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Benaiah Titcomb House
The home and business of Thomas A. Hamilton where now the Police Station is located. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
The Benaiah Titcomb House was formerly located at 40 Green Street where the 1913 Georgian Revival police station now stands. The Titcomb house was built c. 1700 and moved two hundred years later to the coastal town of Essex, south of Newburyport. Thomas A. Hamilton boarded at this residence, and in the 1860s he purchased it to house his painters' supplies business. Mr. Hamilton's trade sign advertised: "PAINTS. OILS. GLASS. PUTTY. VARNISH. TURPENTINE. BENZINE. BRUSHES. GLUES. COLORS." Two known oil paintings exist that once belonged to Mr. Hamilton. One depicts lower Green Street, including the Titcomb house, with a view of the Merrimack River in the background. The paintings are now owned by the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown. One of the pair of these art works was generously donated to the New York museum by Newburyport residents Noreen and John Pramberg in order to keep the rare paintings together.
The area is now home to the Newburyport Police Department.
A view looking up Green Street; the Police Station and City Hall on right. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
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Edward S. Hidden, who lived at the corner of Pleasant and Green Streets, where the United States Post Office is now located, planned in 1915 to build a new movie house named the Strand Theater on lower Green Street. At the time Mr. Hidden owned the Star Theater, adjacent to his house on Pleasant Street.
A view at the corner of Pleasant and Green Streets looking towards the river. Courtesy of Ghlee E. Woodworth.
A few months later in 1916, Mr. Hidden sold his land on lower Green Street to John D. King of Newburyport, and the Strand Theater was completed in 1917. It was built during the period of Classical Revival architecture, but after going through several alterations it retains only a few of its original characteristics. The attractive theater was formally opened in October of 1917, and for years it provided entertainment, vaudeville shows, plays, and the latest silent movies. In 1932 the Newburyport Daily News reported that the Strand had installed “talkie” equipment that made it unusable for stage shows. Up until then, only silent movies had been shown. In 1949 the new modern Port Theater opened on the corner of Titcomb and Pleasant Streets. The remaining oldest two theaters, the Strand and Premier, soon closed their doors. Since the closing of the Strand Theater in 1959, benefactor and business owner Edward Molin the building has been converted into a commercial building.
A view of homes on lower Green Street, now the parking lot and the old Strand Theater. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
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In 1804 the first Baptist Church was founded, and a small group led by Reverend Joshua Chase met in Joppa in a small schoolhouse on Marlboro Street. In May of 1805 regular sermons were being preached at the schoolhouse and in a small building at the "Plains," in the North End of town by Reverend John Peak. A central location was chosen, and they met in a structure called the "Tabernacle" on Temple Street. In 1809 a new brick structure was completed on Liberty Street, but in less than two years the Baptist meetinghouse and pastor’s dwelling was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1811. The church was full of goods and furniture that had been deposited there by residents and shop owners who felt sure the meetinghouse would never be touched by the fire.
A view looking down Green Street and the old Baptist Church steeple in background. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
Pastor John Peak wrote of the terrible night: "I saw the roof of our meeting-house tumbling in, leaving the brick walls principally standing. But what an awful sight! Bright flames ascending to a great height; explosions of powder, spirits, etc.; vast columns of cinders and flames ascending in quick succession to the clouds; a dense smoke ascending from the burning tar, rosin, pitch, etc., formed thick clouds which spread over all in awful majesty. The roaring of the flames, accompanied with wind, the sound of trumpets and voices of the firemen, the crash of buildings, the cry of the sufferers for help to secure their goods, and the increasing progress of the conflagration, altogether, was the most appalling scene I ever witnessed."
Within a short time $4,000 was collected to build a new church on Congress Street near Kent and Washington Streets. During the period of construction, the Baptists met at the Courthouse on Bartlet Mall. Philosophical disagreements soon followed, and a few of the parishioners left to form the Green Street Baptist Church. That structure was designed by local architect Frederick J. Coffin. In 1869 the Congress Street Church merged with the Green Street Baptist Church; the merged group was renamed the Central Baptist Society of Newburyport. Before being razed the Congress Street building was used as a box factory. It was owned by Orrin J. Gurney, who served as mayor of Newburyport in 1892 and 1895. The Green Street Church was demolished and then rebuilt to include a steeple which was removed in the 1940s. By 1900, over 200 families attended the Baptist Church.
The Baptist community moved to the Hope Community Center inter-denominational church in the 1990s. Local distinguished benefactor and business owner Edward Molin purchased the Green Street Church and converted it to a restaurant and function room, which it serves as today.
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Advertisement in the City Directory, 1855. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
The site of the Masonic Temple, 31 Green Street, was the home of Joseph B. Morse (1808-1883), a newspaper publisher. Mr. Morse owned the Newburyport Daily Herald and Semi-Weekly Herald from the 1830s to 1856. He was elected president of the Masconomet Mills and the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank and was one of the incorporators of the Newburyport Water Company in 1880. Land was purchased in the vicinity of the Bartlet spring near Ferry Road and the Merrimack River, a pumping station erected, and nearly twenty-five miles of water pipe laid. Mr. Morse was also a part-owner of several ships: Merrimac, built in 1854, Jacob Horton, built in 1860, and the Daniel I. Tenney, built in 1875.
Advertisement in the City Directory, 1874. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
Newburyport’s St. John’s Lodge, established in 1766, was the fourth in Massachusetts, and St. Mark's Lodge was organized in 1803. The Masonic Club purchased the former Morse residence and land in the 1920s. The Club began a fundraising campaign, and several years later the temple was built in the New Classical style, a design popular during the early twentieth century. Characteristics include a large portico and Ionic columns. The cornerstone was laid on June 20, 1928; the solid silver trowel that was used to spread the cement to lay the cornerstone was made by the Towle Manufacturing Company. The cost of the new building was approximately $130,000. It was dedicated in March of 1929.
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Babson Nutting House
In 1782, the house at Green Street which was in the process of being built by the Mulliken family was purchased by merchant John Babson. Jonathan and Nathaniel Mulliken were well-known clockmakers. Mr. Babson completed the design the Mullikens had begun, and in 1810, the dwelling was divided into a double house. In the 1830s owner John Bartlet taught private school there, including evening classes in French. A white wooden fence surrounded the home where an iron one now stands. The dwelling has features of both the Georgian and Federal styles, such as a double hipped roof and Doric doorway.
Doorway of the Babson Nutting home. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
Between 1917 and the late 1920s, photographer Wallace Nutting (1861-1941), also one of the first proponents of historical architectural preservation in the twentieth century, restored the house and created a studio for his artwork. Nutting scholar Michael Ivankovich states: "Wallace Nutting sold more hand-colored photographs during America’s 1900-1940 'Golden Age of Hand Colored Photography' than any other photographer of his time. It is estimated that between 5,000,000 and 10,000,000 of his pictures decorated the walls of middle-class American homes during the early 20th century."
Mr. Nutting was a Rhode Island minister and retired due to health reasons around 1900. During his recovery Mr. Nutting toured the New England countryside, taking hundreds of photographs capturing the beauty of America – rivers, streams, lakes, country lanes, mountains, orchards, and flowers. Over the next several years, Mr. Nutting traveled to twenty-six states and seventeen foreign countries, collecting over 40,000 photographs. Each of his photographs were given a name, and the "colorists" he employed were given detailed instructions on how they should be hand-tinted. Each piece of artwork had to meet Mr. Wallace’s high standards of color and composition, given an appropriate matte and frame, and signed by the employee. He himself rarely autographed his pictures. During his stay in Newburyport, Mr. Wallace hired many local residents as "colorists." Local women employed included: Edith MacBurnie, Louise MacBurnie Holt, and Virginia MacBurnie James from the Newburyport South End neighborhood of Joppa hand-colored photographs and postcards.
Portrait of Wallace Nutting. Courtesy of <wallacenuttinglibrary.com>
About 1905, Mr. Nutting began taking photographs of indoor scenes at the suggestion of his wife, Mariet Griswold, who also worked at coloring his photographs. Colonial scenes with employees dressed in period clothing sold very well. His love of antiques and the Colonial era led him to purchase and restore five homes in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire including the Green Street house in Newburyport. Searching for the appropriate antiques for his homes and photographic backgrounds, Mr. Nutting soon realized that the top-quality originals pieces were being bought up and out of the market by wealthy individuals and collectors. Noting the difficulty of finding early American antiques and recognizing that many could not afford originals Mr. Nutting began reproducing Windsor chairs by 1918. He hired talented workmen to take apart originals piece by piece and measure every feature to create near-perfect handmade reproductions.
Mr. Nutting's business quickly expanded, and his reproductions of early American pieces continued to be made until the early 1930s. Unfortunately his love of reproduction antiques and high standards of perfection drove his company's production costs up. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Depression of the 1930s meant that fewer people could purchase his furniture pieces, and production of his furniture ceased during this time. Mr. Nutting did continue to sell pieces from inventory until his death in 1941.
Between 1918 and 1936, Mr. Nutting authored nearly twenty books, including the Furniture Treasury, (Volumes I and II, 1928; Volume III, 1933), which can still be found in bookstores today. He also left a valuable legacy through his efforts to educate New Englanders on the importance of preserving early architecture and artifacts, and his work helped to save many structures that otherwise would have likely been demolished.
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Frazier Greenleaf House
The Frazier Greenleaf House, 37 Green Street, has undergone several periods of alterations since the original two-storey house was built prior to 1790. Renovated later by Colonel Jonathan Greenleaf, the new owner of the Frazier House added a third floor the same height as the first and second floor, a double hip roof with dormers, and dentil molding at the cornice. The raising of the roof was completed on May 31, 1811, by Thomas Dodge, whose tool chest was destroyed in the Great Fire that night.
Moses Frazier, an early patriot, was active in the State’s constitutional conventions, served as a town selectman from 1778 to 1781, as a town treasurer from 1782 to 1783, and a representative to the General Court from 1777 to 1781. Jonathan Greenleaf was a shipbuilder at the lower shipyard near the foot of Federal Street. Mr. Greenleaf worked with Ralph and Stephen Cross and built the frigates Boston, Hancock, and the Protector for the State of Massachusetts between 1776 and 1778.
The sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), also had a relationship to the residents of this house, namely Mary Frazier, the lovely youngest daughter of Moses Frazer. He was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, and was the son of John and Abigail Adams. As a young man he lived in Europe and returned to attend Harvard College, graduating in 1787. A few months later, Mr. Adams began the study of law in the office of Theophilus Parsons in Newburyport. He boarded in the home of Martha Leathers, a widow, who lived in Market Square.
A courtship began between John Quincy Adams and Mary Frazier, the sixteen year old daughter of Moses Frazier. After a visit with his father, then serving as United States Vice President, and his mother, young John hurried back to Newburyport to help prepare the town’s welcome for President George Washington’s visit. When he returned to New York, George Washington assured John Quincy’s parents that young John was more interested in his law studies than young ladies.
Portrait of the young John Quincy Adams. Wikipedia Source.
Courtship rituals in the late eighteenth century required young gentlemen and ladies to be part of a group in a home or in public. Sleigh rides, walks, musicales, and dances were part of the crowded social agenda. Rarely did couples have a chance to talk privately. John’s diary entries mention often the frequent visits he made to the Frazier home. Despite the rare moments together they had enjoyed, by the end of 1789 young John and Mary had made an informal commitment to one another unknown to their families and friends.
Mr. Adams completed his law studies in Newburyport, but his professional future was still an open question. By now, both the Frazier and Adams families were well aware of the young couple’s serious courtship. Young Adams' mother reminded her son that one needed to be established in a profession before taking on the responsibility of a family. Miss Frazier’s family and friends raised similar concerns and questioned Adams' future plans. Without the commitment of a formal public engagement the young couple agreed to terminate their courtship at the end of 1790. Years later at the age of seventy, Mr. Adams conceded that the end of their relationship was the right decision given his poor prospects.
In the Newburyport Daily Herald of June 30, 1864, James Morse wrote about a conversation he had with former President Adams in 1837. They met in President Adams’s Capitol office where after his Presidency Adams served eight terms in the House of Representatives until his passing. Adams, seventy years old at the time, spoke fondly of his time in Newburyport: his old friends, his mentor Theophilus Parsons, and to Mr. Morse’s surprise, Mary Frazier and a courtship he had never spoken about publicly. Mr. Morse wrote:
"The eyes of the 'Old man eloquent' became more than usually moistened with tears, which he vainly strove to keep down, and his voice trembled in tender sympathy with the crowding recollections. He spoke with animating fervor, of the Tracys, Daltons, Jacksons, Parsons, Bradburys and others, and the charming halo by which one was ever surrounded when in their society.
Portrait of President John Quincy Adams. Library of Congress.
"But when he spoke of the young ladies of that day, he seemed electrified by the subject. It appeared to unlock his long pent tender sensibilities, and he sat before me in his now rejuvenated and impassioned youth, all heart, affections and love, his face radiant with smiles, and the vigor of youth beaming forth in every expression and feature. The name which thus electrified his being, was that of Miss Mary Frazier, the 'lovely Clara' of his 'Vision.' (a poem by JQA)
Mr. Adams drew a comparison between Miss Frazier and other ladies of American and European society so remarkable and so energetic, that his very language and manner became indelibly impressed upon my mind. 'Why, my dear, sir,' said he, with emphasis and beautifully tender pathos, 'I have seen in my day much of the world, have held social and familiar intercourse with the best and most polished society in our land, have had the unchecked freedom of the best and most cultivated European society, have freely visited the most noted and brilliant Courts of the Old World, have seen and held friendly communion with the most attractive and recognized beautiful among the female sex in Europe and America, but let me say to you, what I have never before uttered within the sound of human ears that in all which constitutes genuine beauty, loveliness, personal accomplishments, intellectual endowments and perfect purity of life and heart, MISS MARY FRAZIER, excelled them all! I loved her then,' and, raising from his chair, he raised his right arm and bringing his hand with emphasis upon his heart, 'I love her memory now!'"
Samuel Breck was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania who was well acquainted with John Quincy Adams. Many years later, Mr. Breck recounted in his own Recollections his conversation with Mr. Adams, who expressed unhappiness at his broken courtship with Mary Frazier and the subsequent difficulty of establishing a happy marriage to his wife Louisa Catherine Johnson. "...it was a consuming flame kindled by her. Love such as I felt for that lady," continued he, "...is a distressing malady: it made me restless, sick, unhappy; indeed, I may say wretched. It was a long while before I was cured, or able to transfer my love to another object, which I did very sincerely when I married my present wife, who has fulfilled by her kindness and affection all my expectations and wishes in reference to connubial happiness."
Mary Frazier (1774-1804), after hearing of John Quincy Adams's marriage to Louisa Catherine Johnson in Europe married an acquaintance of Mr. Adams, Daniel Sargent in 1802. Mary Frazier Sargent died at the age of thirty.
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Theophilus Parsons’ House
A dwelling once stood where the home of the Immaculate Conception School is today. Theophilus Parsons (1750-1813), a native of Newbury, attended Dummer Academy, now Governor’s Academy. He was the son of Reverend Moses and Susan Parsons of Byfield, a small parish of Newbury. Mr. Parsons graduated from Harvard College 1769 and studied law with Theophilus Bradbury They both eventually opened law offices in Newburyport. Mr. Parsons soon became a highly respected lawyer and mentored many law students. Among them were John Quincy Adams, Rufus King, and Robert Treat Paine.
Portrait of Theophilus Parsons. Courtesy of the Newburyport Daily News.
Mr. Parsons married Elizabeth "Betsey" Greenleaf, daughter of Judge Benjamin Greenleaf. In Ould Newbury, published in 1896, historian John J. Currier recounts the story of the couple’s first meeting. "Honorable Benjamin Greenleaf, judge of probate for Essex County, who then lived on the corner of Washington and Titcomb streets, said to his daughter Elizabeth that on a certain day she must provide dinner for a few friends whom he named; and among the number was 'Mr. Parsons.' 'Do you mean Mr. Parsons whom everybody is talking about?' said Miss Elizabeth. 'Why, I shall not dare to utter a word.' 'Well,' answered the judge, 'you need not. He will talk for you and himself, too, if you wish it.' The sequel shows that 'he talked then and afterward well enough to win a suit which he used to say was worth all the others he had ever gained in life; for in less than a year after that dinner he married, January 13, 1780, Miss Elizabeth Greenleaf.'"
In 1788, Mr. Parsons built a beautiful dwelling for his family on the corner of Washington and Green Streets, on land owned by his father-in-law, Judge Greenleaf. Mr. Parsons and his family moved to Boston in 1800. He was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts a few years later and served until his passing in 1813.
Home built by Theophilus Parsons in 1789 on the corner of Green and Harris Streets. Courtesy of Joe Callahan.
In a biography of his father, Theophilus Parsons, Jr. writes about a farewell dinner that was given when his father departed Newburyport for Boston. During the evening many tributes and toasts honored Judge Parsons and one was especially notable. His son recounts: "Robert Treat Paine (1773-1811), the poet and son of the signer of the Declaration of Independence, who had been my father’s pupil, and continued to be, his close friend, toasted him as 'the oracle of law, the pillar of politics, the bulwark of government.' To which my father replied: 'The Town of Newburyport - may the blessing of Heaven rest upon it as long as its shores are washed by the Merrimac.'"
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Clark Currier House
The Clark Currier Inn is located on 43 Green Street. Thomas March Clark Sr. purchased land here in 1803 and built a dwelling two years later. Mr. Clark and Orlando B. Merrill built several vessels together, including the schooner Minerva in 1800, the schooner Rufus in 1803, and the ship Edwin in 1826. Mr. Clark joined with William Cross of the local family of shipbuilders to build the sloop of war Merrimac in 1798 for the government. The house was the birthplace of Mr. Clark’s son, Thomas March Clark, (July 4, 1812), who served as the Bishop of Rhode Island from 1854-1903.
Portrait of Sam Sargent. Courtesy of Clark Currier Inn.
Ernest M. Currier, born in Newburyport, was a successful New York, silversmith. Mr. Currier was a cousin to one-half of the lithographer team of Currier & Ives. He bought the house for a summer retreat for his wife, Lavinia Frost, a widow; they were married in 1927. Mrs. Currier’s son-in-law was Sam Sargent, a local artist known for landscape and seascape paintings.
Sam Sargent (1889-1959), a native of Newburyport, was a painter, an art teacher, a soloist and choir director. While a child, young Sam lost his right eye in an accident, but nonetheless he pursued his love of painting. Mr. Sargent graduated from the Massachusetts Normal Art School, later known as the Massachusetts College of Art. His paintings have been on display in London, the Copley Gallery in Boston, and the Currier Museum in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Mr. Sargent lived at the Clark Currier house from 1926 to 1958. In the second floor of the carriage house behind the residence he led classes in painting. In 1948 Mr. Sargent established the Newburyport Art Association with assistance from Laura Coombs Hills (1859-1952), also a native and a nationally renowned painter of landscapes, pastel floral subjects, and miniatures. The association’s first exhibition was held in July 1948, at the old courthouse on Bartlet Mall. Members leased space on Threadneedle Alley, State Street, and then at the Young Women’s Christian Association on Market Street. In 1969, the Newburyport Art Association purchased 65 Water Street, one of the few remaining brick buildings on the waterfront from the late 1700s.
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Immaculate Conception Church
Postcard of the Catholic Church, 1913. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
Nova Scotia’'s Acadian Catholic exiles were probably the first to settle in Newburyport around 1755, and a few years later French Catholics who were fleeing the violence of the French Revolution in the West Indies took passage on ships bound for Newburyport. In the 1840s the establishment of the Eastern Railroad brought immigrants, many Irish Catholics searching for jobs in the new cotton mills on Merrimac, Pleasant, and Charles Streets. Catholics worshiped in their homes and sometimes at the courthouse on Bartlet Mall. In 1843 the Old South Church’s vestry was purchased and moved to Charles Street, remodeled to seat one hundred people, and consecrated as St. Mary’s Chapel.
In 1848 the request for a Catholic parish was granted, land purchased on Green Street, and the cornerstone for a church laid on April 27, 1852. The Early Gothic Revival-styled church was built for $20,000 and completed within a year. The steeple was added twenty-two years later. Destroyed by fire in 1945, it was never replaced.
The Parochial School on Court Street, under guidance of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky, opened in 1882 with 520 students, the majority of the children transferring from the public schools. The location of the school was on Court Street, now used as the parish parking lot. A high school was opened about 1884 though the attendance was small due to the fact that few students went on for secondary training. By 1905 the high school for the boys and girls was closed. When the old Newburyport High School on the corner of Green and High Streets was vacated for the new high school on Mt. Rural in 1937, the Catholic Church purchased the building to use as a school. The facility was destroyed in a fire on May 9, 1945 and the Catholic school was reopened in the following September after the Sacred Heart Chapel and its adjoining hall were converted to classrooms serving almost 400 students. A few years later to replace the old high school building, a convent was completed for the Sisters of Charity. On January 3, 1950, an open house was held for the public and is still used by the Catholic Church.
Catholic Church school on the Corner of Washington and Court Streets, now the parish parking lot. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
In 1886, the twenty Sisters had outgrown the accommodations at the convent on Court Street and moved into the Theophilus Parsons House on the corner of Washington and Green Streets. A few years later the Home for Destitute Children opened in 1892 in the former convent on Court Street and grew from offering a home for ten children to seventy-five children by 1920. By 1928 there was no longer a need for the orphanage, and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth closed the facility.
Years later the Theophilus Parsons home burned in the winter of 1943 and a new school was built in 1955. Today, approximately 300 students attend Pre-K through eighth grades from fifteen communities.
A sketch of Court Street in 1882. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
Looking down Green Street at the corner of High Street. Old Newburyport High School and the Catholic Church. Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.
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