Photo by Bridgette Desmond


Historic Attractions


Portsmouth named to National Geographic Traveler's list of the globe's 'Historic Places' - #26 in the world, #6 in the U.S. (2008)

Portsmouth a 2008 "Distinctive Destination" - National Trust for Historic Preservation

Long  before the Boston Tea Party, Portsmouth citizens provided the gunpowder and stores that fueled the American Revolution and stoked the fires of liberty. If it had not been for the first Portsmouth area settler, there would have never been a first Thanksgiving for the Pilgrims. Also if it had not been for the prowess of Portsmouth shipbuilders, John Paul Jones may never have had a chance to utter the famous words, "I have not yet begun to fight." We invite you to discover the untold stories of our American heritage through the many historic homes and museums in our area. Leave your history books at home and join us to learn the real stor y.



Portsmouth Harbour Trail
Portsmouth boasts 400 years of history, culture, architecture and scenic beauty. You can see it all along the Portsmouth Harbour Trail. Join a walking tour (Memorial Day to mid-October) and let our knowledgeable guides highlight the historic homes, working waterfront, vibrant Market Square, colorful Prescott Park, and more. Private group tours and Step-on guide service available year-round by appointment. (603) 610-5510

USS Albacore
A National Historic Landmark. Tour the dry-docked USS Albacore submarine, the fastest of its time and the first to use the teardrop hull design. Open all year. (603) 436-3680,

Strawbery Banke Museum
Strawbery Banke is a 10-acre waterfront neighborhood and museum in Portsmouth named by the first settlers in 1630 for the profusion of wild berries found on the shores of the Piscataqua River. Spend the day exploring the Portsmouth neighborhood known for 400 years as Puddle Dock. Wander through the centuries from the 1600s to the 1950s. Visit historic houses, enjoy conversations with costumed role players, relax in the shade of award-winning period gardens, and stroll the friendly lanes.

Open daily May through October with other special programs and events throughout the year, such as "Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth" in December. (603) 433-1100,

Moffatt-Ladd House and Gardens (1763)
A National Historic Landmark, this elegant three-story mansion was the residence of one family from 1763 until it became a house museum. Residents included Declaration of Independence signer, William Whipple. Of particular interest are original portraits, artifacts, many furnishings made in the Portsmouth area, an unusual architectural plan, and a terraced historic garden. 154 Market Street. (603) 436-8221,

Warner House (1716)
The Warner House is perhaps the finest example of a brick, urban mansion of the early 18th century in New England. Among the many interesting features are six mural paintings on the staircase wall and a lightning rod on the west wall, said to have been installed under the supervision of Benjamin Franklin in 1762. Corner of Daniel & Chapel Streets. (603) 436-5909,

Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion (1710)
The Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, a National Historic Landmark, was the 18th century residence of New Hampshire's first Royal Governor, Benning Wentworth, who lived in the enormous yellow house overlooking Little Harbor from 1751-1767. Visitors see fine architectural details, a French-style stewing kitchen for the governor's French chef, 18th-century English flocked wallpaper and handsome carving in a tour of about 20 rooms. The prominent 42-room structure is surrounded by one of the nation's earliest surviving plantings of purple lilacs, probably planted in the 1750s. Art classes and student internships offered at the Coolidge Center for the Arts. Located at the end of Little Harbor Road, just off Route 1A. Picnics welcome. Dogs must be leashed. (603) 436-6607,

Governor John Langdon House (1784)
The Langdon House dates back to the 18th century and is one of New England's finest. It was built for John Langdon, a prosperous merchant and ardent supporter of the Revolutionary War, who eventually became governor of New Hampshire. Owned by Historic New England. Grounds also rented out for functions. 143 Pleasant Street. (603) 436-3205,




Portsmouth Historical Society at the John Paul Jones House (1758)
"We tell Portsmouth stories." A National Historic Landmark. The Portsmouth Historical Society interprets the history of Portsmouth through its rich and diverse collections of furniture, paintings, ceramics, costumes, and maritime artifacts. The museum is located in the John Paul Jones House, where the famous Captain and "Father of the American Navy" lived while supervising the outfitting of the Ranger and the America. Corner of Middle & State Streets. (603) 436-8420, 

St. John's Church (1807)
On display at St. John's is a "Vinegar Bible," one of only four in existence in the United States. On November 1, 1789, President George Washington attended services here. The chair in which Washington sat still stands within the chancel rail. Chapel Street. (603) 436-8283

Wentworth Gardner House (1760) & Tobias Lear Houses
This splendid blocked-front house is one of the best examples of Georgian architecture in America. This beautifully restored landmark was once owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was scheduled to be moved to Central Park in New York City. Fortunately, it's still located on Mechanic Street in Portsmouth. (603) 436-4406,

Rundlet-May House (1807)
James Rundlet, a wealthy merchant of Portsmouth, built this house in the grand Federal style. It is furnished with family pieces, many of which were made by Portsmouth cabinet makers of the Federal era. Owned by Historic New England. 364 Middle Street. (603) 436-3205,

Jackson House (1664)
The Jackson House is one of the earliest examples of plank-frame building construction in New England. Owned and operated by Historic New England. Also the site of the Jackson Hill Cider Day in September. 76 Northwest Street. (603) 436-3205,

Portsmouth Athenaeum
Incorporated by the State Legislature in 1817, the New Hampshire Fire and Marine Insurance Company erected this building and occupied it until the suspension of the company, caused principally by its losses in the War of 1812. In 1823, the property was purchased by the Portsmouth Athenaeum, a group of gentlemen who had formed an association to promote a public library.

Today, the Athenaeum remains a private library filled with books, newspapers, documents, photographs and artifacts highlighting the 400-year history of the New Hampshire and Southern Maine seacoast. The Athenaeum also contains a collection of half models, paintings and other items highlighting Portsmouth's rich maritime past. Free and open to the public. 9 Market Square. (603) 431-2538

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse
Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse (also known as Fort Point Lighthouse, New Castle Lighthouse, and Fort Constitution Lighthouse) was first established in June 1771, making it the first light station north of Boston in the American colonies. Today's 48-foot tower was built in 1878. The lighthouse is preserved by the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, founded in 2001 as a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF).

Fisherman's Memorial
Visit the newly reconstructed Fishermen's Memorial at the Portsmouth Fish Pier on Peirce Island. The site was dedicated in 1987 with the placement of a granite stone inscribed: "In memory of those who fished and were called away, with prayers for those who fish today." The stone has been relocated from its original site but remains the center piece of the memorial. The new site has a panoramic view of Four Tree Island and the Piscataqua River, along with a granite bench and lighthouse accent. The memorial honors New Hampshire's maritime heritage, its fishing history and community, past and present. From the entry way of the Portsmouth Fish Pier, the public is invited to continue down to the pier to take a closer look at the fishing vessels and working waterfront of Portsmouth. Contact: New Hampshire Commercial Fishermen's Association, PO Box 601, Rye, NH 03870. (603) 431-1779

Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail
Self-guided walking tour, booklets available for purchase year-round (603-431-2768,, or take a virtual tour at




Portsmouth Historic Graves
Portsmouth is home to four ancient burial grounds dating from the early 1600s to the early 1900s and the resting place of many local notables, including a signer of the Declaration of Independence. (603) 436-5096,

Discover Portsmouth Center
This newly-opened historic and cultural information center in the old Portsmouth public library offers a taste of the area's historic attractions. Watch the 12-minute "Welcome to Historic Portsmouth" video, and browse the changing art exhibits. Corner of Middle & Islington Streets. Open daily June to October. (603) 436-8433,


The Woodman Museum

A traditional early 20th century natural science, local history and art museum with exhibits for all ages displayed throughout four historic buildings including a 1675 garrison house. The Woodman is one of the oldest historic attraction in the Seacoast since 1916. Visitors should allow 1 1/2 - 2 hours for a unique museum experience. (603) 742-1038,



American Independence Museum
Discover the stories behind America's revolutionary past and how they relate to your experiences today, by visiting the American Independence Museum. Located in historic Exeter, New Hampshire; the museum features stories of the brave men and women who overcame uncertainties about freedom from Great Britain and established our country. Tours and exhibits in the museum's Ladd-Gilman House (1721), a National Landmark Property, introduce you to the Gilman family, prosperous Exeter merchants who became inextricably linked to the Revolution. The 1775 Folsom Tavern down the hill was the center of Exeter's political scene during the Revolution. Open mid-May to October. (603) 772-2622,

Gilman Garrison House (1709)
The massive, square-sawn log walls of the house, now clapboarded over, may have been a response to the threat of Indian attack, which was much feared in the Great Bay region before 1719. Owned by Historic New England. 12 Water Street. (603) 436-3205,



Seacoast Science Center

The Seacoast Science Center is located in historic Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, NH. A destination for families and students to learn about coastal environmental history, the Center creates connections to nature through personal learning experiences in the natural sciences. The Center offers a wide range of exhibits and programs for all ages, and will welcome "Tofu," a humpback whale skeleton in June 2009. (603) 436-8043,


Badger House

Part of this house, built by Captain Samuel Badger in 1824, is said to be older than the date given of 1790. The house is located on Government Street facing Portsmouth Harbor. Badger built many ships in his shipyard on the island that now bears his name.

Lady Pepperell House
This house sits on the corner of Pepperell Road on Kittery Point, opposite the Congregational Church. It was built in 1760 for the widow of Sir William Pepperell. It is now privately owned, but is available several days a year for public visits.


Old York Historical Society
Seven historical museum buildings dating from the mid-eighteenth century comprise the Historical Society. Buildings available for tours include Jefferds' Tavern, the Old School House, the Emerson-Wilcox House, the Old Gaol (Jail), the John Hancock Warehouse and Wharf, the George Marshall Store Gallery, and the Elizabeth Perkins House. Visitor Center located in Jefferds' Tavern, corner of Route 1A & Lindsay Road. (207) 363-4974,

Sayward-Wheeler House (1718)
Jonathan Sayward remodeled and enlarged this house in the 1760's after its original construction in 1718. Sayward, a merchant, ship-owner, judge, and representative to the Massachusetts General Court, who retained the respect of the community despite his Tory sympathies. With important collections of Queen Anne and Chippendale furniture, the house is a remarkable survivor from Colonial times. Owned by Historic New England. (603) 436-3205,


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