Thursday, December 1, 2011

Stoodley's Tavern

The historic Stoodley’s Tavern is on Hancock Street, directly opposite the entrance to Strawbery Banke Museum.

Stoodley’s Tavern originally stood on the north side of Daniel Street between Linden and Penhallow Streets. Linden Street no longer exists; it ran north-and-south on the west side of the old High School and City Hall, parallel to Chapel and Penhallow Streets. The tavern was located on the lot where the U. S. Post Office is located today.

Colonel James Stoodley fought as one of Rogers Rangers during the French and Indian War. At the same time, he owned his first tavern, the King’s Arms, starting around 1753. When a fire destroyed his original tavern on January 25, 1761, he immediately built this establishment known as Stoodley’s Tavern.

James and Elizabeth Stoodley lived here with their children, Elizabeth and William, as well as two slaves named Frank and Flora. The tavern and inn became a popular Portsmouth gathering place. The upper story, with its dormer windows, is a spacious arched hall that served as a Masonic Hall, ballroom, and function room. Slave owners held auctions here in 1762 and 1767. Before and during the Revolutionary War, American patriots congregated at Stoodley’s Tavern. It became the most popular stopping place for stagecoach passengers traveling between Boston and Maine.

After Colonel Stoodley died in 1779, his widow remarried and boarded lodgers in the house.

Colonel Stoodley’s daughter, Elizabeth, married Elijah Hall, and they inherited Stoodley’s Tavern around 1786. Hall was a shipwright who served as one of John Paul Jones' lieutenants on the Ranger and was aboard when the Ranger captured the Drake in 1778. Later, he was the State Councilor and Naval Officer for the Portsmouth district.

The North Parish sold thirty-eight acres of church land during an auction at Stoodley’s Tavern on October 27, 1791. Some of the proceeds were used to build the Old Parsonage on Pleasant Street.

After Elijah Hall died on June 22, 1830, the old tavern became a boardinghouse. During the early 20th Century, owners converted the first floor for commercial use, and it became a restaurant and later an appliance store with apartments above.

Portsmouth intended to demolish Stoodley’s Tavern during the 1960s and replace it with a new U. S. Post Office. Strawbery Banke Museum rescued the historic building in 1966 by moving it from Daniel Street to Hancock Street, where it still stands today.

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