Rockingham Hotel, Portsmouth, NH

The Rockingham Hotel on State Street in Portsmouth, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2015:

The original Rockingham Hotel was built in 1785 as the home of Woodbury Langdon, a wealthy merchant who served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and as a justice on the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  He was also the brother of John Langdon, a signer of the Constitution who later served in the Senate and as Governor of New Hampshire.  Woodbury Langdon died in 1805, and in 1833 his house was converted into a hotel and subsequently renovated and enlarged in 1870, after being purchased by former Portsmouth mayor and future Congressman Frank Jones.  The photo below, from Portsmouth, Historic and Picturesque (1902), shows the building as it appeared in the 19th century.  I don’t know whether it was taken before or after the 1870 expansion.

The old building was mostly destroyed in a fire in 1884, leaving only the dining room from the original house.  It was rebuilt, preserving the original dining room, and reopened in 1886.  The new building incorporated some of the same design elements from the original, just on a much larger scale, including the triangular pediments above the top floor.  The hotel would go on to be one of the most popular in the area, and while many of its contemporaries succumbed to fire or redevelopment long ago, the building still stands today.  It was converted to condominiums in the 1970s, and the historic dining room is now a steakhouse, The Library Restaurant.

9 thoughts on “Rockingham Hotel, Portsmouth, NH”

  1. I knew Bill, he was the manager there till we closed and he got a Mr. Lyons who frequent the Library bar to back/fund, his/managed the restaurant call the Cock of the walk on High st, during the closing of the hotel, I went to work there as soon as the construction finished, some of us had to help during the construction so we could still work. I did end up with a couple of the pewter dinner plates from the hotel, it was one of my funnest places I work at. I worked there as a busboy and a bellhop. To know where he’d be these days, no clue. I know Mr. Lyons has passed. Bill wasn’t a good spender, I believe that’s a good reason why both places failed. Greg

    • Gregory, thanks for commenting about Bill and the Rockingham. I worked and lived there for a few years before it was condo-ed, and became friends with Bill and a bellhop, Don Wishart, and several other people. Bill asked me to go in the Cock of the Walk and check it out after he left there. I went by his house in York a few years ago but someone else was living there. Here’s a link to a blog entry I made about the Rockingham.

  2. Interesting reading all of this! I currently live in the Rockingham and have since May 2020. I grew up over by the old Frank Jones mansion and I love the history.

    • Gregory, I must have known Catherine Cyr but I don’t remember her, and you and I must have crossed paths there. I remember a waiter named Frank and an older gentleman who worked the front desk. I lived in the old, closed wing of the hotel. I’m currently reading, An Old Town by the Sea, published in the 1880’s, about Portsmouth and the author mentions the Rockingham Hotel. I live in Phoenix, AZ, now but love visiting New England. Where do you live?

    • Angus, thanks for commenting. The next time my wife and I are in Portsmouth we will have dinner at the Library and then will we be able to access more of the building? Is the first floor open to the public? I’d love to be able to look around and reminisce. Thank you –

  3. Benson, sorry for late reply, I just ran across this again.
    Don was a good guy for sure, I probably seen you there also, I think I started in 1969 and stay till closing time, which was a sad time. I may have to stop in to see what the inside looks like these days. That was probably the most fun times in having a job for me. I tried to go to that site you show but my computer wouldn’t let me, I’ll give it a shot later again. thx Greg
    PS: Do you remember a Catherine Cyr, She work there her who life as a waitress since a kid and finally retired at 90yrs old back in 1972

  4. Gregory, Don’s last name was Wishart and I’ve tried but haven’t been able to find him. If you ever run into him I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know my email is Bparker1880@
    Thank you –

  5. My Father worked at the Rockingham Hotel in the 1950s. He was a chef. Does anyone remember him? His name was George Gorman.


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