Stone Church, Portsmouth, NH

The Stone Church at the corner of State Street and Court Place in Portsmouth, around 1905-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The church in 2015:

Portsmouth’s South Church was established in 1713, and like many other churches in New England in the early 19th century, they became a Unitarian church under the pastorate of Dr. Nathan Parker in 1819.  Construction on this stone church began five years later, and it was completed in 1826.  The design reflects the popular Greek Revival style of the era, with a portico supported by pillars at the front entrance.  Most of the churches built in this style were either wood, such as the 1819 Old First Church in Springfield; or brick, as seen in the 1807 First Church of Christ in Hartford.  Here in Portsmouth, the South Church was built of stone, which was not as common in early 19th century New England churches as it would be later in the century.  However, there were some that were built with stone, including the 1828 United First Parish Church in Quincy, Massachusetts, which may have been partly based on the plans for this church.

Today, the church is a Unitarian Universalist church, having merged with Portsmouth’s Universalist congregation in the 1940s.  The stone walls are no longer covered in ivy, but otherwise this scene hasn’t changed much.  The church was extensively restored in the 1980s, and today even the fence surrounding the building and the archway over the main gate are still there, as is the brick building on the left-hand side of the photo.

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.

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.

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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.