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McIntyre building stands on historic land
My job, before we collectively determine the future of this key chunk of downtown real estate, is to speak up for the dead ... John Cutt was the first “president” of the province of New Hampshire, and his death in 1681 led to a day of public fasting.
By JDennis Robinson
This is the year, Mayor Jack Blalock said in his inaugural speech last week, that the Portsmouth City Council ?evaluates and determines the future of the McIntyre Federal Building.? The mayor also welcomed the input of ?vocal citizens? in the evaluation processJudging from the vibe on social media and the lively letters to the editors of this newspaper, we?re looking at one wild ride.I never met SenThomas JMcIntyre (1915-1992) for whom the building at 62 Daniel Stis namedBut according to legend, upon hearing he had been named the nation?s ?worst senator? by the John Birch Society, McIntyre quipped, ?I must be doing something right.?The four-story structure is described as ?New Formalist? style architecture, which I?ve been told echoes the ?Italianate? style of many older buildings in town, including the recently burned State Street SaloonI?m guessing the two architectural terms translate to ?a box with windows.?Portsmouth listens to its pastWe preserve old buildingsWe tell old stories again and againSo when potential developers of the McIntyre block claim they are "honoring the history of the site" with luxury hotels and condominiums, one wonders, exactly what history are they honoring? My job, before we collectively determine the future of this key chunk of downtown real estate, is to speak up for the deadAnd long before McIntyre, there was Graffort, Jaffrey and Stoodley.On Graffort LaneSome 318 years ago, Bridget Daniel Graffort gave the city a big gift?For the love and affection I have unto the town of Portsmouth, the place of my birth,? Graffort declared in her 1700 will, she presented the city with a byway connecting the Piscataqua River with what is now Market SquareThere was no Market Square at the time since the town was still centered along the riverThe dirt path ran along Graffort?s ?great field? to the home of Ichabod Plaisted, probably at the corner of modern-day Daniel and Market streetsThat house burned in the fire of 1813.Bridget Graffort?s bequest is directly linked to the founding days of the cityHer famous father, CaptRichard Cutt,was from WalesHe arrived here in the mid-1640s, got rich fishing at the Isles of Shoals, and became one of the first major landownersHer famous uncle John Cutt was the first ?president? of the province of New Hampshire, and his death in 1681 led to a day of public fastingHer famous aunt Ursula Cutt was murdered during an Indian raid in 1694.Bridget Graffort, twice widowed, also gave the city land to build a school on the site of her homeThe old Portsmouth High School was eventually built on that spotToday, that structure is a brick office building next door to the U.Spost officeThroughout the 1700s, the unpaved ?highway? from the river was known as Graffort?s LaneIn 1813, it was renamed Daniel Street, presumably for Bridget?s first husband, CaptThomas DanielHer second husband was a merchant named Thomas GraffortThe Bridget Graffort Club, a woman?s civic group, was established in her honor in 1895Her legacy, therefore, is that of a wealthy and generous woman who wanted to improve Portsmouth and educate its childrenNo hint of luxury hotels there.George Jaffrey?s mansionAround 1730, George Jaffrey built a grand home on the crest of a low hill between Graffort?s Lane and Bow Street, the site of the McIntyre building todayThe Jaffrey story gets quickly confusingThere were four George Jaffreys spanning two centuries of Portsmouth history from 1667 to 1856 and the family owned a lot of propertyThe first George settled in New Castle when it was still called ?Great Island.?The second George Jaffrey attended Harvard and became a successful Portsmouth merchantIt was George II who built the family mansion on Daniel StreetGeorge III was a swinging bachelor and wealthy land speculator for whom the town of Jaffrey, New Hampshire, is namedOf all the Georges, he would most likely favor turning his property into luxury condosGeorge III, who had no heirs, bequeathed a huge fortune in 1802 to a grand-nephew from Boston named George Jaffrey Jeffries.The windfall came with three requirementsTo inherit land, money, and property, the 13-year-old had to agree to drop his last name and become George Jaffrey IVAt age 21 he was required to move permanently to the Jaffrey mansion on Daniel Street in PortsmouthAnd, according to a dubious local legend, he was required to hold ?no other occupation than that of being a gentleman.?George Jaffrey IV and his wife, Clementina, raised two daughters in the grand Jaffrey mansion that was connected to the street by a noble line of linden treesIt was ?massive and U-shaped,? according to historian James Garvin, with richly paneled rooms and fireplaces framed in imported delft tilesThe exterior, with its beaded clapboards and ornate doorway was a wreck by the time it was photographed in the late 1800s.George IV lived off his inheritance, served as the unpaid librarian at the Portsmouth Athenaeum, and invested badlyAs Jaffrey?s fortune declined, he was forced to sell off more property, and eventually the entire Daniel Street houseThe mansion fell to ruin and was torn down in 1920, but not before portions of the interior woodwork, including a rare, carved, corner cupboard (called a ?beaufait?) were removed to the Boston Museum of Fine ArtsHad it survived, the Jaffrey House would be among the city?s architectural treasures, and the Jaffreys would be well-studied and as familiar as the Warners and the Wentworths are todayBut nothing remains, not even the hill that the house stood on.Moving Stoodley?s TavernThe McIntyre block was also home to the second Portsmouth tavern owned by James Stoodley, once an ?Indian fighter? with Roger?s RangersWhen his first tavern, The King?s Arms, burned in 1761, Stoodley rebuilt on Graffort?s LaneHis gambrel-roofed inn was reportedly the work of ?mulatto? housewright Hopestill CheswellA Royalist turned Patriot, Stoodley kept two enslaved servants, Flora and FrankHe also hosted slave auctions at his tavern.Stoodley?s Tavern is a key setting in the novel ?Northwest Passage? by Kenneth Roberts, and in a 1940 Hollywood film of the same nameTechnically, the historic visit by Robert Rogers depicted in the book and film took place at Stoodley?s first tavern on State StreetBut his Daniel Street establishment was visited by Paul Revere as Portsmouth citizens planned their raid on Fort William and Mary at New Castle in 1774.Stoodley?s was adapted for residential use in the 1800sBy the 20th century, much in need of repair, the ground floor served as a restaurant and later as an electrical supply shopEndangered by the construction of the McIntyre Federal Building, Stoodley?s Tavern was moved in 1966 to the newly opened Strawbery Banke MuseumIt was settled on Hancock Street along with the Daniel Webster House, the Joshua Wentworth House, and the GovGoodwin Mansion, all moved from other city locationsRestored in 1996, Stoodley?s Tavern now serves as offices and an education center at Strawbery Banke Museum.That?s four centuries of the McIntyre block in a nutshellThe dead have spoken, and there's a lot here to unpack stillSo let?s see how deeply the next developer and the City Council come to "honoring the history of the site."
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