porter Streets, currently the TD Bank parking lot.

In 1781, boys accidentally started a fire in a barn here that soon got out of control, burned the town jail and destroyed the original Rockingham House.

The Free Will Baptist Meeting House, or Christian Church, was built here in 1803 and served as their place of worship until 1844. The building was then purchased by a group of  businessmen who converted it into a 1000-seat amphitheater. Starting in 1847, it was briefly owned by the Washingtonian Temperance Society of Portsmouth. This theater, called The Temple, became the most popular lecture and exhibition hall in Portsmouth during the mid- to late-1800s. Prior to the Civil War, black abolitionists spoke here, including Frederick Douglass. Fire destroyed this historic building in 1876.

The Pierce family estate purchased the lot and built The Music Hall on the site of The Temple in 1877, and Portsmouth’s new entertainment venue opened in January, 1878. Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show performed inside, and the first movie in Portsmouth was shown here on an Edison’s Graphophone in 1898.

Frank Jones, the famous industrialist and owner of the largest brewery in America at the time, renovated and restored The Music Hall in 1901. Among its many famous entertainers was Mark Twain, who spoke here in 1908. The theater became an early stop for many Broadway plays, including Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, and No, No, Nanette through the mid-1920s. When Hollywood films became popular between the world wars, the Music Hall was adapted to present movies. Soon, three new theaters opened in Portsmouth. Specifically designed as movie houses, their competition caused The Music Hall to struggle.

Auctioned in 1945 to a resident of Kittery, The Music Hall was renamed The Civic. Later leased to E.M. Loew in the mid-1960s, it remained a Loew’s theater until the early 1980s.

I have been unsuccessful in locating a copyright-free photograph of The Music Hall. This is a link to an image on the Portsmouth Athenaeum Website showing The Music Hall as The Civic, taken in the early 1980s

Auctioned again, it was saved from demolition in 1987 by a Portsmouth organization called The Friends of The Music Hall. Now open as a nonprofit entertainment center, The Music Hall continues to be refurbished and restored while it entertains the community.

In 2003, the U.S. Senate designated the Music Hall an American Treasure of the Arts.