From mansion, to high school,
By Charles W. Brewster
Editors Note: C.W. Brewster was a Portsmouth columnist in the mid-1800's. This article includes his opinions and may not reflect current research or current values.
THE mansion removed from the corner of Daniel and Chapel streets, to give place for the high school house, bore marks of antiquity, although kept in a good state of preservation. It was a large, gambrel roofed house, of two high stories, with four square rooms on the floor, and an ell on Chapel street. Many fruitless inquiries have been made for the age and history of the erection of the old mansion. Not a solitary memorandum could be found chalked on any part of the frame, or any mark to show that the builders were ambitious of remembrance beyond their day. It is said that the house was built about one hundred and forty years ago, by Capt. Thomas Daniel, a merchant, for whom, in after time, the street was named. It was more that a century ago occupied by Hon. Mark H. Wentworth. The spacious arrangements for the wine-cellar, show that in old times ample provision was made to lay in a year's supply to meet any emergency. We cannot find any definite date about the premises, except "1752" on the brick wall on Chapel street, which was probably put up by Mr. Wentworth long after the house was erected.
But if the builder is now unknown, not so the family which afterwards occupied the mansion. Mark Hunking Wentworth, who resided there until his death in 1785, was the son of John Wentworth, the Lieut. Governor of New Hampshire, who died in 1730 -- and the father of John Wentworth, who received his commission as Governor of this province in 1767. Benning Wentworth, who was Governor from 1741 to 1767, was a brother to Mark Hunking Wentworth.
That "old house on the corner" was a mansion of the highest class -- and even then those noble elms, which within a few years have gladdened the eyes of all who have looked upon their green foliage in passing from Market square to the Navy Yard landing,--even in revolutionary times, afforded shade to many who passed under them.
On the second day of August, 1855, the remains of the "old house on the corner" were sold at public auction. The big elm tree, which had lost its vitality and stood like a gigantic skeleton of olden time, was put under the hammer -- but alas for its departed glory, the highest bid was only fifteen cents!
And so the "old house on the corner" has passed away, and we shall look in vain for its sombre front and projecting portico. Never again will its old tenants be permitted to tread its pleasant halls. No more will the wind whistle down its massive chimneys and whirl the sand in fantastic wreaths across the hard floor. No more will the rising sun throw his beams upon it, and no more will its setting cast pleasant glances through its antique cupola.*
[Editor's Note: *Although it has been a common opinion that the Daniel house was located on the spot now occupied by the high school house, yet there are some antiquarians who locate it two lots further east, on the present site of the Danielson boarding house, and say the "old house on the corner" was built by Wentworth, about 1720. As we cannot decide in this matter, it is right in the absence of proof that we should not speak of the location with certainty, although we think it was as we have given it.]
The Committee of Safety, of which Hunking Wentworth (uncle of Mark H.) was chairman in 1774, met at the house next west of the North church, to discuss the best mode of procedure to throw off foreign tyranny. While his uncle was thus engaged, the Governor of the province was secretly employing agents to hire carpenters to construct barracks for the royal soldiers in Boston. Patriotism led the uncle to lay aside his personal feelings, kind and liberal though they ever were, and pronounce the person guilty of such conduct "an enemy to the community." The Governor then held the mansion on Pleasant street, now occupied by Eben. Wentworth. In 1775, while the manifestations of devotion to the cause of independence were growing warmer and warmer under the uncle's influence, a field-piece was placed by the people before the door of the Governor, who fled through his back yard to the fort. The mob entered the mansion, disturbed the whole premises -- even the ladies' toilets were robbed of the rouge, etc. -- and to this day the broken marble chimney piece is preserved in its place for the inspection of the curious visitor.
Text scanned courtesy of The Brewster Family Network
Copy of Rambles courtesy Peter E. Randall
History Hypertext project by SeacoastNH.com
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