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Place, Part Five: Niles Cottage, Rockingham Hotel, County Courthouse, and Christ Church

Niles Cottage was the scene of many social events during the peace conference. Portsmouth Athenaeum collection. View larger image.

Niles Cottage

In one of the first acts of local hospitality for the peace process, retired Boston investment banker and artist Edward G. Niles and his wife gave up their Wild Rose Lane, New Castle waterfront home to Assistant Secretary of State Herbert H. D. Peirce, the representative of the American government charged with receiving and assisting the negotiators. Long known as the ancient Jaffrey Cottage, the house had been vastly enlarged by the Niles' into a Georgian mansion with an elegant entry and staircase.

Peirce, who was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard in 1871, had formerly been posted to St. Petersburg as a member of the U.S. embassy.

As negotiations entered a period of stalemate, Helen Peirce, undoubtedly with the encouragement of the president and state department, enlisted the wives of her husband's Harvard classmates, retired Naval officers in Portsmouth, and other members of local society, to initiate a series of entertainments in honor of the two delegations. Important social events were also held on the Mayflower and nearby at Creek Farm and the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, at the Green Acre BahaĆ­ school in Eliot, Maine, and at the home of Mrs. Newton Perkins in York, Maine.

Rockingham Hotel

Another Jones hotel, the Rockingham became headquarters for the many reporters assigned to cover the conference. The hotel held a Mechanics Ball attended by both delegations. The hotel's so-called Treaty Room is in name only; the treaty was signed at the navy yard. While the hotel has been made into condominiums, its ornate dining room remains as a restaurant.

Rockingham Hotel
Rockingham Hotel. Richard Candee collection. View larger image.
press corps
Members of the press corps in front of the Rockingham Hotel. Portsmouth Athenaeum collection. View larger image.
Rockingham County Courthouse
Rockingham County Courthouse, site of the opening reception. Richard Candee collection. View larger image.

Rockingham County Courthouse

Long since torn down, the Victorian courthouse was the site of the opening reception hosted by Governor John McLane. Here the delegations stopped after their drive from the navy yard, welcomed by thousands of local people and various dignitaries. After a brief ceremony and a group photograph, the envoys journeyed to the Hotel Wentworth.

Christ Church
Christ Church. Richard Candee collection. View larger image.

Christ Church

Immediately after the treaty was signed, a service of Thanksgiving was held at this Episcopal Church, where only the Russians and members of the public attended, although the Japanese had been invited. The church burned in 1963.

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