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Yesterday and Today
by Bill & Connie Warren
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St. John's Episcopal Church


Yesterday, c. 1905, St. John's Episcopal Church is shown from the corner of Chapel and Daniel Streets. Built in 1807 (see 1877 map), following the fire of 1806 (see 1813 "fire" map) which destroyed the first Episcopal church at this location named Queen's Chapel. In 1791, following the American Revolution, Queen's Chapel was renamed St. John's Church. This is one of the first churches in New Hampshire to be built of brick. The new church attracted a lot of attention; over 5,000 people attended the laying of the corner stone. 5,000 people was a larger number of people than all of the population of Portsmouth. The new St. John's cost over $30,000 which, at the time of its erection, was the most expensive building in town. From the river, the steeple became a landmark as the church stands on the high ground of Portsmouth.


Today, St. John's Church is still a landmark. The building remains essentially the same though a brick parish house and parking lot have been added. St. John's has many historical artifacts. Its bell was taken from the French at Louisburg in the mid 18th century and was recast by Paul Revere in 1807. It owns the "Vinegar Bible" of 1717. Its Brattle organ is one of the oldest in this country. Famous visitors who have worshiped here include George Washington and Daniel Webster.

MORE: St John's Graveyard by Brewster

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