One of the oldest homes remaining on The Hill in Portsmouth, New Hampshire is this Federal-era house which survived the period of Urban Renewal in the city’s North End. The house was built for Simeon P. Smith in 1810 a few years after his marriage to Anna C. Dudley. Simeon worked as a cooper, which made wooden casks, barrels and other containers from timber staves that were usually heated or steamed to make them pliable. The home is a great example of a preserved working-class house built in early 19th century Portsmouth, a house that would only be affordable to the rich today. The house, like many others on The Hill, was moved to this location from nearby and houses offices today.
Benjamin Mathes built this stone home around 1835 for his family, of the same stone he used to build a store across the street. The Federal/Greek Revival building has amazing granite quoins (stone blocks at the corners) and lintels (blocks above the windows). Even though there are later alterations, including the bracketed door hood and massive central dormer at the roof, the home remains one of the most visually stunning buildings in town.
The Newington Railroad Depot was built in 1873 at the narrowest point at the Piscataqua River as part of the Portsmouth and Dover Railroad. The Portsmouth and Dover Railroad Company was chartered in 1866 in order to provide a link between the eastern and western divisions of the Boston and Maine Railroad and also included the means to cross Great Bay. The rail line was completed in 1874 and included this railroad depot which included a residence for the stationmaster while he collected tolls for pedestrians and carriages crossing the bridge nearby, and operated the swing section of the bridge to permit boat traffic to pass. By 1915, the one story wing was constructed which served as a 10’x20′ waiting room and ticket office. The offshoot rail line remained in service until the completion of the General Sullivan Bridge in 1934, due to the popularity of the automobile. The rail line was subsequently abandoned, and the nearby tracks were taken up in 1940. Elmer Brooks, the longtime stationkeeper was allowed to remain in the old depot, renting the building from the State of New Hampshire, who acquired the site in 1940. He lived here until his death in 1971. After which, the building has decayed. The State of New Hampshire should restore this valuable piece of history and has an amazing opportunity for a park in the surrounding area. Hopefully something is done to preserve the building!
Set in Newington Center, the historic core of the quaint town of Newington, NH, this old Town Hall building looks much like it did when constructed 150 years ago. Newington was originally a part of the town of Dover, and due to boundary disputes among early river settlers and native people, this area was later called Bloody Point. The town was eventually incorporated in 1764, and town functions were held in the local meetinghouse, a common tradition at the time before the separation of church and state. After the American Civil War, the town erected this town hall building which was a one-stop shop for civic functions. The Old Town Hall has served as a school, meeting hall, government office building, home of the local Grange hall and as a local social hall. In 1872 when the building was completed, the town had just 414 residents, a number that has only doubled since that time. The design of the brick town hall is a blending of styles, all were out of fashion when this was built, which include Federal and Greek Revival elements. By the second half of the 20th century, new town offices were built nearby.
The Rye Beach Club is located right on Rye Beach, one of New Hampshire’s most upscale seaside communities, one whose history as a fashionable summer resort dates back to the 1840s. The Beach Club was established in 1925 in the decade after the First World War as the nation was experiencing a social transformation fueled by the postwar boom of the “Roaring Twenties”. As automobile ownership rates increased by the 1920s, the average motorist was no longer dependent upon schedules and the fixed routes of streetcars, railroads and steamboats. As one early historian of American recreation noted tongue-in-cheek, “The wealthy could make the fashionable tour in 1825, the well-to-do built up summer resorts of the 1890s, but every Tom, Dick and Harry toured the country in the 1930s.” As a result, many wealthy communities created private, exclusive recreation and social clubs where they would not be forced to mingle with the “average” American. Rye Beach residents formed the Rye Beach Club in 1925, which comprises of a rubblestone building with various wood-frame additions.
Located a stone’s throw from the Elijah Locke Homestead (last post) in Rye, New Hampshire, this mid-19th century home stopped me in my tracks when driving by. According to old maps, the home was owned by Moses Leavitt Garland, who married Lucretia Locke, a descendant of Elijah. The home shows strong Greek Revival features including the large gable end facing the street serving as a pediment and pilaster at the corners and entry with entablature above. The house recently sold, and the owners demolished the ell connecting the home to the large barn (not pictured) and replaced it with a historically appropriate addition.
The Parsons Homestead in Rye, contains some of the most interesting early Federal-style design elements in the coastal towns of New Hampshire outside of the principal towns of Portsmouth and Exeter. When the Parsons House assumed its present appearance at the turn of the nineteenth century, Rye was a coastal farming community, but despite its rural character, the town developed distinctive preferences within the Federal style. There is no architect listed for the home, but it is highly likely a housewright took cues from William Pain’s “The Practical Builder” (1774, published in Boston in 1792). This book, inspired directly by the designs of British architect Robert Adam, allowed carpenters to take plans from one of the earliest “do-it-yourself” manuals ever published. The builders’ manuals and pattern book offered carpenters and other construction workers important resources for designs and techniques in house design and construction. Those unable to afford an architect’s services could feel confident in the good taste of their residence by selecting designs from a pattern book style in southeastern New Hampshire. Records show the land here was purchased in 1757 by Samuel Parsons (1707-1789). The property was acquired by his son Captain Joseph Parsons (1746-1832), who was a Doctor and Captain in the Revolutionary War. It is likely that he or his own son built this “modern” Federal home, and incorporated some of the old features of the family home inside.
Rye, New Hampshire sits on the short coast of the state, between the busy towns of Portsmouth and Hampton, and provides a respite from the swarms of tourists and beach-goers alike. Modern-day Rye was the first settlement in New Hampshire by Europeans, and was originally named Pannaway Plantation, established in 1623 at Odiorne’s Point (more on that later). The settlement was eventually abandoned for Strawbery Banke, which became Portsmouth, the historic port town we know today. The town was later a village of New Castle, and was known as Sandy Beach Village, before it was called “Rye”, for Rye in Sussex, England, and incorporated as its own town in 1785. The town met in a Meeting House until it purchased an old 1839 Methodist church in town. In 1873, the building was purchased by the town of Rye for $1000, with an additional $2658 spent on renovations, which added a new ground floor to increase the height from 1.5 stories to 2.5 stories, added 10 feet in depth to the building, and the two-stage tower and belfry. The Greek Revival building has long been a landmark in town, hosting dances, concerts, whist parties, singing schools, oyster parties and immunization clinics, beyond the typical governmental functions. There were calls to demolish the building for a modern town hall, which saw resistance (thankfully) and now the town has agreed on a land-swap with a bank, demolishing an old house to take over the bank building, turning it into some town offices.