SHE FOUGHT FOR PORTSMOUTH LIKE A TIGER
For years, Portsmouth’s “little old lady in tennis shoes” kept a hawk eye on the city’s land use boards—especially the Historic District Commission, on which she sat for 10 years until the incredible age of 88! She held city officials’ feet to the fire, and made lots of enemies along the way. But with her knack for the pithy soundbite, the late city librarian made a career of touting Portsmouth’s “flavor.”
“Portsmouth isn’t St. Louis, San Francisco, Boston or Newburyport,” Dorothy Vaughan told anyone who would listen, well into her eighties. “It has its own flavor, as distinct as strawberry is from chocolate and vanilla.” But this rare “flavor” was so fragile, she warned, that it had to be fiercely protected to make sure Portsmouth did not become “Main Street, USA.”
What’s happening to Portsmouth now would have Dorothy Vaughan rolling over in her grave.
SELF-EFFACING MUSIC HALL SAVIOR, ARTS LOVER, HDC-MEMBER STOOD UP FOR PORTSMOUTH
Jay Smith would be rolling over in his grave at what’s happening to Portsmouth. No kidding!
A former reporter who founded the Press Room in 1976, the former HDC-member loved the arts and live music and cared intensely about protecting Portsmouth’s character. He prized the beauty, the aged patina, soft colors, textures and quirky angles of the funky old city and fought to protect it from being stamped out by inappropriate new development. Without fanfare or asking for any recognition– totally behind-the-scenes– Smith put his considerable wealth on the line to save the Music Hall from being carved up into condos. Because he was generous and because he cared.
With his chiseled features and caustic wit, the perennially jean-clad bon vivant was well-known around Portsmouth for his laid back personal style. He decked out his local pub with typewriters. A painting of a nude lounged over the bar. A huge mock-up of a Dec. 5, 1933 front page of the New York Times with a banner headline proclaiming the repeal of prohibition hung from the Press Room’s worn brick walls. (Still does).Although Smith let all his friends (and his chief accountant) know that he planned to leave his wealth to the Music Hall, there was widespread consternation when he died intestate in what seemed like a freak health emergency a few years back. A pocket park on State Street was created in his memory, but his absence left a hole.
HOW TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN TO SAVE PORTSMOUTH’S FLAVOR
- Some local folks who support our efforts have offered to pitch in a little financially to help us out. But trying to rescue Portsmouth’s flavor is a BIG job, and we’re on a shoestring budget while other interests in the mix appear to be powerful and well-funded. So we need your help.
We’ve set up a mechanism for contributing to the campaign to Save Portsmouth Now! Donations can be sent to Portsmouth Now!, PO Box 815, Portsmouth, NH 03802. And we have incorporated as a New Hampshire nonprofit. Checks can be made out to Portsmouth Now!. We have opened a special account to segregate all funds for this project.
- If ever there was a David and Goliath effort, this is it! That means that NO donation is too small.
(Shown here is the back of the Foye Building, after its near-collapse in Market Square during a 1980’s basement construction project very nearly pulled down the Athenaeum. Dorothy Vaughan, then on the HDC, and other like-minded HDC-members, fought tooth and nail to have it restored with old brick, resulting in a restoration that most people agree benefited the whole city.
By contrast, quite another HDC let the Martingale, the waterfront’s second-oldest building, get torn down when new construction weakened it and replaced by a larger new building. Although historians say Portsmouth’s early 1800’s brick buildings are among the city’s most valuable possessions, the former Carter’s Antiques building at 173-5 Market St has been in danger of being “enveloped” on two sides by new brick. But the ZBA recently overturned the HDC’s approval of a huge modern addition to the aged building’s waterfront side after many residents and abutters objected that it would utterly transform its antique appearance and forever change the character of Ceres Street.
What would Dorothy Vaughan be saying about that?
Save Portsmouth Now!