About Portsmouth

Portsmouth, New Hampshire is one of the oldest communities in the United States. Commercial fishermen from England established a base nearby in 1623, just three years after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. Immigrants who first settled in the downtown area in 1630 called their settlement Piscataqua, then a few years later renamed it Strawbery Banke. The name officially became Portsmouth when incorporated in 1653.

Governor John Langdon Mansion
Paul Revere rode from Boston to Portsmouth in December 1774, four months before his famous midnight ride. He warned townspeople that the British were coming to reinforce Fort William and Mary on New Castle Island. The famous patriot’s message led to the first armed conflict of the Revolutionary War when Portsmouth citizens, led by Major John Sullivan and Captain John Langdon, seized barrels of gunpowder from the fort that were later used at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

John Paul Jones House
Once an important shipbuilding community, Portsmouth was host to Captain John Paul Jones for 18 months during the American Revolution. A local shipyard constructed his famous warship, the USS Ranger, in 1777, and a 24-gun warship he was destined never to command, the USS America, in 1782. Other important patriots who visited Portsmouth include Benjamin Franklin in 1763 and the first President of the United States, George Washington, in 1789.

Merchants Row

The city suffered a series of catastrophic fires during the late 1700s and early 1800s, the worst being the “Great Fires of Portsmouth” that destroyed large areas in 1802, 1806, and 1813. Starting in 1814, the New Hampshire legislature’s “Brick Act” required that all structures over 12 feet high built in central Portsmouth had to be made of brick. Most of the buildings of the South End of Portsmouth are primarily wooden structures. The brick buildings north of Court Street mark the paths of the infernos.

Portsmouth played host to Russian and Japanese peace delegations in 1905. After a month of negotiations, they signed the Treaty of Portsmouth that ended the Russo-Japanese War at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.