Most people think that we have a barn on the Portsmouth Historical Society grounds. They are surprised when we tell them it was actually the Old Town Hall. Yes, the building did serve as a stable and carriage house, but before that it was Portsmouth’s Town Hall from 1840 to 1895. We have a good idea of the building date because we have a card in the historical society collection that is an invitation to the town hall opening ceremonies.

Old Town Hall today

The building was originally located where the present town hall is today. When a grander town hall was erected in 1895, the old town hall was moved to the south side of the town hall lot. At this time the building was used like a barn. One story we have from these days takes place around 1907 when George Hicks was Town Clerk. When he had to work late in the evening for special meetings, he would hitch his horse and buggy in the Old Town Hall. One night some young people decided to play a trick on Hicks. Somehow they managed to get his buggy on the roof of Old Town Hall. We are not sure of who the culprits were or how Hicks got the buggy down, but a picture in the John Pierce Collection at the Portsmouth Free Public Library proves the story was true.

The buggy on the roof – 1907

Later the building served as headquarters for the Portsmouth Volunteer Fire Department. When the new firehouse was built, Old Town Hall served for a storage and meeting room. Around the late 1970s the town offered the building to the Portsmouth Historical Society and the building was moved to our grounds.

Today the Old Town Hall houses our horse drawn vehicles including the coroner’s hearse and the last mail wagon. It also displays a fine collection of local farm tools and machines.