Following Euchlora to Portsmouth; part one
It’s finally official; I am opening a second part-time Euchlora studio in Portsmouth, NH next month! While personal phone calls to all of you are on my to-do list this week, my camera and my creative mind are both bursting with imagery after 3 days there this week-end planning my space so I just had to write this morning.
The background story; a lesson in dreaming: Last winter I realized that I personally needed more stimulation in my weekly life. The woods here, the solo creative endeavor of creating artwork and the serene nature of servicing you my facial clients has been a joy but at the end of the week the quiet upon quiet upon quiet kind of got to me; especially in the winter. I decided I needed to add something into the routine of my life.
And so I dreamed…I dreamed of what it would look like and feel like in my new added routine. Old architecture, history, brick, gardens, artistic expression to look at, lots of walking, good coffee…
Then it dawned on me; Portsmouth! I have always been drawn to Portsmouth because of the early history there; one of my personal interests. All my curatorial volunteer research for the town of Canterbury started with Portsmouth, David’s family history started there and of course, so much of our Colonial American history started there; The historic Anthenaeum is proof!!. And, no small matter, my favorite restaurants and clothing stores are out there! So I decided I needed to spend more time in Portsmouth and this is when I came upon the idea of simply working out there; so many of you clients are closer to there then here anyway.
…I was walking around the perimeter of the Banke, turned the corner and saw this gorgeous, although shabby, brick building. I said to Pam who was with me, now I would LOVE to have a business in there. Later while at the lecture it occurred to me to ask if the Banke ever leased their buildings like Williamsburg did; why yes, as a matter of fact, the Banke had a new program and please call Rodney. So I did. Sorry Jane, nothing right now but in the Fall we will have finished renovating a building, The S-h-a-p-l-e-y Townhouse, the very building I told Pam I would love to have a business in!!
Well months later after visiting the building, watching & talking to John the restoration carpenter who was renovating the place with his team, analyzing the light & visualizing my perfect suite, I finally was offered the opportunity to lease and was able to obtain my desired space; two adjoining rooms, north light, view of the water and of other historic properties. I will open in October when the final touches are completed on this long renovation project at Strawberry Banke.
The good bones of my two room suite are going to lend themselves to some incredible interior design possibilities.Two north light windows for my make-up counter will make natural light make-up lessons and color blending really accurate.Looking out the window from the make-up counter is another sister Townhouse built when the Shapley house was built in 1814 just after the last great fire in Portsmouth (see Shapley House history at the end of this post).The view that you and I will be looking at from the facial bed; the Piscataqua tidal River, Prescott Park and the gardens of the historic Oracle House. The breeze coming through the window carries the smell of ocean; incredible. Visit the gardens in the park just outside my door while you are here as I plan to during lunch breaks.Please share this post with anyone you think would be interested. The more people know about Euchlora and I in Portsmouth the better! And watch for my next post on Portsmouth; designing my interior. The grand opening will be the week-end of October 12th and 13th; watch for your invitation. And now for the history of the Shapley Townhouse…
The Shapley Townhouse story:
As in much of Colonial America fire was always a threat. All of the first Colonial structures were built of wood here in Portsmouth, as they were in England, but even more so! Since trees were so plentiful here and hard to come by over there, it was considered a luxurious symbol of status to lavishly use wood; more structural beams, more clapboards and wood roofs all making the town a timber box. Loss of structures to fire were recorded as early as 1696 from Indian raids and several great fires consumed whole parts of the city. But the greatest fire was in December of 1813 when 108 dwelling houses, 64 stores & shops and 100 barns were all destroyed by fire. From the front door of the Shapley House, which was an empty lot at the time, forward across the street down to the water was burnt to the ground.
Just after the fire several wealthy merchants pushed a law through mandating that any new structures must be built of brick thus eliminating the possibility of more loss to fire. There was protest to the law due to the impoverished nature of many of Portsmouth residents not being able to afford costly brick, so the law was eventually repealed a decade later. However, in the meantime most of the new structures built in that decade just after the fire were brick and the Shapley Townhouse is a fine example of a Brick Law building.
The Townhouse was built in 1814 when local sea captain and successful merchant Reuben Shapley purchased that empty lot and built the townhouse as an investment. It is told that his intent was to provide affordable housing for those without homes of their own such as widows or single parent families. That explains the duplex design of the building; two homes joined at the side, each on 3 floors, that could be additionally divided into smaller apartments.
He purchased most of the whole street down to the water, building Shapley Wharf where he imported goods for his business, building additional housing (perhaps the townhouse that we see from my make-up counter window) and his own home. Further down Court Street one of his wooden homes is still in existence as part of the Strawberry Banke Museum property. Although the property has changed hands through the years, Reuben Shapley is it’s originator.