27 June 2009

Mysteries revealed.

The county auditor has our home listed as being built in 1870, but we've always doubted that date. It's an old house, but we really didn't think it was that old. I probably could have found more accurate records at the courthouse, but my work schedule doesn't work well with their 4:30 pm closing time. The previous owner told us what he knew - or what he thought he knew - about it, which wasn't much. He gave us the name Peter Kline. He was a physician, and because of his job was a fairly prominent citizen, so he was easy to track down.

Found in a book of local history, published when Kline was alive.

I found census records and his listing in the telephone directory (his telephone number: 1. How awesome is that?). One of the directories gave a physical location, too - the northeast corner of Fourth and Washington. That's our intersection, but it's the wrong corner. It turns out that all his addresses had odd numbers, which means he lived and worked on the opposite side of the street. So I was basically back to nothing.

I did find out that his son was also became a doctor and practiced briefly in Portsmouth. The information I found indicated that he also lived on Fourth Street, but I couldn't pinpoint an address. I kept him in mind, thinking maybe the previous owner got the names confused and it was actually his son that lived in the house.

I stumbled upon some old fire maps of the area in a earch tonight. It turns out we were right about the house. The earliest map, dated 1884, shows a building on our lot, but it is definitely not our house.

The building that is not our house is circled in red.

Two maps later, in 1892, the building is gone.

In the 1904 map, the footprint for the existing house is shown. It also indicates "from plans," meaning the house was not yet complete. This note was removed by the 1911 map, so we at least narrowed it down to a 7-year period.

Yes, our next-door-neighbor's house was - and still is - nearly identical.

These maps also indicate the older numbering system for the city. The 1911 map indicates both the old system and the new (current) system. Our house was listed as 52 W. Fourth Street. I went back to the census for this time period and looked up Peter Kline's son, Charles Flint Kline. His address is listed as 56 W. Fourth Street - our next-door-neighbor. And because the census was taken door-to-door (not listed alphabetically), it was easy to see who lived in the next house - Samuel Peebles.

At some point, our entire backyard was covered in brick pavers, many of which bear a "Peebles" stamp. There was a brickyard in Portsmouth called the Peebles Paving Brick Company. Samuel's involvement in the company certainly explains why our house is brick when so many from that time period have wood siding. So far I've not been able to find out anything else about him, but I'll keep hunting. It feels good to know a little bit more about the house, but I still have many more questions and will keep up the hunt.

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