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Portsmouth Athenaeum


Founded in 1817, The Portsmouth Athenaeum was incorporated with the title of "Proprietors of the Portsmouth Athenaeum." "It is not a public library, as only the share holders can use the book," was how it was described in The Portsmouth Guide Book, published by Josesph H. Foster, in Portsmouth in 1876, page 53. He goes on to say, "It is owned in 100 shares, and has a library of over 11,000 volumes, besides periodicals and newspapers. The building in which it is kept was erected for the use of the Fire and Marine Insurance Company, incorporated in 1803." (See the Portsmouth 1813 Fire Map; this building was not affected by any of the 3 great fires).


Today, the Portsmouth Athenaeum still has this prominent location in Market Square. The private library has over 300 members or "proprietors" who maintain and use the growing collection. The late Joseph Sawtelle donated three attached condos in the Foye Building to the left and the Athenaeum now includes offices, a climate controlled vault and a new exhibit area named in honor of publisher Peter Randall. Besides frequent lectures and exhibits, the Athenaeum is open to the public on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 11am to 4pm.. The phone number is 603-431-2538.

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