Jabez Fitch House // 1725

Portsmouth, New Hampshire is one of the most charming towns in New England to explore by foot, largely due to its walkable network of streets and tight blocks filled with preserved Revolution-era homes. Like many other cities all over the region (and nation), Portsmouth was hit by Urban Renewal, a planning tool used nationwide to provide Federal funds to address “urban blight” and revitalize downtown cores after decades of suburbanization and loss of tax revenue. An urban renewal district for Portsmouth was its North End neighborhood, which similar to Boston’s, was home to a vibrant Italian-American population.

In 1964, federal funds were allocated to the North End project area in Portsmouth, for urban renewal. Prior to redevelopment, the North End was a mix of residential and commercial buildings, with many older houses converted into storefronts with apartments above. In the mid-1960s, the area was considered overcrowded, run down, and a fire hazard. As a result, the Portsmouth Housing Authority proposed the destruction of approximately 200 buildings, a school, and a church and redevelopment for commercial, industrial, and public use, rather than for residences. The project would displace approximately 300 families as a result. In 1968, Portsmouth Preservation Inc., a preservation organization was formed to attempt to save some of the historic building stock in the area slated for redevelopment. After bitter fighting and preservation advocacy, just fourteen houses were saved and mostly moved to an area known today as “The Hill”. This building is one of them. It was constructed around 1725 for Rev. Jabez Fitch, the new minister of the North Church in town. Fitch graduated from Harvard College in 1694 first settling in Ipswich, MA, before becoming minister of the North Church in 1724, a position he held until his death in 1746. The house was one of the few in the urban renewal area to not have been moved.

Langley House // 1807

Smack-dab in the middle of Newport, Rhode Island’s dense network of downtown streets, you’ll find Queen Anne Square, a rare bit of open space in a web of alleys and ways. Did you know that this park is only 50 years old? It’s true! In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Newport (and many cities all over New England) were grappling with suburbanization and dwindling tax revenue with people and businesses moving out. Their solution was “urban renewal”, which entailed the razing of buildings and sometimes, neighborhoods which were deemed “blight”. Historic buildings and communities were destroyed with modern planning (high capacity roads and high-rises connected by open space) to take its place. In Newport, this saw the form of America’s Cup Avenue and Memorial Boulevard, which cut through the city to allow for more cars and less-congested side-streets. Years later, planners realized that Newport was without a traditional town common like many New England towns, so they cleared buildings in front of Trinity Church to provide that traditional feeling. At the time, preservationists were trying to save significant buildings, with the Langley House being one of them. This house was set for the wrecking-ball, from Memorial Boulevard’s construction but moved and restored by Newport Restoration in the last hour to the south side of Church Street. Seven years later when Queen Anne Square was built, this house was moved to the north side, saving it once again. This house is a survivor!

Adolph and Marion Ehrlich House // 1906

Echoing some design motifs from the nearby Gahm House (last post), this home showcases the Tudor Revival style, but mixed with Arts and Crafts and Colonial Revival details. Adapted from a house built in the 1850s, the home was enlarged in 1906, from plans by Andrews, Jaques and Rantoul an architectural firm of wide acclaim. Adolph Ehrlich (1868-1952) and Marion Ratchesky Ehrlich (1877-1966) had the home built as a refuge from the hustle-and-bustle of busy Boston. Adolph was born in Boston and at the age of 11, began work in the textile business. He climbed the ranks and became a partner in a clothing company before becoming director of the Jordan Marsh Department Store Company from 1925 until his death in 1952. His wife Marion was heavily involved in social causes until her death, including the Louisa May Alcott Club, a settlement house in Boston for young, predominantly immigrant girls.

Charles Greene House // 1879

Bristol, Rhode Island is dominated by Federal and Greek Revival homes, but there are some absolutely gorgeous gems built after (I can’t wait to show you a sampling). This Bracketed/Italianate home is a well-preserved example of the style with a side-hall entry, two-story bay window, and hoods over windows and the main entry with brackets. The home was built for Charles Greene, a very active citizen of Bristol. Greene (1822-1899) purchased the Bristol Phoenix in 1862 and remained its editor and publisher for thirty-one years. Active in public and civic affairs, he was first president of the Rhode Island Press Association, clerk of the Supreme and common Pleas Courts of Bristol County from 1865 to 1868, a member of the General Assembly in 1873 and 1874, Sheriff of Bristol County from 1875 to 1877, and a town council member from 1879 to 1881.

Hezekiah Porter House // 1822

Hezekiah Porter (1783-1851) built this house in 1822 for him and his family, right in Thetford Center, Vermont. Porter was born in 1783 in Hebron, Connecticut, where he presumably learned the clothier trade, before moving to Thetford in 1806. Porter later operated a brickyard, serving as contractor to the Thetford Center Methodist Church, Town Hall and several other brick homes in town dating from the 1820s and 1830s. Porter lived on this large property with his wife and ten children until his death. The property was later occupied by Hezekiah’s son, Amos P. Porter. In 1888, Amos farmed about 200 acres and had 7 cows, 50 Merino sheep and 18 Jersey cattle!