Tuesday, March 10, 2015

1705 House

The so-called ‘1705 House’, sometimes referred to as the John Newmarch House, once stood at 33-35 Deer Street, the next building west of the old Deer Tavern.

The two-story dwelling house became known as the ‘1705 House’ because of a circular plaque on the east chimney painted with the date ‘1705’, the year it was constructed by a Portsmouth merchant named John Newmarch. 

The son of Reverend John Newmarch of Kittery and brother-in-law of Sir William Pepperell, John Newmarch lived in Portsmouth where the Congress Block is located today. In addition to the 1705 House, he built the Deer Tavern, which once stood next door. Both were built early in the British Colonial Period, 70 years before the start of the American Revolutionary War.

Deer Tavern was gone by 1859, when Charles Brewster wrote, Rambles About Portsmouth, but the 1705 House still remained. In 1876, Sarah Haven Foster wrote in her Portsmouth Guide Book that, other than the 1705 plaque, “modern improvements have deprived it of its other marks of age.” Over the years, many additions were constructed in the rear. In 1880, when the property was sold by Daniel Sullivan to Benjamin F. Chandler, the deed mentions a store as well as the house and “other buildings”. Chandler subsequently sold the property to Frank Jones in 1884, whose estate sold it after his death.

The photograph below of Deer Street shows the 1705 House in 1902, when C. S. Gurney published his book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque.

During the early 1900s, the North End of Portsmouth became home to many immigrant families, primarily from Italy. The community became a close-knit clan, sharing a common ethnicity, proximity, and eventually, family, as their sons and daughters intermarried. 

Portsmouth in those days was much different than it is today. Supplies and staples were available within walking distance of the North End. The city’s downtown was full of family-owned meat and fish markets, shops selling everything from sundries and dry goods to appliances and hardware, apothecaries, music stores, and entertainment venues. Everything the people of the North End needed to live and flourish could be had within a mile of Market Square. 

For more than sixty years, the streets bustled with activity as the immigrant neighborhoods thrived. This vintage photograph on Flickr suggests the close bonds shared by the Italian families who lived there:

Italian families at the Pannaway Club, Portsmouth NH, Sept. 4th, 1938

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Portsmouth decided to redevelop the North End neighborhoods on a grand scale. Rather than repairing and restoring the aging but historic buildings, an urban renewal project unceremoniously evicted the families who lived there, and razed or relocated more than 200 homes and businesses across ten city blocks. The old Italian community was completely erased from the landscape, and the North End – the way it used to be – is still mourned by many city residents to this day.

The 1705 House, which had survived for more than 265 years and typified the Italian North End neighborhoods, was dismantled during the urban renewal project, and its construction materials were used to build a dwelling house somewhere in mid-coast Maine.

Below, my 2011 photo shows the approximate location where the 1705 House stood on Deer Street. The black-and-white photographs, above and below, are courtesy of the Library of Congress. They were taken in 1935 as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) by the National Park Service. The people shown were Italian residents of the North End.

The Portsmouth Public Library is 'virtually' restoring these lost neighborhoods by creating a digital archive of photographs and information from 1967, called the North End House History Project. Also, to see hundreds of vintage photographs of the North End and the Italian families who lived there, go to the Portsmouth Athenaeum's Website.

My special thanks to Michael Pesaresi 
for suggesting and contributing to this article.