Portsmouth Brewery Burns in 1904
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Written by SeacoastNH Archives

SeacoastNH.com Presents
Historic Portsmouth #341

Portsmouth ale tycoon Frank Jones bought his brewery in 1858 and by the 1880s the company produced 250,000 barrels a year with 500 employees at Portsmouth and Boston. This fire started in the kiln room of the larger of two malt houses off Islington Street at 8:20 on the morning of November 17, 1904.  (Continued below)  



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According to Jones’ historian Richard Adams, 11 barrels of oil and a substantial quantity of coal were stored in the house and burned in the fire. 12,000 bushels of malt were destroyed. Firemen from Portsmouth, Dover, Newburyport and the Shipyard all fought the blaze, the largest in Portsmouth since the Kearsarge Mills fire years earlier. Hundreds of spectators watched. An even worse tragedy was averted by the successful use of new firedoors and fireproof walls that contained the flames. The cupola of the malt house and one of the walls collapsed, but brewing was unaffected. A two-week's supply of malt was stored in a second malt house, with 50,000 barrels of malt due to arrive within two more weeks. The loss, according to an insurance record, was $200,000, but the Frank Jones Brewery was insured for $725,000. Jones had already sold major insterest in his brewery to a British firm by 19889. The brewery shut down at the onset of Prohibition in 1917, reopened in 1933, and closed for good in 1950. Frank Jones was already dead by 1902, but he made newspaper headlines again a month after the blaze when his mistress sued the Jones family for $400,000. In December 1904 Delana B. Curtis settled out of court for a cash payment of $140,000, plus a $35,000 house, according to the New York Times. (Photo courtesy of the Portsmouth Athenaeum)


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