This stunning Late-Georgian house in Portsmouth dates to the end of the 18th century and is one of the many well-preserved homes near downtown. Deed research shows that the property was purchased in 1795 by Amos Tappan from a Nabby Chase (a widow) and he would erect this house on the lot. The house was purchased in 1822 and sold again in 1835 to John Laighton, the namesake of the house. John Laighton (1784-1866) was the eleventh of thirteen children. His family were “mechanics” – carpenters and makers of sails, blocks, spars, and masts. He became a mast and block maker with his place of employment not far from the relocated Sheafe Warehouse in Prescott Park (featured on here previously). Captain Laighton held the post of Navy Agent for the port of Portsmouth during the presidencies of William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson, and he also served as mayor of Portsmouth in 1851. In 1864, two years before his death, John Laighton sold the house to his third son, Lafayette Laighton. The historic home features a massive brick chimney at the center ridge, with clapboard walls atop a fieldstone foundation. The facade has a wood-paneled entrance door with four-light transom, pilasters, and triangular pediment. The house faces southwest with a large front lawn, and it sits next-door to the stunning Gov. Langdon House. Pretty spectacular.
Portsmouth NH Real Estate
Former Portsmouth Marine Railway Office // c.1833
In 1833, a group of prominent Portsmouth merchants organized the Marine Railway Company and installed a set of tracks from the water in Portsmouth’s harbor to this brick machine house. When coupled with two horses, the machinery would, as the owners proclaimed, “draw vessels of 500 tons and upwards, entirely out of the water, placing them in a situation where any part of their hulls can be inspected or repaired with great dispatch.” The Portsmouth Marine Railway Company continued to operate until the mid- 1850’s. Thereafter the wealthy merchant Leonard Cotton bought it and ran it as a private venture. The railway ceased operations somewhere around 1875, though the tracks remained in place well into the 1980s. The brick building has been adaptively reused and is occupied by the Players Ring Theatre, a local non-profit group.
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.
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!
Haven-White House // 1800
Another three-story Federal period house on Pleasant Street in Portsmouth, NH is this wood-frame example, known as the Haven-White House. The property was developed in 1799-1800 by Joseph Haven, a merchant who built the house across the street from his father’s residence. Joseph Haven occupied this house until his death in 1829. After his wife Sarah’s death in 1838, the house remained in the Haven family, though usually occupied by others, until 1898 when it was sold to Mrs. Ella White. The White family, which included a grocer, a City Councilman in the early 1900s; and a chiropractor, with the family occupying the house until 1981. This history of long ownership by only two families for nearly 200 years perhaps accounts for the survival of this important house with so few changes. As a result, the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, marking it as a nationally significant building.
Abraham Wendell House // c.1815
The Abraham Wendell House on Pleasant Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is a three-story, five-bay, masonry Federal-style residence with symmetrical facade. The building has a slate hip roof with overhanging eaves, a dentilled cornice, and tall brick chimneys. The facade has a wood-paneled entrance door with elliptical entablature, Corinthian pilasters, and a fanlight above. The home was built around 1815 for Abraham Wendell (1785-1865) a ship’s chandler and hardware merchant. Along with his brothers, Jacob and Isaac, established cotton mills in Dover. Although they lost money on the early mill attempts, they became wealthy importer of foreign goods into the ports of Portsmouth. The house remains a highly significant example of early 19th century residential architecture built for wealthy merchants.