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All About the Old NH Statehouse


New Hampshire’s first state house has a long and strange history. It was built when NH was a British colony. George Washington spoke from the balcony. It survived all three downtown fires, only to be broken up and moved. It was almost rebuilt at Strawbery Banke. It rests now, in pieces, in a trailer in Concord, NH. And the story still continues. Here is the full chronology by the man who knows the building best.



SEE ALSO: The Day They Took the NH Statehouse

Portsmouth, NH
A complete timeline prepared by state historian Jim Garvin, NHDHR

18th century (scroll down)
19th century (jump)
20th century (jump)

New Hampshire was separated from Massachusetts by the King in Council..

The Province of New Hampshire emitted 25,000 British pounds in bills of credit to fund the new government and to undertake public works, including construction of a state house. The New Hampshire government continued to meet in rented rooms in Portsmouth taverns.

ROLLINSF 0401752
The house of representatives appointed Richard Jenness, Henry Sherburne, Jr., and speaker Meshech Weare a committee to join with a delegate from the council, to select a site for a state house, and to prepare a plan for the building.

John Downing of the council presented a plan for a brick state house to measure 30 by 80 feet.

The house of representatives voted that "the Parade, so-called, by the North meeting-House in Portsmouth . . . is the most suitable and proper place to set the said House upon, provided the Town of Portsmouth will consent thereunto."

The house of representatives voted to appropriate 2,000 pounds to build the state house, but voted that the materials be changed from brick to wood and that a cupola, shown on the plan, be omitted.

After several unsuccessful attempts to get Governor Benning Wentworth to assent to the house vote, the house increased the appropriation to 2,500 pounds new tenor and the governor concurred.

Henry Sherburne, Jr., and Clement March.of the house joined Mark Hunking Wentworth (Governor Wentworth's brother) and Daniel Warner (Henry Sherburne Jr.'s father-in-law) of the council to form a building committee charged with contracting for "the building of said house [with] such person or persons as will build the same in the best manner."

Detail of artist conception of statehouse in Market Square / Bill Paarlberg1758
The committee advertised for bids to frame, raise, and finish the exterior of the building. A few weeks later, this invitation was followed by a second advertisement for completing the glazing, painting, and chimney, together with interior floors, partitions and plastering.

The building was illuminated with fifty pounds of candles to celebrate the capture of Quebec.

The first stage of construction was completed. Total cost was 3,773.3.0-1/4 pounds new tenor, leaving a deficit in the building fund of 1,273.3.0-1/4 pounds.

The building was furnished with chairs, tables, fireplace equipment, and writing supplies.

The house of representatives voted to complete the structure. The second phase of construction included the addition of stone steps at the two end doors, a cupola, a balcony at the eastern end on the second story, and a roof balustrade.

Protests against the Stamp Act were held at the state house.

NH's Gov. John Wentworth was inaugurated in the state house. Wentworth was an American by birth and ancestry, though a British subject like everyone else in New Hampshire.

The second phase of construction and finishing was completed.

A protest against the importation of British tea was held at the state house. (After the attack on Frot William and Mary in 1774, Gov. Wentworth was driven from Portsmouth in 1775.)

The Declaration of Independence was read from the state house balcony.

Peace with Great Britain was declared at the state house.

The state house was illuminated to celebrate New Hampshire's ratification of the United States Constitution. New Hampshire's vote (the ninth of thirteen) established the Constitution as the plan of government for the nation.

President George Washington was received by the citizens of Portsmouth, making a speech from the balcony.


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Friday, February 23, 2018 
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