Market Street, Portsmouth, NH

Looking north on Market Street from the corner of Daniel Street at Market Square in Portsmouth, around 1914-1920. Historic image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Market Street in 2015:

These photos show a view very similar to the ones in this post, and as was the case there, not much has changed here either.  Market Street is located at the northeastern end of Market Square, and is lined with historic early 19th century commercial buildings on both sides, most of which were built in the immediate aftermath of several disastrous fires in the first couple decades of the 19th century.  These were constructed with fire safety in mind, with brick walls, slate roofs, and firewalls extending above the roofs between buildings.  Most of this street was destroyed in a 1802 fire, and the buildings on the left were built by 1807, when Daniel Webster opened his law office on the second floor of either the building with the yellow storefront or the one beyond it with the maroon awning.

The fireproofing efforts seem to have been successful, because this street was already considered historic when the first photo was taken.  Today, a century after the first photo was taken, and two centuries after most of the buildings were built, everything from the first photo is still there.  Even one of the businesses is still there: Alie Jewelers on the far right side, which was established in 1914 and provides the earliest possible date for the first photo.

Old Grafton County Courthouse, Plymouth, NH

The Old Grafton County Courthouse on Court Street in Plymouth, around 1900-1910 during its use as a library. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2018:

Over the years, this building has served a variety of purposes in several different locations.  It was built in 1774 as one of two courthouses in Grafton County, and was located at the corner of Russell and Pleasant Streets, less than a quarter mile from where it is today.  During its time as a courthouse, 24 year old New Hampshire native Daniel Webster argued one of his first court cases here in 1806.  He lost, and his client was hanged, but he would nonetheless go on to be a successful lawyer and one of the country’s most powerful politicians of the pre-Civil War era.

While Webster’s career was just beginning, the old courthouse was becoming obsolete, and in 1823 it was replaced by a more substantial brick building.  The old building was moved south of the main village and used as a wheelwright shop, as seen in the photo below, which was taken in 1860 and published in History of Plymouth, New Hampshire (1906):

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By the 1870s, the century-old building had been abandoned and was in disrepair, but its connection to Daniel Webster’s early career brought it to the attention of Henry W. Blair, a Congressman and future Senator who purchased it in 1876.  After moving it to its present location and renovating it, Blair gave the building to the Young Ladies’ Library Association to use as a public library.  The small building was home to Plymouth’s library until 1991, when the present-day Pease Public Library was built.  Since then, the historic building has been home to the Plymouth Historical Museum.