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Yesterday and Today
by Bill & Connie Warren
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Kearsarge House

Yesterday, 1869, Kearsarge House was advertised in the Portsmouth City Directory. Because the advertisement was simple text without an illustration, for this entry I will use a postcard, and an ad from a later period. The hotel is on the corner of Chestnut and Congress Streets. The building was erected as a multi-family dwelling but was soon converted as a hotel. There is some confusion as to the date when the hotel was established. The pretty sign over the side walk on Congress Street, for instance, says it was established in 1875, but the city directory is in conflict with that date as is at least one other source.

The Kearsarge Hotel was named for the ship, built in the Portsmouth, the Kearsarge. She was a wooden, screw sloop. Its keel was laid in 1861, and she was launched November 9 of that year. She was involved in a battle off the coast of France with the Confederate raider, The Alabama. The Alabama was sunk on June 19, 1864. The Kearsarge survived the war and continued to serve the Union until she was wrecked in 1894.

The Kearsarge Hotel was built to replace another building on the same site erected in 1735 by Jacob Treadwell. The hotel advertised "a dining hall with a capacity of 60 and 40 well furnished rooms with up-to-date accommodations, in parlors, writing and reception rooms, are adequate quarters for the convenience of the many patrons, and 20 capable assistants are employed." When this advertisement was published, Sherman T. Newton was the proprietor.

Today, the Kearsarge is owned by Renaissance Properties; they bought and restored the building in 1980-81. At the time, it was in poor condition. Some of their restorations include keeping the grand mahogany staircase (with some modifications to comply with city building ordinances), the raised oak paneling and the sign, etc. The building was made structurally sound again, and, through thoughtful recycling for today's uses, it is one of our 'museum of buildings' for which Portsmouth has become known.

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