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The Day They Took the Old NH Statehouse

NH Statehouse on Wheels/ Collage by J. Dennis Robinson (c) SeacoastNH.com from NHHRD report illustration
NH's PROVINCIAL STATEHOUSE

Again they tried to move the battered 1760-era statehouse. This time it was an accident, a trucker thought it was a trailer full of junk. Others say it is a trailer full of treasure -- the last timbers of New Hampshire's provincial court house. We go back to the day it was first trucked away in 1836.

 

 

 

PLEASE READ:  Original Statehouse Timeline

The Old NH State House Trucked Off -- Four Times

People have been dragging Portsmouth’s Old Statehouse around from one place to another for 180 years. Few seem to care. For nearly two decades the rotting timbers, joists and beams of the venerable 1758 structure have been lying in a trailer truck in Concord, NH. When a very dumb trucker tried to haul the old relic to the dump recently, the dismembered building made headlines once again. The driver, as it turns out, was in the wrong spot looking for industrial debris. He did not notice that the battered trailer had flat tires, no warning lights and no license plates. He only dragged the trailer a few feet off its cement flooring before giving up and heading for the hills. Turns out It was the best publicity the old wreck has had in years.

1902 sketch of OL NH Statehouse from Gurney's Historic & Picturesque Guide to Portsmouth / SeacoastNH.com

There are lots of reasons why the statehouse is in a trailer. It is, for one, just a piece of the old building. Somewhere between one-third and one-eighth of the provincial statehouse innards survive, depending on which scholar you ask. The entire interior, exterior, roof, granite foundation stones, furnishings and ornamental detail are gone. The structure was a wreck in 1836 when it stood smack in the middle of Portsmouth’s Market Square (then called The Parade), directly between the Portsmouth Athenaeum and the North Church. The town appropriated $700 for its removal in 1836 and Capt. Israel Marden carried part of it away. That part has been moved twice since, and the ride is apparently not over. Attempts are still underway to reconstruct the Statehouse in Portsmouth and Governor John Lynch has located $250,000 in federal funds to study the idea.

No one knows where the other two-thirds of the building went. The surviving chunk was moved a few blocks to 47 Court Street where it was converted into a two-story house. That piece was later moved to Strawbery Banke in 1969. By that time it was owned by the state of New Hampshire and being used as a storage warehouse for the NH Liquor Commission. The idea to rebuild the Old Statehouse was first proposed in 1935 when the National Park Service briefly considered turning the Portsmouth waterfront into a state park. The idea was revived in the original plan to create Strawbery Banke starting in 1958. But by the time the surviving piece arrived at The Banke, money was tight and the board of directors had 30 other largely dilapidated buildings to attend to. Museum trustees held heated debates over whether to proceed with the reconstruction.

CONTINUE with OLD NH STATEHOUSE

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Saturday, December 16, 2017 
 
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