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.

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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.

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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.

Old High School, Portsmouth, NH

The old Portsmouth High School building on Islington Street, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2015:

Portsmouth’s old high school building opened in 1905, and like so many other historic buildings in the city it still stands today.  It was last used as a high school in the 1950s, but it has since been converted into apartments.  From this angle, the building’s appearance hasn’t changed much, although at some point the school was expanded in the back, with a matching addition on the southwest corner, giving the formerly symmetrical building somewhat of an “L” shape from above.  It is located right next to the much older former Portsmouth Academy building, which opened in 1809, nearly two decades before the city’s first public high school was established.

Old Library, Portsmouth, NH

The old Portsmouth Public Library building at the corner of Islington and Middle Streets in Portsmouth, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2015:

This building was built in 1809 as the home of the Portsmouth Academy, a private college preparatory school.  It was used by the academy until 1868, and then it was leased to the city to use as a public school.  In 1896, it was extensively renovated into a permanent home for the Portsmouth Public Library, which previously had gone through a somewhat nomadic existence between several different locations in the city.  The historic building was used by the library for the next 110 years, before moving to a new location on Parrott Avenue in 2006.  Today, the building is used by the Portsmouth Historical Society for their Discover Portsmouth center.  Although it was heavily altered in the 1896 library renovation, it still has considerable historical significance as an example of an early 19th century school, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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.

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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.