In the mid 1800s excursion boats used to make their way to the dock at Portsmouth Grove. Portsmouth Grove was a good place for a group picnic and for a day out by the water. Located on the west side (known later as Bradford or Melville) it was an important tourist destination. Even with an operating hospital, newspaper ads show that visitors still came to visit as late as 1862.

Edmund Cole operated the “Portsmouth Grove House” before the Civil War. During the Civil War it served as the location for Lovell General Hospital. More on Lovell Hospital will come in a later blog. This blog entry will focus on the happenings before the Civil War. The Portsmouth Historical Society has the diaries of David Durfee Sherman in our collection, and he writes about the amusements there at Portsmouth Grove Amusements Fandango & Ten Pin Alley.

1 September 1859 ”I went down to the Grove House & turned the Fandango (a merry-go-round) about 6 hours & got $1.50, It is very hard work to turn it, especially when not evenly balanced. The steamboat Cononicus came twice from Providence leaving 1300 people – all Irish – to enjoy themselves until nearly 8 o’clock when the boat came & took them all off…they expect this to be the last party of the season”

Portsmouth Grove welcomed hundreds of guests who arrived on steamships. For their recreation pleasure, Portsmouth Grove offered picnics, swimming, shore dining, a “fandango” and flying horses. Groups like the Sons of Temperance came a thousand strong for clambakes and chowder. There were even moonlight and torchlight excursions to Portsmouth Grove.

Detail from 1860 map at Portsmouth Historical Society.
  • Transcription of Shearman Diary by Marjorie Webster.