“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Portsmouth in Rockingham County, New Hampshire — The American Northeast (New England)

The South Church

The South Church Marker image. Click for full size.
By James R. Murray, August 10, 2016
1. The South Church Marker
This marker is part of the Portsmouth Visual Labels Program
Inscription.  This Greek Revival-style church was dedicated on February 15, 1826. Its architect and construction supervisor was Jonathon Folsom, a master builder. The exterior granite was quarried in Rockport, Massachusetts, transported to Portsmouth by water, and then brought to the construction side by ox-drawn sleds. The austere design was intended to echo the democratic ideals of ancient Greece.

Photo 1
Church Interior A noteworthy feature of the interior is the barrel-vaulted ceiling. It is hung from scissor-trusses in the attic, each fashioned from wood timbers 15” by 60 feet in dimension. The 6x19 foot arched windows each contain 87 panes of glass and are flanked by Corinthian plaster capitals on the inner walls.

Photo 2
Portsmouth Skyline with South Meeting House and Spire of North Church A gradual shift in Portsmouth’s population away from the south end of town resulted in a desire on the part of many in the congregation to establish a new meetinghouse to the north, closer to what had become the center of town. In 1714 a new church was erected on the site of the current North Church in Market Square.

The South Church Marker image. Click for full size.
By James R. Murray, August 10, 2016
2. The South Church Marker
The South Church Building
Despite this separation, the two congregations remained relatively close for another century. The old South Church, predecessor of this edifice, stood on what is still called Meetinghouse Hill, not far from the cupolaed building above on the left, while the new Congregational church was built on the site of the spiraled church above on the right.

Photo 3
Rev. Nathan Parker In 1819 the preaching of Rev. Nathan Parker, a convert to the liberal tenets of Unitarianism, cause an irreversible split in what had been, at least nominally, two Congregational parishes. For his heresy, Parker was called an “infidel” by the pastor of North Church. Several decades elapsed before the breech was mended, mainly through the efforts of the charismatic, non-judgmental Rev. Charles Burroughs.

Photo 4
Granite Quarry Granite was harvested from quarries dug on Cape Ann through the early twentieth century. The granite used to build the South Church could have been from a quarry like the one shown here in the photograph at right.

Photo 5
Universalist Church The teachings of the Universalists were first introduced in Portsmouth in 1777. Differing in only minor ways from those of the Unitarians, both were liberal creeds that rejected such Calvinistic beliefs as eternal damnation. Nevertheless, they maintained separate churches until 1947, when the Universalist Church, which was opposite the John Langdon mansion on Pleasant Street, burned to the ground. Within two weeks the two faiths began merger proceedings, and today they worship together in the South Church, commonly known as “the U-U church.”

Funding for this historic marker was provided by the city of Portsmouth, 2015.
Erected 2015 by City of Portsmouth NH.
Location. 43° 4.54′ N, 70° 45.454′ W. Marker is in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in Rockingham County. Marker is on State Street (U.S. 1), on the right. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 292 State Street, Portsmouth NH 03801, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Joseph & Nancy (Cotton) and their children, Eleazor & James (within shouting distance of this marker); Treaty of Portsmouth 1905 (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Siras Bruce (about 400 feet away); Negro Pews (about 400 feet away); Site of "Negro Burying Ground" (about 400 feet away); African Burying Ground Memorial (about 400 feet away); Nation's Oldest Bank (about 400 feet away); 18 Congress (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Portsmouth.
Categories. Churches & Religion

More. Search the internet for The South Church.
Credits. This page was last revised on August 13, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 12, 2016, by James R. Murray of Elkton, Florida. This page has been viewed 169 times since then and 12 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on August 12, 2016, by James R. Murray of Elkton, Florida. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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