One of the oldest extant houses in Portsmouth (and New England for that matter) is this gambrel-roofed Georgian house on Marcy Street. The home was originally constructed in 1702 by Richard Wibird, who arrived to Portsmouth in the late-1600s and married Elizabeth Due (Dew) in 1701. Mrs. Due owned a market in town, and that helped propel Richard to be a prosperous merchant. Like many very wealthy residents in New England at the time, he enslaved three Africans and had five properties all over town. The house was moved two times, it was originally built behind the North Meetinghouse on Market Square. It was moved from that location c.1800 to Haymarket Square where Prescott Park is now, and again in 1937 to its present location on Marcy Street. The Portsmouth Oracle, an early newspaper, was printed and edited from this building when it was altered for commercial spaces at the ground floor. The Prescott sisters who developed Prescott Park had the foresight to move this building to the opposite corner and the home was later restored, giving us a glimpse at early 18th century merchant housing.
Portsmouth NH Colonial
Ebenezer Lord House // 1780
Another of the absolutely stunning 18th century homes in Portsmouth I stumbled upon in my recent walk there is this late-Georgian home, built in 1780 and owned by Ebenezer Lord. Lord worked as a cabinetmaker and produced many fine pieces of furniture, many of which are sold today for high values at auction. Due to his high skill with woodworking, it is possible that Ebenezer built this home himself for his family, down to the segmental pediment over the front door. The house has been maintained very well, and even retains historic wood windows.
Captain Drisco House // 1790
The Captain Drisco House on Meetinghouse Hill Road is a recently restored example of the vernacular Federal period architecture so many flock to Portsmouth to see. The house sits in the middle of a warren of short streets where houses (all built before zoning and setbacks) were built right at the sidewalk creating the most pleasant walking experience. The symmetrical five-bay Federal house was built by Captain Drisco, who purchased the house lot after the Revolutionary War.
Nathan Parker House // 1815
Many may not know this fact about Portsmouth, which shaped the city’s development for some of the formative years of the coastal town. The 1814 Brick Act was passed by the New Hampshire legislature after three devastating fires wiped out hundreds of closely-packed wooden buildings in the heart of the state’s only seaport. The act prohibited the erection of wooden buildings of more than twelve feet high in the downtown area which was the densest, it was effectively an early building code. The regulation helped change the look of the city, creating the red brick image Downtown that many identify today as Portsmouth. As a result, nearly all homes and buildings in the downtown area of Portsmouth were constructed of brick, largely in the Federal style, popular at the time. This home was constructed around 1815 as a wedding present for the South Parish’s minister, Reverend Doctor Nathan Parker, upon his marriage to Susan Pickering, the daughter of New Hampshire Chief Justice John Pickering and a descendant of the original John Pickering.
Livermore-Porter House // 1735
Matthew Livermore (1703-1776), a native of Watertown, Massachusetts and a 1722 Harvard graduate, came to Portsmouth in 1726 to teach grammar school while studying law, and in 1731 became the first college-educated lawyer to practice in New Hampshire. He would build this Georgian mansion in Portsmouth in 1735. Later, the property was owned by Samuel Coues, a leader of the shipbuilding industry in Portsmouth during the 19th century, and leader of the American Peace Party in the 1840s. Fitz John Porter was born in the house in 1822. General Porter would become one of the Union’s most talented leaders at the beginning of the Civil War. After the U. S. Army dismissed him for disobeying what would be a suicidal order during the Second Battle of Bull Run, he spent the rest of his life fighting the charges. The army cleared his name in 1879.After this, the home was occupied by General Fitz John Porter, a United States Army general who served in the Mexican–American War and the American Civil War. The building was moved in 1900 when Haven Park was created by the City of Portsmouth, and it had already been moved in the 19th century to front the newly laid out Livermore Street. The Livermore-Porter House was eventually converted into condominiums in 1983, and it showcases how condo conversions aren’t a bad thing! More people can live in this house now, win-win!