Captain Barnes House, Portsmouth, NH (2)

The Captain Barnes House in Portsmouth, NH, on March 19, 1937, immediately following its conversion into a gas station. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey collection.

627_1937-03-19 loc

The building in 2015:

As explained in the previous post, this building was once a 1808 Federal style mansion, owned by two different Portsmouth sea captains in the early 1800s.  However, in 1936-37 it was converted into a Sunoco station, leaving very little of the original structure.  However, in a way the renovated building has become historic in its own right, as an example of a 1930s service station.  There have been some changes since the 1937 photo was taken, though.  The shingles have been replaced with vinyl siding, and the gas pumps are gone, along with the windows on the right side and the garage door to the left.  The building now has additions to the left and right, and it is no longer a Sunoco station, but it is still in use as auto repair garage, with a restaurant in the addition to the right.

Captain Barnes House, Portsmouth, NH (1)

The Captain Barnes House on Islington Street in Portsmouth, on May 14, 1936.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey collection.

626_1936-05-14 loc

The same building in 2015:

Although the term “adaptive reuse” didn’t exist in the 1930s, the Captain Barnes House would certainly be an extreme version of that concept.  It’s hard to tell today, but the auto repair shop in the 2015 photo is the same Federal style mansion from the 1936 photo, just altered beyond recognition.  The house was built in 1808 for Samuel Chauncy, one of the many merchant ship captains who lived in Portsmouth in the early 1800s.  In 1813, he sold the house to Lewis Barnes, a Swedish immigrant who was also the captain of a merchant ship.  Barnes, for whom the house is named, lived here until his death in 1856, and the house remained in the family until 1908.

Between 1908 and 1936, the house changed hands four times, steadily falling into disrepair in the process.  The sign out front advertises “Rooms for Tourists,” but given the condition of the building at the time, these would have likely been very low-budget rooms, hardly comparable to more reputable hotels of the time, such as the Rockingham Hotel.  By the time the first photo was taken, the building was probably already a candidate for reconstruction, because within a year it was completely gutted, cut down to two stories, and converted into a Sunoco station.  Today, it is an auto repair shop, with post-1930s additions on either side of the building.  Thankfully, the house was carefully documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey prior to its conversion, and a number of photos and architectural plans are available here through the Library of Congress.

Warner House, Portsmouth, NH

The Warner House, at the corner of Daniel and Chapel Streets in Portsmouth, around 1902. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company.

618_1902c loc

The building in 2015:

Also known as the MacPheadris-Warner House, this historic house is the oldest brick building in Portsmouth and the oldest urban brick house in northern New England.  It was built between 1716 and 1718 for Captain Archibald MacPheadris, one of many 18th century sea captains who helped to bring prosperity to Portsmouth.  His wife Sarah was the sister of New Hampshire Governor Benning Wentworth, and after Captain MacPheadris’s death and Sarah’s remarriage, she moved into her new husband’s house, and Governor Wentworth lived here for much of his time as governor.

Archibald and Sarah’s daughter Mary inherited the house, and in 1760 she married Jonathan Warner, the widower of her late cousin, also named Mary.  Jonathan Warner was the son of Daniel Warner, who built the Buckminster House.  This house remained in the Warner family until the 1930s, when it was sold for the first time since MacPheadris moved in.  An oil company was interested in the property to build a gas station, but in response the Warner House Association was formed to purchase and preserve the house, which it continues to do today.

John Paul Jones House, Portsmouth, NH

The John Paul Jones House at the corner of Middle and State Streets in Portsmouth, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

616_1907c loc

The house in 2015:

Like the nearby Buckminster House, this historic house is named for someone who only lived here for a few years, in this case Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones.  Jones never actually owned the house, but he lived here as a boarder from 1781 to 1782.  The house was built in 1758 by Hopestill Cheswell, an African-American housewright who was responsible for constructing several other buildings in Portsmouth.  The original owners were Captain Gregory and Sarah Purcell, and following Gregory’s death in 1776, Sarah rented rooms to boarders until she died in 1783.

John Paul Jones rented the room on the second floor on the right-hand side of the building, living here while supervising construction of the USS America on nearby Badger’s Island.  The America was to be the US Navy’s first ship of the line, and the largest warship built in the United States to that point, and Jones was in line to be her first commanding officer.  However, shortly before the America was launched, the French ship of the line Magnifique was wrecked off the coast of Boston, so Congress voted to give the America to France as compensation, and as a gesture of appreciation.  Jones stayed in Portsmouth until the ship was completed, and although he never got to take command, it was probably a good thing, because she was in the French navy for just over three years before being scrapped, due to extensive dry rot caused by using green wood in the ship’s hurried construction.

Unlike the ship that he almost commanded, the house that he lived in still survives, over 250 years after the Purcells first moved in.  The house has a “For Sale” sign in the 1907 photo, and it would change hands at least one more time in 1919, when it was sold to the Portsmouth Historical Society.  Today, it is still owned by the Historical Society, and is open to the public for tours.

Buckminster House, Portsmouth, NH

The Buckminster House, at the corner of Bridge and Islington Streets in Portsmouth, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

615_1907c loc

The house in 2015:

It’s a little strange for a nearly 300-year-old house to be named after someone who lived in it for just two years, but this 1720 Georgian home is named for Revered Joseph Buckminster, the pastor of Portsmouth’s North Church from 1779 until his death in 1812.  When he moved in here in 1810, the house was already almost 100 years old; it had been built in 1720 by Daniel Warner, and later went through a series of owners before being purchased by Colonel Eliphalet Ladd in 1792.

Ladd died in 1806, and in 1810 his widow married Reverend Buckminster, thus giving the house its ultimate name.  It was later used as a boarding house, and sometime by the mid 19th century was the subject of an early form of historic preservation.  According to Rambles About Portsmouth, published in 1859, the then-current owner George Thomson “has shown excellent taste in carefully preserving its original exterior appearance.”  Thomson’s efforts seem to have paid off, because the 1907 photo shows a beautifully restored house that still continues to be well-preserved to this day, with minimal exterior changes.

Sutton House, Center Harbor, NH

The home of Eliza Sutton in Center Harbor, around 1865-1885.  Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

594_1863-1885c nypl charles bierstadt

The house in 2015:

This house on the present-day Whittier Highway was built in 1865 for Eben Sutton, a wool merchant in Peabody Mass., and his wife Eliza.  Eben died before the house was finished, but Eliza lived here for 24 years.  She ran a dairy farm here, using the fields across the street as pastureland.  The photo in this post, taken about 17 years after her death, shows the view from in front of her house looking across the street.  In addition to her agricultural pursuits, she was also a philanthropist, and in 1869 she donated funds to build the Eben Dale Sutton Reference Library at the Peabody Institute Library in her hometown.

The first photo was taken during the time when Eliza Sutton lived there, and the photographer was Charles Bierstadt, a 19th century photographer who specialized in stereoscopic views.  He is probably best known, though, as the older brother of landscape artist Albert Bierstadt. Most of the younger Bierstadt’s paintings were of the American west, but he did several of the White Mountains, not too far from where his brother Charles took this photograph.

The house was damaged by a fire in 1993, but it has since been restored to its original 19th century appearance and operates as the Sutton House bed and breakfast.