Old statehouse group needs proposal

PORTSMOUTH (AP) – Members of a group hoping to save New Hampshire’s first statehouse have been told they need to do more homework before federal funding would be available.

A spokesman for Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., told the Save the Old State House Committee that the senator is excited about the idea of rebuilding the original Portsmouth Statehouse, but he can’t promise funding without more details.

“The senator is still interested in the project,” John Cavanaugh said. “The city needs to come up with a specific proposal, and once that happens, the senator will review it for federal funding.”

Committee members said it will be difficult to raise money for the early stages of the project without a promise that it would be supported by federal money.

About one-third of the antique beams and windows used to build the statehouse in 1758 in Portsmouth remain. The building was disassembled in 1989 when the state decided not to restore it. It has been in storage since.

The statehouse once was a 30-by-80 foot building in the middle of what now is Portsmouth’s Market Square. It looked somewhat like Boston’s colonial statehouse, but was smaller, wooden and painted khaki green.

The pre-Revolutionary government and courts met on the second floor until 1775, when legislators moved inland to Exeter for better protection during the war. The building continued to be used for meetings, and after the war, occasionally was used by the Legislature as it met in various locations around the state.

By 1836, the Legislature had settled down in Concord. The original statehouse building had fallen out of use and was sold to a private contractor.

Save the Old State House Committee member David Engel said he was hoping to get the Strawbery Banke board of trustees to allow the structure to be erected on part of Strawbery Banke’s parking lot, but he can’t make any headway without funding.

“There’s no way we can have a concrete plan until we know how we can fund that,” he said.

Cavanaugh told the group that Gregg would work hard to secure congressional funding to cover part of the estimated $2 million cost if the committee could also secure state, local or private money.