Thursday, May 1, 2014

New eBook Coming Soon

I apologize for neglecting WalkPortsmouth this spring. I am currently finishing a new eBook called The Great Portsmouth Christmas Fires. After the book's publication later this month, I will resume posting more regularly in June.

Structure fires have played a significant role in shaping modern Portsmouth. The first fire ever recorded in the city occurred in 1696, when native tribesmen raided the Portsmouth Plains and torched five settlers' homes and nine barns. 

The first major blaze downtown ignited in 1781. Flames from a burning barn on Chestnut Street, now site of The Music Hall, spread to other structures, including Rockingham House, the stately home of Judge Woodbury Langdon.

During the early 1800s, three major conflagrations gutted the center of Portsmouth. They are often called the great Portsmouth Christmas fires because they all occurred within a few days of December the Twenty-Fifth.
Market Street in 1902, a Century After the First Great Portsmouth Christmas Fire
The first, also known as 'The Great Parade Fire', ignited on Christmas night of 1802 and destroyed every building on Market Street between Market Square and the Moffatt-Ladd House. The second, 'Great Bow Street Fire', torched many of the riverside warehouses on Bow Street and burned the original St. John's Church to the ground. 

The last fire was the most devastating. It was discovered around seven o'clock on the night of December 22, 1813, in a barn on Court Street where the Stone Church stands today. Gusting, westerly winds carried flaming material down State Street, and more and more buildings caught fire. By the time the townspeople managed to douse the flames, ten hours after it started, a long swath of destruction scarred the center of Portsmouth, from the barn to the Piscataqua River. This 'Great Portsmouth Fire' destroyed roughly 272 buildings on fifteen acres.

The Great Portsmouth Christmas Fires, which includes a short walking tour, will be available for $2.99 at Barnes & Noble, the Apple Store, Smashwords, Kobo, and other online retail sites by the end of May.