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Even in 1800 there was
a Bow Street Theatre

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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.

Market street - Bow street - Penhallow's garden - Penhallow family - Theatre.

SIXTY years ago next north of Dearborn's combined shop, house and academy, was the mansion of Judge John Pickering. Connected with the Penhallow mansion, which came next, was a large garden extending back over the land now bearing the name of Penhallow street. The Boyd premises were on the corner of Bow street; next was the residence of Joseph Haven, about in the position of the north corner of Penhallow street; the bookstore of Mr. Sparhawk was next east; then a small range of stores belonging to Daniel Rindge; and a little east of where Gerrish's foundry now is, was the Portsmouth Theatre, a large, two-story building, the eastern side bounded by the Wentworth garden. Around this garden the brick wall was then extended as it has been seen in later years.

There was a theatrical company in Portsmouth near the close of the last century, composed of young men of Portsmouth, with occasional assistance from other places. Their performances were given in the theatre on Bow street. The amateur performers were literary men from twenty to twenty-five years of age. There were no female performers, but the most delicate young men, in flowing robes and curls, personified the ladies. On that spot, before the scenery furnished by a home artist, the gratified audiences of the day would listen to such actors as E. St. Loe Livermore, Charles Cutts, Samuel Elliot, George Long, George W. Prescott, Tilton, Haven, Cutter, Sheafe and others, who in this school fitted themselves for more gracefully discharging the courtesies of after life.

The fire of 1806 destroyed the theatre, with the warehouses around it, as well as that more valuable edifice, the Episcopal church.

From the Episcopal church there was opened on the west a fine and extensive garden prospect, which was preserved, although gradually becoming more limited, for years after. The Wentworth house, the Jaffrey mansion, the residence of Elijah Hall, and the buildings already described, flanked the opposite edges of the picture, while directly south of the church the oldest brick edifice in Portsmouth, the residence of Jonathan Warner, made no unimportant feature in the landscape at the close of the last century.

The mansion owned by John N. Frost, on Market street, was formerly the boarding-house of Mrs. Noah Parker. Directly opposite, where Mr. Payne now keeps, was the store where Benjamin Penhallow commenced business. He one day saw a lady of Gloucester, who stopped at Mrs. Parker's, on her way to Portland. He sought an introduction, and in due time was married to Susan, the daughter of Col. William Pearce of Gloucester. They were visited by a young lady, Miss Harriet Pearce, daughter of David P. of Gloucester--and Hunking Penhallow took her as his helpmeet. When Miss Mary Beach of Gloucester, was afterwards on a visit to Mrs. Hunking Penhallow, she was first seen by Thomas W. Penhallow, who became her husband. This matrimonial alliance with Gloucester made him acquainted with his second wife, who is a half sister of the late Hunking Penhallow's wife. Little did that lady who stopped here for a few hours in her journey, think that that day's results would be a matter of so much interest in so many families, both of Gloucester and Portsmouth.

Text scanned courtesy of The Brewster Family Network
Copy of Rambles courtesy Peter E. Randall
History Hypertext project by
Design © 2001

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