Painting the First Picture of Portsmouth
Written by J. Dennis Robinson
Page 1 of 3
If you think Portsmouth looks different today, you should have seen it in 1773. In fact, you can. A rare glimpse of colonial Portsmouth, back when we were still a busy British seaport, now hangs on the wall of the conference room at the Mark Wentworth Home on Pleasant Street. It might reasonably be called the first official portrait of the city. (Click title for full article)
Sketched from the Kittery side of the PiscataquaRiver, the hand-colored engraving shows a flourishing, yet pastoral city, stretching along the waterfront. There are no bridges linking provincial New Hampshire to Maine, then part of the province of Massachusetts. Tall ships sail the harbor dotted with wharves and warehouses. Only a few buildings reach three stories and we can see the spires of three wooden churches -- the original SouthChurch, NorthChurch, and Queen Ann's Chapel.
"It was the perfect image for that historic room," says David Pratt, who specializes in the custom framing of maps and nautical charts from his shop in Kittery. "The front portion of the Mark Wentworth Home was built in 1763. It was the home of John Wentworth. He was still a progressive governor of New Hampshire when this sketch was drawn in 1773."
But by the time this picture was published in England, Gov Wentworth had been driven from his home on Pleasant Street, never to return, and the American Revolution was in full swing. So who drew this rare and accurate illustration -- and why?
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