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Friends of the South End N EI G H B O R H O O D A SS O CI AT I O N N E W S L E T T ER

W I N T ER 2018

modifications to the structure such as adding a bathroom or a modern kitchen. In addition they will have the responsibility of inspecting the property once a year to see that the owners are complying with the easements.

The Tobias Lear House in 1934 and today

Plans Developed for Sale of Historic Lear House BY SANDIE DIK A

The Tobias Lear House Museum stands facing south along Hunking Street. With its torn shingles and peeling paint it is a sad but storied relic of a bygone era. Once the pride of its owner Captain Lear, and the recipient of a visit by President George Washington, it sits unused and in need of repair. Owned by the Not-for-Profit Wentworth Lear Association which has struggled to maintain it for the last 80 years, the organization has recently voted to place it on the market for sale. It awaits approval by the State Attorney General’s Charitable Trust Unit, a requirement to ascertain the right of the organization to sell. This is expected shortly. With this permission in hand the group will select an organization that specializes in overseeing the transition of historic properties to private ownership. There are several, but perhaps best known in our area is Historic New England. Experts from the group chosen will help decide and write the preservation easement that will be attached to the deed, so that the important architectural features of the house,

both interior and exterior, will be maintained during all future ownerships. The selected group will also vet perspective purchasers and oversee any

Although decisions as to which features will be protected have not been made, it is certain that the exterior architecture will be included. As for the type of interior features that might be considered for protection, the grand staircase, the lovely detail of the west parlor, and the kitchen hearth as well as items like original wallpaper will be weighed for their historic value. In spite of its exterior appearance the House is surprisingly sound according continued on page 4

FOSE Holds Annual General Meeting at Strawbery Banke BY RUTH MARON

South Enders gathered at the Tyco Center at Strawbery Banke for the Friends of the South End Annual Meeting on Sunday, January 28. Presiding over the meeting were Copresidents Mary Thomas and Esther Kennedy who have been at the helm for the past year. We were pleased to see many new faces at the event, along with the ‘old timers’ who have been stalwarts of the organization for many years. Hosted once again by Strawbery Banke, the meeting kicked off with a greeting by Larry Yerdon, president of the Museum. In his opening remarks, Larry noted that there is a declining interest

in history museums nationwide. “We are operating in a very tough environment,” he said. Strawbery Banke is meeting this challenge with creative new ideas. Kindling an interest in history, the Museum welcomed some 10,000 school children last year from ME, MA and NH. Of those, more than 2,000 kids took part in a program called History Within Reach, in which the museum pays for the buses and provides free admission. Through another educational program called Becoming Americans, Strawbery Banke has created online materials for teachers to introduce the rich history of our community.

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FOSE newsletter • Winter 2018


Co-President’s Corner

A Message from Mary Thomas and Esther Kennedy In late January, the FOSE Annual General Meeting was held at Strawbery Banke Museum. It was gratifying to look out into the audience and see so many new faces along with old friends. It was also hard to believe that it has already been a year since we have assumed our posts as co-presidents. 2017 was another strong year for FOSE and a very rewarding one for both of us.

Friends of the South End Neighborhood Association OFFICERS CO - P R E SI D EN T S

Esther Kennedy Mary Thomas TREASURER

Martin Hanssmann SECR E TA RY



Kathleen Boduch SP ECI A L E V EN T S CO O R D I N ATO R



Kathleen Boduch AT L A RGE

Dan Brown O F CO U N SEL

Jamie Baker, Esq. CO N TAC T

fose.messages@gmail.com FOSE on the web: www.fosenh.org Facebook page: www.facebook/fosenh South End Exchange: southend.ports.exchange@gmail.com (for FOSE members) FOSE Presidents: fose.messages@gmail.com Newsletter Editor: newsletter@fosenh.or

We had an interesting and productive meeting, as you will discover by reading this newsletter. We met Portsmouth’s new chief of police Robert Merner and heard about his distinguished career and philosophy on FOSE Co-Presidents Mary law enforcement. Chief Merner was followed by Cathy Thomas and Esther Kennedy Stacey, Rockingham County Register of Deeds, who gave us valuable insights into how we can research our historic homes in preparation for Portsmouth’s 400th anniversary celebration in 2023. The South End will play a prominent role in this event as the place where it all started. Looking ahead, we have a busy schedule of events and activities planned for 2018. However, our success depends on the participation of our members. Volunteers play a vital role in all of our activities from National Night Out and the Lobster Bake to the Fairy House Tour and biennial City Council Candidates Forum. We plan to send out a “call for volunteers” as we get ready to launch each event. We are also actively seeking new members to join the FOSE board. As you may know, board members periodically rotate off the board after serving for several years. This year, Tom Hindle will be leaving us after many years of service, most recently as co-president with Hilary O’Neil. We wish to thank Tom for his leadership and dedication in helping to steer the organization forward. Dave Novis will also be stepping down. We thank Dave as well, particularly for his Special Interest Group initiatives and interest in community building. Alan Gordon is also retiring from the board. He has worked diligently on behalf of FOSE, most recently as our Membership chair. Alan developed our Welcome Package for new residents of the South End and this package — along with his winning personality — no doubt attracted many of them to join FOSE. We acknowledge Tom, Dave, and Alan for their service. If you are interested in joining the board, please contact us at fose.messages@gmail. com. We meet monthly . . . we collaborate . . . and we have a great time. We look forward to seeing you around the neighborhood, Mary and Esther Both Mary and Esther are eager to hear what FOSE members have to say. You can send comments or suggestions to fose.messages@gmail.com

A special thank you to our friends at

M i n u t e m a nM a n P r e s s for discounted printing services. 95 Brewery Lane, Portsmouth, NH • 603-431-8989 • mmpdigital.com

Newsletter design by Eleanor Bradshaw


FOSE newsletter • Winter 2018


Portsmouth’s Past:

A Conversation with Harold Whitehouse BY K AT H L EEN B O D U CH

Where did you play when you were little? Was it the rail yard or the lobster shacks? Who was the scariest person on your street? Did you avoid his/her house like the plague? Did you swear the place was haunted? Did the owner smell as if he had come from the sewer? Have you ever seen a German U-boat up close? Did you shine your shoes and cover them with socks to keep them shiny? Did you go to school with kids named ‘Kenny Meatballs’? Harold ‘Whitey’ Whitehouse did. The South End is different these days. When Whitey was growing up there was a war going on, people had to help each other. Husbands/fathers were away, fighting for their country. Neighbors helped neighbors. People took in boarders to help with expenses. The South End was not a place where the rich kids lived; that was the West End, Middle Street, where the “big houses” were. Those children attended the Lafayette Avenue School. Those kids wouldn’t play with the South Enders, whose shoes, they said, smelled like the fish they played around at the lobster shacks such as Down’s Lobster, LaCava Snappy Lobsters, and Walkers Coke and Coal. The sidewalks were not paved with brick but mostly filled with cinders or dirt or maybe concrete. But there was still great pride among the South Enders. West Enders didn’t mind playing basketball in the South End, where, according to Harold, they had the best courts, a hard top surface all paint lined for the game. The South Enders were the major basketball contenders in the city, making the varsity team easily when they got to high school, the building that is now the Keefe House Apartments on Islington Street. All the “Enders,” whether they were from the North, West, or South ends, or Puddle Dockers were suspicious of each other growing up. They attended different schools and didn’t really

get together until they were in Junior High, the building that now houses the middle school. They marked their baseball gloves, bats and basketballs by burning their initials in them. They tied their baseball gloves to their belts. The South Enders used their nearness to the city pool, which was still on Peirce Island but was fed by the salt water river, to their advantage. Other kids had to walk over the bridge to get to the pool, and the locals rigged up a toll system where other kids paid 5 or 10 cents to cross. ‘Kenny Meatballs’, a rather tall kid, could climb and stand one of the columns on the old wooden bridge on some Sundays, have his buddies collect money from eager onlookers, wait until his chums had collected a tidy sum, and then dive straight down, hands at his side like a bullet into the water. It must have been a sight. Peirce Island at the time was No-Man’s Land. The land beyond the pool was infested with rats; snakes “as big as

cobras;” wrecked, rusted, and abandoned cars. The fishermen upriver refused to allow the waste water plant to be built in their fishing area, so it was easy for the city to build the first water treatment plant at the end of Peirce Island. Another way to earn money for the industrious 10-12 year old South End kids was to go to the train station at Barberry Lane. They knew, once they heard the whistle, they had ten minutes to tidy themselves up a little and get there on their bikes to earn some spare change. They would line up and ever so politely offer to take the luggage for the wealthy vacationers who were going to the Wentworth or the Rockingham hotels. Whether scrawny or large, they toted those bags from the platform to the waiting taxi cabs. One traveler might pay them 25 cents. A fortune! On Sundays or evenings families would huddle around the radio to listen to shows including “The Shadow,” “InnerSanctum Mysteries,” during which the actors would affect blood-curdling screams. Whitey was especially attentive to the sound effects. One sunny Sunday they couldn’t get their favorite continued on page 4

MARK YOUR CALENDARS — 2018 FOSE has scheduled an exciting season of events for 2018. Members can volunteer to help out for all these events. It’s a great opportunity to participate…have fun…meet your neighbors and contribute to our success. January — Annual General Meeting, Sunday January 28 from 1 -3 pm at Strawbery Banke Tyco Visitors Center. August — National Night Out, Tuesday August 7 from 5:00 pm to dusk at Four Tree Island. September - Fairy House Tour, Saturday and Sunday, September 22, 23. October – Lobster Bake, Sunday October 14, Sanders Lobster Pound. November – Fall Clean-Up, Thursday November 8 (tentative) – Help clean up our green spaces and historic cemeteries. December – Holiday Gathering and Caroling, Sunday December 9, home of Dave and Catherine Anderson. Look for FOSE Messages and on our website for volunteer opportunities to help staff these events.

FOSE newsletter • Winter 2018


Whitehouse continued from page 3

stations or programs. The news was filled with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Although Whitey has a wonderful neighborhood now, full of people who are always saying, “How can I help?” or “What can I do for you?” he misses the closeness of the old days. “People are afraid to hug or even shake hands these days,” he said. On the North End he misses the arbors, the smells of the always-simmering tomato sauce, and the family gatherings of the North End,

Lear House continued from page 1

to local restoration carpenter John Schnitzler and preservationist Steve Bedard. The Association has continued to do necessary work. They have trenched around the foundation to mitigate dampness in the basement, repointed some foundation, and rebuilt the chimneys. However they have never had the financial means to bring the entire building up to a usable standard, and it is hoped that the sale will accomplish this. Even though there have not been formal solicitations of potential buyers for the property there has been substantial interest from well qualified people. Some have completed similar restoration projects in other parts of

where, once he was introduced to the kids from that area by a cousin, he was a welcome guest. Those are the recollections of a treasured South Ender, who has served this city in so very many capacities. What do you remember? Did you share any of the same experiences or were yours totally different? Maybe as we plan to gather in Portsmouth for our four hundredth anniversary and collect the histories of our houses as an area project, it will get us thinking to what we know and what we learned from all those days gone by.

the country, and others are locals who have an understand of the historical importance of the House. The House Manager, Jennifer King, is keeping a list of interested parties. When it comes time for the sale which may not be for a year, the Board of Directors wants the public to understand that it may not be the highest bid that is accepted. “The Association wants what is best for the House,” according to Richard Adams, Board President, and that may mean putting historic considerations above cash. “We want to do something to make the neighborhood proud”. It looks like a happy ending may be on the horizon for the Lear.

Hats off to our many volunteers… Sam Ucich – our new webmaster and social media guru. Fred and Barbara Engelbach — who plant, tend and water the beautiful flower boxes on the bridge at the South Mill Pond. Don Margeson — who skillfully moderated the lively City Council Candidates Debate. Dan Desrochers and Stan Boduch — our expert burgerflippers at the grill on National Night Out. Gail and Jim Sanders who host the ever-popular Lobster Fest and fundraiser, our signature event. Charles Bickford — who leads the Christmas carolers through the streets of the South End. Catherine and Dave Anderson — our gracious hosts for the festive après Christmas Caroling gathering at their home. The Lister Leaf Busters — those dedicated students from Lister Academy who help clean up our historic cemeteries and green spaces. And the army of volunteers who help make the Fairy House Tour such an amazing event. Friends of the South End couldn’t do it all without the support of our many volunteers. Our apologies if we have forgotten anyone.

Renew your FOSE membership! See page 7 A South End garden in the snow by Jan Marx


FOSE newsletter • Winter 2018






“Fairy Winds and Following Seas II” — built by the boatshop at Strawbery Banke

Lucky Number 13

Scary Fairy's Scream House

FOSE Community Reinvestment from Fairy House Tour Tops $300,000 BY CAROLINE PIPER

2017 Fairy House Tour Coordinator

Any fears that the 13th Annual Fairy House Tour, which took place on September 23 & 24, 2017, would be an unlucky year were dispelled when sunny skies greeted 6,500 visitors on the grounds of Prescott Park, Strawbery Banke and the Governor John Langdon House. This year, FOSE donated $35,600 (the net proceeds) back to the organizations who participated in the event and in doing so exceeded $300,000 in total donations made since the inception of the event. This year’s Artist Invitational Competition featured fairy creations by 10 creative professionals. The entries were judged by Tracy Kane, author and illustrator of the Fairy House Series® of books, Sonya Merritt from sponsoring Optima Bank, Mary Thomas, FOSE co-president, and Sophia Van Epps, a student from Little Harbor School. Twotime winner Nancy Zechel, from the Portsmouth Garden Club, reclaimed first prize with her two-sided “Scary Fairy’s Scream House.” Returning competitor

Nikki Lewis and the staff of Outdoor Pride of Rye took second place, and Julie Porter and Adrianna Borduc won third prize with “Fairy House Music.” Honorable mentions were awarded to the Boatshop at Strawbery Banke, Joan Stanley and Andrea Abbott for creativity, innovation and use of natural materials respectively. The construction on Peirce Island provided an opportunity to rethink the hands-on fairy house building activity. In lieu of the self-build site on the island, each of the schools created and ran a smaller themed community build site on one of the three properties. Participants worked collectively adding to or augmenting the contributions of others over the course of both days. These activities were easier to put on, concentrated the activity to the primary sites and relieved many small legs of the additional walk out to Peirce Island. What makes the Fairy House Tour special is the contributions of many partners that together create an event that is greater than the sum of its parts. Strawbery Banke, the Governor John

Langdon House and Prescott Park and the Arts Festival for the back bone of the event providing the physical location and staffing support during the weekend. Southern New Hampshire Dance Theater and the New Hampshire Theatre Project produce the performances that bring the magic of fairies to life. St. Patrick School organized and staffed a face painting station while Dondero, Little Harbor and New Franklin Elementary Schools organized the building activities, sold tickets and contributed dozens of fairy houses for display. Tracy and Barry Kane share their delightful books with blossoming readers and fairy house builders, send bubbles floating through the South End and capture many of the special moments on film. The Police Explorer Cadets expertly handled too many cars in too few spaces on Peirce Island. The Fairy House Tour would not be possible without the contributions of two other important groups—the fairy house builders and the volunteers who work the event. It takes dozens of volunteers to staff the tickets booths, monitor the gates and greet visitors and we are thankful for the time, energy and smiles each volunteer brings to the event. Each year the number of houses and the level of creativity increases and we are forever appreciative of the time and enthusiasm that goes into each fairy house. The 2017 event was sponsored by Optima Bank and Trust, Parenting NH, Appledore Medical Group, Exeter Hospital, Infinite Imaging (design & print sponsor), Pickwick’s Mercantile, Cunningham Associates Insurance, Esther’s Marina, Geno’s Sandwich and Chowder Shop, Piscataqua Savings Bank, Rolling Green Nursery, Sander’s Fish Market, and Sandie Dika at Keller Williams Realty. If you or your business would like to sponsor the 2018 Fairy House Tour, please contact caroline@ canoeharbor.com to find out more. The 2018 Fairy House Tour will be held September 22 and 23 and we hope you will join us as a builder, volunteer, sponsor or attendee (or all three!).

FOSE newsletter • Winter 2018


Annual Meeting from page 1

To help make history come alive, the Interpreters Program is being expanded through a grant that will make the museum experience more interactive. For example, Yeaton House will tell the story of an Irish immigrant family that once lived there. As neighbors, we note that there is always something of interest going on at Strawbery Banke. In addition to their signature events, in spring the Baby Animals exhibit draws an average of 6,800 visitors to cuddle and pet the new arrivals. In winter, it’s skating at the Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond. Despite this season’s unpredictable weather, close to 20,000 skaters have taken to the ice this year. All of this activity keeps Strawbery Banke humming and prosperous. Last year, the Museum hosted almost 92,000 visitors — a record year!

Police Chief Robert Merner is Keynote Speaker Chief Robert Merner spoke to FOSE members about the broad experience he brings to Portsmouth and his law enforcement philosophy that was shaped by more than 32 years as a police officer. After a nationwide search, Chief Merner assumed his present position in Portsmouth as Chief of Police in June 2017. He was able to observe first-hand some of the benefits as well as the issues our community experiences in the summer — traffic, events, noise, speeding and an influx of tourists. Chief Merner told the audience about his extensive experience in law enforcement that included more than 28 years in the Boston Police Department. “My entire career was spent in Roxbury, where I grew up,” he said. “Seventy percent of the City’s crime takes place in Roxbury — gangs, narcotics and homicides.” Heading the homicide unit, Merner retired from the force as a Superintendent. He then went on to spend 2½ years in Seattle as an Assistant Chief of Police, running the Criminal Investigations Bureau.


FOSE newsletter • Winter 2018

Chief Merner and his wife were pleased to return to New England and, no doubt a quieter pace in Portsmouth. “We couldn’t be happier here, “he said. “It’s basically a Portsmouth Police Chief safe city, but like Robert Merner everywhere today, it has its problems.” He pointed to the opiate crisis as one of the biggest issues we face today. “We are not going to arrest our way out of it,” he said. “We need to develop programs that can help stop it.”

The core of this law enforcement philosophy is to work with every single person in the community. “If there is a problem, we want to hear about it,” he said. “We want people to feel that your police officers are listening to you.” Educate…Intervene…Enforce. Chief Merner explained that those three words embody his law enforcement philosophy. That even applies to traffic and cars speeding through town and on Marcy Street in our neighborhood. “In 2015, we stopped about 1,200 cars. Last year we stopped more than 10, 000 cars,” he said. “People need to know the law and that it will be enforced.”

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Get Ready for our 400th Anniversary!

FOSE Launches House Research and Plaque Program BY SUE SHEA

Portsmouth’s 400th anniversary celebration is coming up in 2023 — and the South End is where our city’s history started. FOSE is encouraging its members to get involved in a voluntary home research that will underscore the role played by our historic community. We would like to create a brochure of researched homes that will form the basis for a proposed walking tour of the South End. Our hope is to have houses that are researched designated with an exterior plaque noting the original owner and the date (circa) that it was built. During the past year, the board organized two research seminars; one at the Athenaeum at which Tom Hardiman, Keeper of the Athenaeum, shared the many resources available there for the public to do research on their homes. The other seminar was given by Nicole Cloutier, Special Collections librarian, at the public library. FOSE has created a template for interested members to use as a guide for this research. The template is available on our website or by contacting me, Sue Shea (suemacot@aol.com). After it has been filled out, the form can be sent to me via email; dropped off at my house; or mailed to me at 19 Howard Street, Portsmouth, NH. 03801. FOSE also plans to collaborate with The Portsmouth Advocates on a house plaque project. A branch of the Portsmouth Historical Society, the Advocates have agreed to verify the data collected from house research. Plaque orders will be accepted through an online form which is currently under development. We have selected a well-known artisan from Providence who has done work all over the New England area to custom make each sign and are proposing two shapes and sizes to choose from. We will be making arrangements to have more research seminars in the coming months. We would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Athenaeum has recently revised its schedule. They are now open every Tuesday through Saturday from 1 to 4 PM, giving everyone more opportunity to access the information there.


Annual meeting from page 6

He told the audience that policing has changed over the years. “It’s no longer cops and robbers. We are often called on to deal with people in crisis, domestic violence or a mental health issue,” he said. “And, we need to respond using a minimal amount of force.” The Portsmouth Police Department includes 64 officers and 26 auxiliary officers with 15 of those positions currently filled. Chief Merner noted that they recruit all over the country, with strict background checks to hire the right people who will be here for a long time.

Researching House Histories Our next speaker was Cathy Ann Stacey, Register of Deeds for Rockingham County. A complete overhaul was implemented several years ago to put all the deeds online and

Winter nor’easter in the South End.

available to the public. She took us on a tour of the website www.nhdeeds.com. She explained that people simply click on the tab for Rockingham County to find deeds dating back to 1643. “History is all about deeds,” she said. “Many of the old deeds from the 1600s have been carefully preserved. A lot of property remains in the family for centuries.” She pointed out that researchers have to work their way back from grantor to grantee to follow the chain of title. “It’s like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. You have to be a sleuth,” she said. “It can be frustrating, but it’s fun.”

Alan Gordon and Barbara Southworth at the FOSE annual meeting

Cathy also noted that street names change and it is advisable to look at



plans and maps. Though the material can be found online, she invited people to visit the Rockingham County Registry of Deeds in Brentwood. “We’re here to help you research your house,” she said.

Financial Review The meeting ended on a bright note with a financial review supplied by our treasurer, Martin Hanssmann. FOSE earned more than $55,500 last year, with close to $49,000 resulting from the Fairy House Tour. Of that total, more than $35,500 was distributed to local schools and non-profits who participated in the event. Another banner year for FOSE!


It’s time to renew your membership! Please use the form below to renew now in order to continue receiving FOSE Newsletters, Alerts and the South End Exchange. One year membership: $15 per household

Five year membership: $75 per household

Please complete this form, make check out to FOSE and mail to: Friends of the South End, PO Box 443, Portsmouth, NH 03802 N A M E : _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A DDR E S S : _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

P H ON E : _______________________________________________________________

EM A I L : ____________________________________________________________________

Not yet a member? You can fill out and mail in this form to join.

FOSE newsletter • Winter 2018


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South End snow, by Kate Cook.


FOSE newsletter • Winter 2018

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