When our guest historian, J. Dennis Robinson, recently wrote about the old Eldredge Brewery in one of his columns for The Portsmouth Herald, we were intrigued because the building in which TMS Architects offices are located is called Eldredge Park. We asked him what the connection might be and he supplied us with the following information…he always knows the answer to local lore!
I could never have been an architect. I can’t tell a Doric column from a Corinthian entablature. I have a solid sense of space and design, but I’m geographically challenged. Maps confound me.
So it’s no surprise that I recently wrote an entire article about the old Eldredge Brewery with no clear idea where it used to be. I knew it was in the West End or Portsmouth, across the railroad tracks from the former Frank Jones Brewery complex. Eldredge and Jones were the reigning ale tycoons of the Victorian era. But Jones got all the media attention and the Eldredge name has largely faded into history.
I knew the Eldredge Brewery was one located off Bartlett Street. Years ago I trekked to half a dozen local libraries searching for the origin of the Bartlett Street name. There have been Bartletts in Portsmouth since the 17th century, but experts generally agree that the street was named in honor of Revolutionary War doctor and NH governor Josiah Bartlett.
But it wasn’t until Buffi Robbins of TMS sent me an email that the pieces began to fall into place. TMS Architects is located in “Eldredge Park” on Cate Street just off Bartlett Street, she reminded me. The site, legend says, was formerly an old brewery ice house. That makes sense. The Eldredge Brewery was among the earliest ale-makers to use ice and an early photo shows the ice storage house in the center of the brick complex.
But there’s more. The Eldredge Brewery was built on the site of the Portsmouth Stocking Factory. It is not well known that Portsmouth was briefly the most active stocking manufacturing site outside of Philadelphia. Who knew, right? When the business failed in the 1850s, the building was later burned it a fire. The Portsmouth Stocking building was sold to Michael Fisher of Portsmouth. Fisher and a new partner built a brewery where the stocking factory had been. Fisher’s partner — you guessed it — was a man named Eldredge.
Capt. Heman (not “Herman”) Eldredge ran the city’s second most successful brewery on this site, delivering up to 83,000 barrels of beer and ale annually. Heman’s son Marcellus Eldredge became mayor of Portsmouth and a Senator from New Hampshire. It’s a Portsmouth story not yet fully told on an historic chunk of land tucked just off the beaten path.
J. Dennis Robinson is editor and owner of the popular Web site SeacoastNH.com and author of 12 books about history. His latest release is MYSTERY ON THE ISLES OF SHOALS: Case Closed on the Smuttynose Island Ax Murders of 1873. You can follow his history postings on Facebook.