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A History of Portsmouth Armory

Portsmouth Armory/SeacoastNH.com
BUILDINGS LOST & GONE

It’s gone now, scarified to make way for the new Portsmouth Public Library. But for some, the old armory is not forgotten. Coastal defense expert Pete Payette offers a detailed history (1916 – 2005).of the rise and fall of the old armory building.

 

 

 

A History of the Old Portsmouth State Armory
and its Role in the Coastal Defenses of Portsmouth

by Pete Payette
Editor of PortsmouthForts.com

The Portsmouth State Armory stood in a quiet corner of downtown Portsmouth, NH at 175 Parrott Avenue, adjacent to the Portsmouth Middle School along the north bank of the South Mill Pond. It served the military from 1916 to 1958. Although in active use for only 42 years, the building was the center of military presence for the City of Portsmouth and the surrounding seacoast region. Although not built in the grand style of Victorian-era state armories elsewhere across the nation, the building was unique in the architectural annals of the city. The red brick building included an administrative section in the front known as the Head House. There was an entrance foyer and offices on two floors, a turreted tower/chimney on the front façade, and the large one-story Drill Hall, with a gabled slate roof, attached to the rear. The Drill Hall had an interior balcony level, an artillery vault for weapons lockup and a full basement under the reinforced floor. Before the state abandoned the building in 1958, there were layers of decorative arched brickwork and crenulations along the roofline of the Head House, giving it the look of a medieval castle.

Building the Armory

Portsmouth citizens began agitating for a state armory early in the 20th century to house the new local Coast Artillery unit of the state National Guard, formed in 1909. In 1911 arguments were made to convince the state legislature to approve a bill, chief among them the contention that Portsmouth, as a seaport, needed a coast artillery center, and that it would be a convenient location for units from Dover and Exeter to drill. Proponents argued that the existing facility, the so-called "Gun House" or Arsenal (located on Jenkins Court and South School Street, near the Haven School) was far too small. Weapons, equipment, and uniforms could no longer be safely stored at that location. (1)

A bill finally passed both houses of the state legislature during the 1913 session calling for $20,000 in state appropriations to build an armory in Portsmouth, but it was vetoed by Governor Samuel D. Felker. Citizens of Portsmouth felt betrayed, and a delegation from the Portsmouth Board of Trade and Merchants' Exchange called on the Governor to review the bill again. Governor Felker replied that he felt the armory was not needed, but agreed that if the city could provide the site, the state would appropriate $15,000. The new bill passed the legislature again and the Governor then signed it. (2) The Portsmouth Herald printed a voting coupon in every paper for several days in August 1913 so that readers could suggest possible locations for the new building. Mayor Harry Yeaton named a special committee to pick the final site out of all the submissions. They selected a site on Marginal Road, now named Parrott Avenue, which abutted Haymarket Square. The City Council authorized the purchase of the 1.36 acre tract from the Peirce Estate, owners of the parcel, for $1 with the agreement that the surrounding property be forever held in trust as a park. Deeds were transferred to the state in December 1913.

The governor and key figures discussed the architectural plans for the new armory and the status of the Gun House for months. Noted state architect Chase Whitcher created the design for was now the fourth new armory constructed in the state and the first state-owned building in Portsmouth. (3) Bids went out to several contractors. Local firm Sacco and Wood won with a low bid of $20,463. (4) The Governor and City Council accepted that with an additional $5000 from emergency funds. The state attorney general barred the proposal, however, and two weeks of negotiations brought the bid back down to meet the original $15,000 limit imposed by the appropriation. (5) Contractors broke ground in July 1914, and the Head House, or the front portion of the building, was completed shortly thereafter and accepted for use.

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NATIONAL GUARD ARMORY  (continued)

Portsmouth NH State Armory in 2005 / J. Dennis Robinson at SeacoastNH.com

The State Guard Moves In

By 1915 several other cities and towns, especially nearby Dover, were clamoring for their own armories. The state could not afford to build them all at once, but since the Head House of the Portsmouth Armory had already been built and accepted by the military, the state's Committee on Military Affairs recommended to newly-elected Governor Spaulding the bill for the final $10,000 appropriation to complete the Drill Hall in Portsmouth, rather than waiting another year while the other armories were being started. (6) New contracts went out to bid, and the local firm Sacco and Wood lost out to the Wallace Construction Company of Laconia. (7) The Drill Hall was completed in 1916, after several weeks of bad weather delayed the project. (8)

The first occupant of the armory was the already established local state guard unit, the 1st Company, Coast Artillery Corps, New Hampshire National Guard. This unit can trace its lineage directly to A Company, 3rd Regiment, New Hampshire National Guard, organized on 8 November 1894 in Portsmouth. (9) The 3rd Regiment was assigned to fill New Hampshire's quota of one regiment for the Spanish-American War. The Portsmouth boys were mustered into Federal service on 10 May 1898 as A Company, 1st New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry at Concord, and left on 17 May to Camp G. H. Thomas in Chickamauga, Georgia. The regiment was assigned to the Third Brigade, First Division, First Army Corps in preparation for departure to Santiago, Cuba. However, the campaign was almost over, and the order was revoked. The regiment was then directed to move to Puerto Rico, but that order was also cancelled. The regiment was then moved to Lexington, Kentucky, and then returned home to New Hampshire. The regiment was mustered out on 31 October 1898 at Concord, then reverted to its previous designation. New Hampshire reorganized its regiments in 1900, dropping the 3rd Regiment. The Portsmouth unit was then designated B Company, 2nd Regiment on 20 January 1900. The state again reorganized the guard in 1909, creating the 1st Infantry, headquartered in Nashua, and the Coast Artillery Corps, headquartered in Portsmouth. The Portsmouth unit then became the 1st Company, Coast Artillery Corps on 15 April 1909. (10) Other Coast Artillery Corps units were based in Dover (4th Co.), Laconia (2nd Co.), and Exeter (3rd Co.).

The public was invited to look over the new armory building on March 24, 1916 during the formal inspection of the 1st Company, Coast Artillery Corps by Captain W. A. Wilson, U.S. Army, and Inspector-General William Sullivan of the New Hampshire National Guard. (11) On Monday evening of May 22 the armory was decked out for a formal military ball following its official. Adjutant General Charles W. Howard of the New Hampshire National Guard formally turned the property over to Captain Clarence P. Bodwell, commanding officer of the 1st Company. The military ball was attended by over 200 guests, which included noted city personalities, as well as officers of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps stationed at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Naval Prison, and Marine Barracks in Kittery, Fort Constitution in New Castle, as well as officers from other companies of the New Hampshire Coast Artillery Corps. The band from the Naval Shipyard in Kittery played under the direction of Band Master A. DeNunzio, U.S.N. At intermission of the dance program, refreshments of ice cream, cake and punch was served by Andrew Jarvis, proprietor of Nichols Candy Store in Portsmouth. During the one-hour intermission guests toured the armory, then danced on until one o’clock in the morning. The ball was considered a grand success. (12)

A Bit of Excitement

In April of 1917 an incident near the Armory caused quite a commotion in the adjacent neighborhood. An anonymous resident telephoned the city police at 12:30 AM to report sounds of shooting near the Armory. Three police officers rushed to the scene and found several members of the guard with guns, on a hunt in the rear of the building. The police learned that the shots were fired by the sentry on duty, who claimed that he discovered three men prowling among bushes behind a residence on Richards Avenue. The guard said he ordered the men to halt three different times, and getting no response, fired three shots. The prowlers then took off running, going in three separate directions. With the gunfire, and the arrival of the entire guard soon afterward, the neighborhood was aroused and excited all night. (13)

The Armory and the 1st Company hosted a masquerade party in July 1916, attended by about 200 guests, most in costume. The judges for the event were Mayor Ladd, Councilman E. Curtis Mathews, Jr., and Fred M. Sise, president of the city Board of Trade. Prizes went to Miss Hope Waldron, most beautiful costume, gold wrist watch; Mrs. Beatrice Allen, most original costume, lady's silk umbrella; Joseph Stickles, most handsome costume, traveling bag; and to James H. McCarthy, most original men's costume, umbrella. Dancing was held after the awarding of the prizes, until about 1 AM. An intermission was held at 11 PM, in which ice cream and cake were again served by local proprietor Andrew Jarvis. (14)

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

The Portsmouth area suffered from war anxiety in 1917, as the Naval Shipyard in Kittery was put on a war footing. Local troops were mustered into service at Portsmouth on April 12, 1917, and drafted into Federal service on August 5. The state Coast Artillery Corps was reorganized, with the 1st Company, Coast Artillery Corps was redesignated as the 4th Company at Fort Constitution the next day, and then later redesignated the 9th Company, Coast Defenses of Portsmouth, on August 29. The other units of the state Coast Artillery Corps became the 5th (Laconia), 6th (Exeter), and 7th (Dover) Companies at Fort Constitution, later redesignated the 6th, 7th, and 8th Companies, Coast Defenses of Portsmouth. The Coast Artillery companies never left the state during the war, but remained in service at Forts Constitution, Stark, McClary and Foster guarding the harbor entrance. The troops were demobilized from Federal service at Fort Constitution on 19 December 1918. (15)

Minor renovations followed. In 1920, the armory had a cinder driveway cut in and graded 25 feet out from the rear of the building, and a new access door was built in the rear to the basement level, to accommodate various coastal artillery motor equipment. (16) Because the South Mill Pond is tidal, the surrounding area was prone to flooding after a rainfall, and the basement of the Armory flooded regularly.

More reorganization followed the war. The Portsmouth unit was redesignated A Battery, 197th Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft), Coast Artillery Corps on February 16, 1922. Redesignated D Battery, 197th Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft), Coast Artillery Corps on February 12, 1923, and redesignated again to D Battery, 197th Coast Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft) on April 23. 1924.

Defending New Hampshire

The 197th Coast Artillery Regiment, New Hampshire National Guard, was organized and Federally recognized on June 30, 1922, consolidated from various units of the 1st New Hampshire Infantry and the several companies of the Coast Defenses of Portsmouth. The regiment was composed of the following units, spread across the state: the Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Battery in Concord, the First Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Battery (Gun) in Portsmouth, Headquarters Detachment and Combat Train in Charlestown (moving to Claremont in 1926), A Battery (Searchlight) in Concord, B Battery (Gun) in Dover, C Battery (Gun) in Laconia, D Battery (Gun) in Portsmouth, Second Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Battery (Machine Gun) and Headquarters Detachment (later becoming the Combat Train in 1939) in Newport, E Battery (Machine Gun) in Nashua, F Battery (Machine Gun) in Berlin, G Battery (Machine Gun) in Keene, H Battery (Machine Gun) in Franklin, Service Battery (later becoming the Supply Platoon and Maintenance Section of the Regimental Headquarters Battery in 1939) in Nashua, and the Medical Detachment and Regimental Band in Nashua. Annual service training was held at Plattsburgh and Pine Camp (now Fort Drum) in New York, and at Rye Beach in New Hampshire.

The regiment was initially outfitted with 75mm anti-aircraft guns mounted on White trucks. It also had a single 60-inch searchlight mounted on a Cadillac truck. The 75mm AA guns were soon replaced with M1918 trailer-mounted 3-inch AA guns towed by Series 1917 and 1918 Class B and FWD (Four Wheel Drive) trucks. The regiment also received a few of the pre-World War One 3-ton Liberty and GMC trucks that were overhauled by the regimental mechanics in Concord, and by the mid 1930's, fitted with pneumatic tires. By 1940 the regiment had been outfitted with newer ordnance and rolling stock. (17)

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NATIONAL GUARD ARMORY  (continued)

 

Portsmouth Celebrates 300 Years

The annual two-week summer encampment of the regiment in August 1923 took place at Fort Constitution, in consideration of the 300th anniversary of the settlement of New Hampshire, and since the citizens of both Portsmouth and Dover requested their participation in the tercentennial celebrations. The regiment made camp on August 18 under canvas at Fort Constitution, and in the cantonment barracks at the New Reservation (later Camp Langdon). Headquarters Battery was detached and occupied the cantonment barracks at Fort Stark. The regiment participated in the Portsmouth parade on August 20, and the Dover parade three days later. On August 24 and 25 the regiment was inspected in camp by Brigadier General Mark L. Hershey, District Commander, First Coast Artillery District, accompanied by Major Avery J. French, C.A.C. No special review was held as the general was only interested in the actual training. The State Governor and Staff reviewed the regiment on the Golf Links of the Hotel Wentworth on August 29 before a large crowd, with the new regimental colors on display. Actual service practice took place during the second week near Rye Harbor. (18)

Old Portsmouth Armory in NH, now demolished / SeacoastNH.com

The 1924 summer encampment took place at Fort Terry and Fort H. G. Wright in New York on Long Island Sound. The regiment traveled in two detachments by rail, preceded to camp by the truck convoy, which consisted of one White staff car, one GMC ambulance, five three-quarter-ton GMC trucks, five one-and-one-half-ton Packard trucks, two Dodge light repair trucks, and two motorcycles. The Gun Battalion switched to the 75mm AA guns that year since there was no allowance for the expenditure of 3-inch AA ammunition. The Gun and Machine Gun Battalions worked on night firing solutions at aerial balloon targets, tracked by the Searchlight Battalion. At Fort Wright, the regiment observed the 243rd Coast Artillery Regiment fire the big guns, and returned the favor the next day by showing off the various AA guns. (19)

The Great War Down Under

The regiment was inducted into Federal service on September 16,1940. After all the units were assembled in Concord, the regiment, numbering 56 officers and 1400 enlisted men, along with twelve 3-inch AA guns and their primary movers, and the rest of the regiment's heavy equipment and vehicles, left by train to Camp Hulen, near Palacios, Texas, on September 26. This was the first major movement of troops by rail in the United States during peacetime. The regiment received its first Selective Service draftees at Camp Hulen to fill out the ranks. Training maneuvers took place at Camp Hulen and in the desert near Midland, Texas, and in Louisiana during the 1941 Maneuvers with the 1st Cavalry Division.

A detachment was training in Tampa, Florida late in 1941 when the call came to mobilize for war. The regiment was called to New York City in December 1941, and all elements were in place within five days. The detachment in Florida made the 1200 mile motor march to New York City in 120 hours, joining the rest of the regiment. The regiment was reorganized at Fort Dix, New Jersey on January 12, 1942 and moved to San Francisco, California in February, sailing to Australia on February 18 aboard the S.S. Monterey. After 27 days at sea, the regiment arrived in Australia and emplaced its guns around Brisbane. The regiment was redeployed to Fremantle, near Perth, on March 23. While there, the regiment provided anti-aircraft defense, loaded submarines with ammunition for transport to Corregidor, emplaced and taught the Australians to use American coastal guns, received the first American nurses evacuated from the Philippines, and met the first Australian troops to return home from the Middle East. A third battalion was authorized in August 1942, and a fourth gun battery (a new A Battery) was given to the First Battalion in May 1943.

Return of the Squalus

One interesting incident that occurred in Fremantle in 1942 was the arrival of the U.S.S. Sailfish for repairs. The Sailfish was the repaired and renamed U.S.S. Squalus, which had sunk off the coast near Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1939 during a training dive. The rescue of the survivors and the raising of the sub made newspaper headlines around the country for days. In Fremantle at the time were the Gun Battalion commander, Major Ladd, and a group of enlisted men who had previously worked at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the construction yard of the Squalus, and had, in fact, worked on the Squalus itself. They helped repair the Sailfish and had her ready for sea again in a few weeks. (20)

Final Destinations

The regiment left Fremantle and moved by rail 1700 miles to set up anti-aircraft defenses at Garbatt Field, near Townsville, Queensland, a bomber base that was used against Japanese positions on New Britain. The regiment also provided gun crews to help defend a secret air base at Iron Range, 125 miles south of Torres Straight. Although no enemy action occurred here, the commander of the Allied Air Forces gave a commendation after the operation saying that it saved many airmen and millions of dollars in equipment because of homing operations that used searchlights and radar. The regiment was using SCR 268 radar units including one placed on Rottnest Island off the coast of Fremantle.

The regiment was broken up on May 15 1943 into several elements. Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Battery became Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of the 197th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group; the 3rd Battalion 197th, along with A Battery (Searchlight), First Battalion, became the 237th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion; and the Regimental Band became the 281st Army Band in December 1943. The 1st Battalion 197th (with the new A Battery) became the 744th Coast Artillery Battalion, later on June 15 1944 becoming the 744th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Gun Battalion; the 2nd Battalion 197th became the 210th Coast Artillery Battalion, later on 15 June 1944 becoming the 210th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion.

The units were used at various places and under different commanders, and as small detachments with a variety of missions. Portsmouth's old unit, D Battery, was assigned to the 158th Regimental Combat Team on the Legaspi operation in the Philippines. No longer providing anti-aircraft support, it provided terrestrial fire support for the infantry, maintained road blocks, and provided security patrols. Five of its enlisted men received Bronze Stars.

The 744th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Gun Battalion also served in New Guinea, and made the initial landing and reconnaissance of an island off Morotai. The 744th is also believed to have been the first unit equipped with ammunition having proximity fuses.

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NATIONAL GUARD ARMORY  (continued)

The War Ends

After the war, all the former New Hampshire National Guard units returned home and were inactivated at Camp Stoneman, California on December 29, 1945, returning to National Guard status.

During the war, the armory had been used by the New Hampshire State Guard, a home guard unit, for drills and other training purposes. When a new National Guard unit for Portsmouth was reactivated in 1947, Brig. General Charles F. Bowen, Adjutant General of the New Hampshire National Guard, commended the N.H. State Guard on the manner in which the state armory in Portsmouth was left after wartime use by the state guardsmen. (21)

The old 3rd Battalion, 197th CA (AA) was redesignated the 237th Coast Artillery Battalion (Harbor Defense), headquartered in Dover, and was awarded all wartime battle honors and history of its predecessor, as well as its successor unit, the 237th AAA Searchlight Battalion. It was under the command of Col. Calvin C. Seavey, then later Col. Nelson Burge, a native of Portsmouth. (22) The new guard unit for Portsmouth was designated the 954th Coast Artillery Battery (Harbor Defense) of the 237th Coast Artillery Battalion, a direct successor to the old D Battery, 1st Battalion, 197th CA (AA), redesignated the 744th AAA Gun Battalion during the war. It was initially under the command of 1st Lt. John D. Leahy (acting commander), assisted by 1st Lt. Owen O. Gray (executive officer) and 2nd Lt. Eugene Ritzo, Jr. (public relations). The Dover unit, meanwhile, was designated the 978th Coast Artillery Battery (Harbor Defense) of the 237th Coast Artillery Battalion. Several veterans of the old D Battery re-enlisted in the 954th, including Capt. Merton F. Race (commanding officer), 2nd Lt. Ritzo, 1/Sgt. Charles Watkins, and Supply Sgt. Richard (Red) Parsons of Kittery, Maine. The unit recruited to full strength of 96 enlisted men and four officers, and was Federally recognized on August 27, 1947, and inspected and accepted on September 17. Drill pay for privates was based at $2.50 per drill, with corresponding increases according to grade. All equipment and uniforms were to be provided by the government. Initial training and instruction was for two hours every Monday night at 7:30 PM at the Armory. The drill periods were divided into classes, with the instruction conducted by the "old hands". Capt. Race pointed out to a reporter that:

"We have a handful of experienced non-coms but the bulk of our men are green and we have a long way to go before we can feel ourselves ready for our primary mission, which is to be able to take over one of the Portsmouth Harbor defense batteries in case of trouble." (23)

The 954th Battery was to train on the still active six-inch guns of Battery 204 at Fort Dearborn in Rye. But even then, General Bowen strongly hinted that the Portsmouth battery would be made mobile in the near future. Without stating what type of weapon might be issued, he replied that mechanizing plans were under study. (24)

The first of a series of post-war dances to be held at the armory was a Halloween Dance on Friday October 31, 1947. Sgt. Parsons was chairman of the dance committee.

In 1949 the Coast Artillery battalions were abolished, and were converted to Field Artillery battalions. On 22 August 1949 the 954th Battery was redesignated Headquarters Battery, 237th Field Artillery Battalion. On 1 June 1950, it was designated Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 195th Infantry Regiment. On 1 December 1954, it was designated Headquarters Battery, 737th Armored Field Artillery Battalion. Another unit that shared the Portsmouth Armory at this time was B Company, 237th Military Police Battalion. It was formed on 19 October 1950, and organized on 21 November 1951. It was redesignated Service Battery, 737th Armored Field Artillery Battalion on 1 December 1954. These two units end the state's history with the old Portsmouth Armory.

In Civilian Hands

The National Guard vacated the old armory building on Parrott Avenue in 1958, handing it over to the City of Portsmouth for use as an adult recreation center. A new armory building had already been completed in 1958 at 803 McGee Drive (formerly Circuit Road) in the northwestern section of the city. The city spent about $30,000 to convert the old armory into its new use by reconfiguring the Drill Hall into a basketball court, shuffleboard court, exercise room, and handball court. The balcony level was removed to allow space for the ball courts. The rifle range in the basement was converted into an archery range. The interior was completely repainted, and a storeroom was converted into a lounge with a television and armchairs. The shower room in the basement was converted into a steam room. The upper floor of the Head House was converted into meeting and hobby rooms. A kitchen was also installed in the building. The double arched wooden paneled doors with iron strap hinges at the front entrance were replaced with modern steel and glass doors. The iron bars on all the outside windows were retained. The decorative arched brickwork and castle-like crenulations on the Head House were also removed during the remodel. The former armory was renamed the John F. Kennedy Memorial Adult Recreation Center in a formal dedication ceremony on Tuesday, November 26, 1963, by which it was known until its demolition. Mayor John J. Wholey officiated at the rededication. The revamped armory was now the site of basketball, archery, handball, and shuffleboard, included physical fitness classes, weight lifting, billiards, ping-pong, horseshoes, boxing, wrestling, judo, badminton, volleyball, golf practice, and square dancing. (25)

Continuing the lineage of the Portsmouth unit after moving into its new home on McGee Drive in 1958, the unit was redesignated on 1 February 1959 to Headquarters Battery, 3rd Howitzer Battalion, 197th Artillery Regiment. The 197th Artillery Regiment was a direct successor to the old 197th Coast Artillery Regiment, inheriting the colors and regimental history of the former unit. On 1 February 1963 the Headquarters Battery consolidated with the Service Battery, 3rd Howitzer Battalion, 197th Artillery Regiment, the consolidated unit then becoming Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 197th Artillery Regiment. The Service Battery was originally constituted on 19 October 1950, as B Company, 237th Military Police Battalion, and organized on 21 November 1951 in Portsmouth. It was redesignated Service Battery, 737th Armored Field Artillery Battalion on 1 December 1954, and redesignated again on 1 February 1959 as Service Battery, 3rd Howitzer Battalion, 197th Artillery Regiment. The Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 197th Artillery Regiment was redesignated Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment on 1 May 1972. The regimental colors of the 197th Regiment were retired on 23 August 1992 in a closing ceremony at the new armory. The Portsmouth unit was then designated Detachment 1, C Battery, 1st Battalion, 172nd Field Artillery Regiment on 1 September 1992. The remainder of C Battery was in Dover. (26)

Throughout its later years, the former armory was also used as a meeting hall for neighborhood associations and for private parties and dances, the Portsmouth Police Department's Annual Auction, band performances as part of First Night celebrations, theatrical presentations as part of Market Square Day celebrations, city summer camp, private exercise and dance instruction, a gymnasium for students of the private St. Patrick School, and as a Field House for the adjacent Portsmouth Middle School. (27)

The city used the old armory for recreational purposes and other events until 2001, when the site was selected as a possible location for a new expanded Portsmouth Public Library. The city transferred all recreational activities to a new center at Spinnaker Point, and the old armory sat unused . In June 2003, after much heated local debate, the armory was slated for demolition. The state's Division of Historical Resources announced the following October that the city had followed all legal procedures according to the Section 103 process, and could not, therefore, prevent the city from demolishing the building. While the old armory may not be among the oldest or most historic of city buildings, its loss was tragic for those who cherished its long history as a colonial seaport and military defense center.

CONTINUE to read PORTSMOUTH ARMORY


 
NATIONAL GUARD ARMORY  (continued)

Notes to Portsmouth Armory Article
By Peter Payette

The author would like to thank the following individuals for providing editorial assistance: Nelson Lawry, Bill Gaines, and Matthew Adams. The author would also like to thank the following for proof-reading and other helpful suggestions: wife Leisa Payette, and father Pierre Payette.

(1) "They Came to Fish" by Raymond A. Brighton, Peter E. Randall Publisher, 1994, pp 239-241.

The Arsenal, or Gun House as it was more commonly known, was built on land ceded to the state in 1808 for storing weapons and other equipment for the wartime use of the state militia when needed to bolster the federal defense at Fort Constitution. A photo of the Gun House appears in Caleb Gurney's "Portsmouth: Historic and Picturesque," 1902. It later became disused and dilapidated, and became a hazardous playground for children of the adjacent Haven School. The Arsenal was finally razed in December 1920, the bricks being used in other city projects. The former Haven School, built in 1846, is still extant.

(2) "Anxious to Have Work Begin" Portsmouth Herald article, 19 February 1914

(3) "Effort Mounted to Save Portsmouth Armory." Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover) article, 3 February 2003

(4) "Ground Will be Broken at Once" Portsmouth Herald article, 16 July 1914

(5) "They Came to Fish" by Raymond A. Brighton, Peter E. Randall Publisher, 1994, pp 239-241

(6) "House Passes Armory Bill" Portsmouth Herald article, 14 April 1915

(7) "Local Firms Lose Out" Portsmouth Herald article, 12 June 1915. The five bidding firms and their bids were: Wallace Construction Company, $9370; Sacco and Wood, $9486; E. A. Peabody, $9987; Burton H. Wiggin of Lowell, Mass., $10,869; and Sidney Trueman, $11,872.

(8) "Work Started: Contractors Begin State Armory Extension" Portsmouth Herald article, 20 July 1915

(9) Possible further research could show that the unit evolved from the Goodwin Guards, which was organized in 1861 and became Company K, 2nd New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. The 2nd N.H.V.I. was primarily raised in Portsmouth under the command of Colonel Gilman Marston in April 1861, and was encamped at the South Mill Pond Barracks, a former ropewalk facility on the south bank of the pond, also used as militia barracks in 1814. Company K was mustered into Federal service on 8 June 1861, and mustered out at Cabin Point, Virginia, on 19 December 1865. This unit served with distinction at the Battles of the Virginia Peninsula, Manassas, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.

(10) "From Portsmouth Harbor to the Persian Gulf: A Brief History of the 172nd Field Artillery Regiment, the 197th Field Artillery Regiment, and Separate Units of the New Hampshire National Guard," NHARNG Pamphlet 600-82-3, compiled by MSG Stuart B. Lord, NHARNG, Headquarters STARC, Concord, NH, 1994

(11) "Chance to Inspect New Armory" Portsmouth Herald article, 24 March 1916

(12) "Will Dedicate New Armory" Portsmouth Herald article, 11 May 1916

"Military Ball Attended by Two-Hundred Guests" Portsmouth Herald article, 23 May 1916

(13) "Guard Claims He Fired at Three Men at Armory" Portsmouth Herald article 7 April 1917

(14) "Brilliant Masquerade at the State Armory" Portsmouth Herald article, 11 July 1916

(15) "From Portsmouth Harbor to the Persian Gulf: A Brief History of the 172nd Field Artillery Regiment, the 197th Field Artillery Regiment, and Separate Units of the New Hampshire National Guard," NHARNG Pamphlet 600-82-3, compiled by MSG Stuart B. Lord, NHARNG, Headquarters STARC, Concord, NH, 1994

(16) "To Enlarge State Armory" Portsmouth Herald article, 12 November 1920

(17) "The 197th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment" by William C. Gaines, unpublished manuscript

"How They Do It In the 197th C.A. (AA)" Coast Artillery Journal, v. 77 (Jan-Feb 1934), pp. 71-72

(18) "Annual Encampment of the 197th Artillery (AA)" Coast Artillery Journal, v. 59 (Nov 1923), pp. 515-516

(19) "The 197th Coast Artillery (New Hampshire)" Coast Artillery Journal, v. 61 (Nov 1924), pp. 435-437

(20) The superstructure (bridge and conning tower) of the Sailfish/Squalus was saved from the scrap heap in 1946 and placed on the Yard Mall of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (later renamed Squalus Memorial Park), and dedicated as a memorial on Armistice Day, 11 November 1946. The rest of the submarine was sold at auction for scrap for $43,167 in 1948. From "Do Your Job! An Illustrated Bicentennial History of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, 1800-2000," by Richard E. Winslow III, The Portsmouth Marine Society, 2000, p 166

(21) "They were `Mud Guards', Now They're Citizen-Soldiers with a Purpose", by Ray Brighton, Portsmouth Herald article, undated clipping, 1947.

(22) "Portsmouth-Dover National Guard Inherit Wartime Battalion's Record" Portsmouth Herald article, undated clipping, 1947

(23) Brighton, Portsmouth Herald, 1947

(24) Brighton, Portsmouth Herald, 1947

(25) "New Recreation Center Opens Tuesday" Portsmouth Herald article, 23 November 1963

"Ribbon Cutting at New Center" Portsmouth Herald photo caption, 27 November 1963

(26) "From Portsmouth Harbor to the Persian Gulf: A Brief History of the 172nd Field Artillery Regiment, the 197th Field Artillery Regiment, and Separate Units of the New Hampshire National Guard," NHARNG Pamphlet 600-82-3, compiled by MSG Stuart B. Lord, NHARNG, Headquarters STARC, Concord, NH, 1994

(27) New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources - Individual Inventory Form, prepared 23 January 2003 by Diane Kelley Tefft and John Dillon Kelley.

 

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