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Object Name Sign, Informational
Title Durham Flagstone Sidewalks
Artist James L. Garvin
Date 1976
Place of Origin Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Description "Durham Flagstone Sidewalks." "Although Portsmouth's present day Market Street was covered with stone paving during the mid-1700s, other roads in town were left unpaved until the twentieth century. Many years passed, in fact, before uniform sidewalks were built along most of the principal streets of the town. In 1791, the selectmen voted to begin providing sidewalks in town, with "a Preference being given to such Streets, the Inhabitants of which shall in the Aggregate subscribe the most liberally towards such Under taking." This proposal aroused smouldering sectional rivalries, and the vote was rescinded with a new decision that "preference be given to the worst Streets." Even this was not satisfactory, and finally a wise citize proposed, "that the Northwest side of Buck Street be paved with Durham flat stones for a side walk." Buck (now State) Street was neutral territory in disputes between various sections of town, and paving began immiediately to everyone's satisfaction."

"This initiated an era of extensive quarrying of the flagstones, described geologically as sheared Exeter diorite, that occur naturally in exposed ledges along the Oyster River and elsewhere in Durham, New Hampshire. These igneous stones were broken free and transported some eleven miles downriver to Portsmouth aboard cargo boats called gundalows. The new sidewalks proved so popular that by 1801, when the Rev. Timothy Alden published his "Century Sermon," he could remark, " We have but one street entirely paved. In the course/of a few years, however, one side of most of our streets/ has been paved with very nice flat stones brought from/ Durham, in such a manner that two or three persons can/ conveniently walk abreast." Many of these sidewalks were laid by Benjamin Rowe Quint, a stonemason from Newington." ... "The flagstones on Washington and Jefferson Streets are rare survivors from the earlier period."

PHOTOS:
LEFT: AN EXPOSED LEDGE OF SHEARED EXETER DIORITE IN DURHAM, NEW HAMPSHIRE. THIS IS THE ORIGIN OF PORTSMOUTH'S "DURHAM FLAGSTONES."
RIGHT: AT THE TURN OF THE TWENTIEH CENTURY, COURT STREET HAD ONE SIDEWALK OF DURHAM FLAGSTONES AND A LATER BRICK SIDEWALK ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE STREET. A CROSSWALK OF HAMMERED GRANITE EXTENDED FROM THE FRONT DOOR OF THE HOUSE IN THE PHOTOGRAPH.
Accession Number 2016.9