The Hill House Museum presents: Picture This! A Photographic Journey

Date: March 23, 2023 By: Category: Portsmouth Museums

During the months of April and May, The Hill House Museum presents Picture This! a curated photo exhibition
featuring over 600 pictures, memorabilia, and historic maps.
Take a journey through Portsmouth’s past with images of Downtown, Olde Towne, Lincolnsville, and Newtown
including brief historical background information and stories from each area.

This remarkable display includes photos of Trinity Church (ca. 1880) standing alone on the corner of High and Court Streets, Norfolk & Portsmouth Ferry docks (ca. 1890s), and numerous theaters and churches in the area.

Scenes of the bustling commerce along High Street from the late 1800s to the 1960s are displayed and include a striking image of D. Sullivan’s Blacksmith & Wagon Shop (ca. 1890). The evolution in city transportation plays out with images including horses and buggies, trolleys, Model Ts, and the earliest known photo of a railcar on the train tracks in the middle of High Street (ca. 1892).

Visitors might be surprised to see the image of the  Polaris Missile Fountain being
decorated for the holidays that graced the foot of High Street (ca. 1962).

Photographs from the Olde Towne district include the very popular Macon House Hotel (ca.1850s) with original event advertisements as well as a sampling of Portsmouth’s famous historic homes.
For map-loving visitors, oversized reproductions of the 1888 Atlas of Norfolk & Portsmouth & Vicinity published by G.M. Hopkins of Philadelphia are displayed and offer an additional layer of context to this photographic journey.

Lincolnsville, Portsmouth’s first community set aside for free Blacks was annexed in 1890, although historical accounts from 1867 depict Lincolnsville as a well-established community. This small neighborhood of 30 acres adjacent to the Naval Hospital was home to many prominent African American businessmen and women, educators, musicians, and the historic Emanuel AME Church.
Photos include the homes of Jeffrey Wilson (Portsmouth Star columnist) and Israel Charles Norcom (beloved educator and civic leader) as well as locations found in the Travelers’ Green Book.

The community of Newtown (noted on the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of 1888) encompassed the land surrounding the Gosport Navy Yard. By the 1930s and 40s, the expanding Norfolk Naval Shipyard would create a surge in population in this tight-knit community.
First-account stories of corner stores, baseball games, and lyrics of the neighborhood anthem add to the colorful history of Newtown.

This exhibition has been a year in the making. Although The Hill House Museum and the Portsmouth Historical Association had a large accumulation of photos, it was the acquisition of the Marshall Butt, Sr. photo collection from the estate of Marshall Butt Jr. that inspired this photographic journey through historic Portsmouth. Volunteers gathered additional photos and research from the Portsmouth Public Library’s Esther Murdaugh Wilson Memorial Room culminating in the Picture This! display.

We invite you to come and enjoy these photographic highlights from Portsmouth’s long and rich history
Wednesdays and Saturdays in May from noon – 3 pm.