Historic Folk Art Painting
The Franklin House & Stage House
ca. 1840-1860.

Watercolor on paper.

Originally built by Langley Boardman, a wealthy cabinetmaker (his impressive home still stands today). In the early 19th century he built two apartment houses on the north side of Congress Street that became the Portsmouth Hotel and Stage House, where passengers boarded stagecoaches bound for Portland, Concord, and Boston. Later owners upgraded or replaced the buildings with the Franklin House and Franklin Hall, and the property became known as the Franklin Block. Inside the arched second floor window of Franklin Hall was a "spring floor" designed to absorb the bouncing of many dancers. The Freemasons met upstairs.

The signs posted on the right read: WILLIS BARNABEE and GENERAL STAGE OFFICE. Willis Barnabee (1789-1862) was a stagecoach driver who became an innkeeper, perhaps of the Franklin House on the left. It is likely Willis himself pictured driving the stage coach. Willis’ wife Mary was cook, and his adolescent son Henry was odd-jobs man and at times bartender, later a singer and actor. The Franklin House was destroyed by fire in 1879. Photographs of the hotel are in the collection of the nearby Strawbery Banke Museum, before and after the fire.

Fine period gilt frame (and mat). Frame size about 19 inches x 16 ½. A rarity in 19th century folk art to show a busy street corner in a thriving early New England town. Colors remain strong and vibrant. Minor toning as shown and no restoration.

Having been in a fine private collection, this painting is being OFFERED FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE 1960’S.