Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Timothy Waterhouse House

The Timothy Waterhouse House, sometimes known as the Waterhouse-Ham House, is located at 273 Maplewood Avenue, on the northwest corner of Maplewood Avenue and Dearborn Street.

Timothy Waterhouse, a Portsmouth native employed as a tanner and shoemaker, was born in 1675. He built this home around 1700; however, its original location was about a half-mile north on Freeman’s Point. At that time, the headland was named Ham’s Point for the original owner, William Ham.

Timothy married Ruth Moses in January 1700, and the Waterhouses had eleven children together. In 1725, there were nine rambunctious children living in this small home (six girls and three boys), from ages four to seventeen. There’s a local story about the time the kids were home alone, enjoying a rowdy evening in the absence of their parents. They could make all the noise they wanted, because the house was isolated, and there was a snowstorm blowing outside. 

Suddenly, there was a loud knocking at the door! All of the siblings abruptly hushed themselves: Margaret, Mary, Ruth, Joseph, Timothy, Sarah, Elizabeth, John, and Lydia. The bravest and oldest, Margaret, must have been apprehensive as she walked to the door and swung it open. In the dark doorway stood an apparition dressed all in white, with a black face. Thinking The Devil himself had come calling, Margaret immediately fainted. The visitor proved to be an African slave owned by another tanner, Nathaniel Jackson, who had been sent to retrieve Mr. Jackson’s shoes – possibly a new pair crafted by their father.

The Timothy Waterhouse House, shown below in C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque, moved to its present location on Maplewood Avenue around 1765 and remains a private residence.

I think it is interesting to note that Maplewood Avenue was originally named Elm Street. The name was changed around 1886, when disease devastated the elm tree population along the avenue.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rockingham County Court House

The Rockingham County Court House formerly stood on the north side of State Street, between Pleasant and Penhallow Streets, and directly opposite the former Rectory of St. John’s Parish.

Jacob Sheafe (1715-1791), and later his son, James, owned a large brick mansion at this location. After the original Sheafe mansion was destroyed in the Great Portsmouth Fire of 1813, James built another home here. The Sheafes were powerful and wealthy Portsmouth merchants. Jacob served as the Commissary for the Province of New Hampshire’s army at the Siege of Louisbourg in 1745, and his son as a U.S. Senator in 1801. 

Rockingham County Courthouse, 1907
The Rockingham County Courthouse was built in 1891, at the same time as the County Jail that still stands on Penhallow Street, directly behind the location of the old county courthouse. Governor John McLane held a grand reception at the courthouse for the foreign delegates during the Russo-Japanese War peace conference in 1905.

The building stood here until the 1960s, when its poor condition made it susceptible to the urban renewal movement.

Sadly, the stately courthouse was demolished in 1967 after having stood for less than eighty years! If it could have been saved, the old Rockingham County Courthouse would be a Portsmouth landmark today.

In C. S. Gurney’s 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque, this building, as shown in the black-and-white photograph below, was called the New County Court House because it was barely a decade old. The space has served as a parking lot ever since the building's demolition.

The rear of the old County Jail can be seen in the right background of both photographs, 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cabot Street School

The Cabot Street School is located at 175 Cabot Street, on the northeast corner of Cabot and State Streets.

The Cabot Street School building was constructed in 1860, on the site where formerly stood a small, two-story brick schoolhouse. Construction was supervised by Benjamin Franklin Webster, a successful Portsmouth building contractor and ships joiner.

The school is unusual for Portsmouth in that it is a wooden building that replaced one built of bricks! 

After thirty years of service as a grammar school, Portsmouth closed the Cabot Street School in 1890; however, it was reopened in 1895 to accommodate the growing number of students. The last wooden schoolhouse in Portsmouth was permanently closed in 1931, when the building became too expensive to maintain. All of its students were moved to the Whipple School, and the old Cabot Street School was sold in 1933 for $1,000.

The vintage photograph above is from C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and PicturesqueThe building now serves as private condo units.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Old Brick Schoolhouse

The Old Brick Schoolhouse once stood on the south side of State Street, on the ledge shelf between Temple Israel and the Rectory of St. John’s Church.

Bridget Graffort, the widow of Thomas Daniel, gave Portsmouth a plot of land on the corner of Daniel and Chapel Streets for the purpose of establishing a schoolhouse. In 1735, the town swapped her unused lot for this empty lot on State Street, which at the time was owned by Ebenezer Wentworth. It was here that Portsmouth built the schoolhouse they had promised Mrs. Graffort. Behind the school, a playground extended back to Court Street, and for years, this location was known as School House Hill.

Major Samuel Hale was the most famous instructor who taught here. Originally from Newbury, Massachusetts, he graduated from Harvard in 1740, and five years later commanded a company of soldiers during the Siege of Louisbourg (Nova Scotia), a successful British campaign against the French. The bell that still rings in the tower of St. John’s Church was captured when the siege ended. After his military service, Major Hale taught the sons of Portsmouth residents for almost forty years, starting in 1748. Among his pupils were John Pierce, Daniel Treadwell, Woodbury Langdon and his brother, Governor John Langdon.

Another famous educator who taught here, in 1787, was the father of Salmon P. Chase, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury. 

The original wooden structure was replaced by a brick schoolhouse in 1790. Twenty-three years later, on December 22, 1813, the Great Portsmouth Fire that ravaged State Street partially destroyed the school. The town rebuilt it in 1814. Afterwards, Portsmouth High School was located here for a number of years, until the Old High School and City Hall building replaced it in 1858.

When the vintage photograph above appeared in C. S. Gurney’s 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque, the Old Brick Schoolhouse served as the offices of the Superintendent of Portsmouth Schools. Today, the lot is vacant and serves as a pocket garden for Temple Israel.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Brackett House

The Brackett House stood on the north side of State Street, between Fleet and Church Streets.

The house was named for Dr. Joshua Brackett, a Portsmouth physician who resided here during the Revolutionary War years until his death in 1802.

Dr. Brackett graduated from Harvard in 1752 and briefly served as a religious minister. Determined to become a physician, he studied under Portsmouth’s Dr. Clement Jackson, the father of Dr. Hall Jackson. He married Hannah Whipple in 1760. Hannah was a sister of General William Whipple, who signed the Declaration of Independence and lived in the Moffatt-Ladd House. When the Revolution began, he was named Judge of the Maritime Court for New Hampshire.

Thirty years after graduating Harvard, in 1783, Dr. Brackett was elected an honorary member of the Massachusetts Medical Society. In 1791, Harvard bestowed him a Medical Doctorate. That same year, the New Hampshire Medical Society organized and elected him the first Vice President, and he served as their President from 1793 to 1799.

The old photograph above was published in C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. The Brackett House is the one on the right, just east of the Davenport House. It's grounds once extended from State Street to Congress Street; however, it was demolished sometime after 1902, and the location is now a bank parking lot.