Lighthouses spied at Portsmouth Public Library!

Currently on display in the Library lobby and Levenson Meeting Room is a Lighthouse exhibit shared, through the Month of June, by the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses (FPHL).  The FPHL exhibit includes historical information about the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in New Castle, NH and the Whaleback Lighthouse in Kittery, ME.  This display tells the architectural and human history of these two historic lighthouses through text panels, illustrations, artifacts and models.

FPHL Poster

Detail of an architectural drawing of “Light House at Whales Back, N.H.”
Lighthouse Keepers’ Logbook of time absent from the Lighthouse, ca. 1939-45. Donated to FPHL by Chuck Petlick




The arrival of this wonderful display has sparked a bit of a search throughout the Portsmouth Public Library’s collections for related lighthouse items.   Here is what we have found!

Many Non-fiction, Fiction and Youth books have been pulled together from the circulating collections for browsing and borrowing.



This display is located near the exhibit in the lobby and the Levenson Meeting Room.  More books to check out may be found by searching our catalog or asking a librarian.

There is even a book entitled Celia’s Lighthouse by Anne Molloy about Celia Laighton Thaxter, of Isles of Shoals fame.  Written in 1949, this is a sweet fictional account of Celia and her early life as the daughter of a lighthouse keeper on White Island. IMG_20140603_145412

In addition to the books on display for borrowing, there are books, local history files, and artwork to be found in the Special Collections room.

Special Collections Room - open to the public all regular Library hours!
Special Collections Room – open to the public all regular Library hours!






Materials in Special Collections are to be used in the Library, but Library staff is happy to pull materials for browsing, studying, and research…just ask!

The local history files on lighthouses, aka the “vertical files”, contain general information about lighthouses as well as some specific information about each lighthouses.

Lighthouses folder in the vertical files!
One drawer of many in the Library’s local history vertical files.


Typical vertical file findings include articles, news clippings, brochures, booklets, references to published books, sometimes photos, and in this case, several historic postcards!

Whaleback Light, Portsmouth, NH
White Island Light
Nubble Light, York Beach, ME
Fort Point Light, New Castle, NH

















The Special Collections staff and volunteers are currently scanning the Sarah Haven Foster (Portsmouth, b.1827-d.1900) watercolor collection.

The Library houses several albums containing nearly 1000 individual watercolors by this local artist. The albums depict a wide array of buildings, landscapes, and wild flowers. Most of the images are painted in miniature, some as small as postage stamps.

One album contains views of Portsmouth and the Seacoast. According to Foster’s caption this is “Lighthouse, New Castle”.

"Lighthouse, New Castle", by Sarah Haven Foster, from the Views of Portsmouth Album.  Collection of Portsmouth Public Library.
“Lighthouse, New Castle”, by Sarah Haven Foster, from the Views of Portsmouth Album. Collection of Portsmouth Public Library.

This image, along with the rest of the “Views of Portsmouth” album, and a delicate and lovely collection of wildflower paintings, will be online later this Summer. We currently have images from the North End and South End on view in our Portsmouth Public Library digital archive!

More information about Sarah Haven Foster may be found in the Special Collections room. In addition, there is chapter about Sarah Haven Foster, including a couple of reproductions of her watercolors, written by Maryellen Burke, in the 2013 publication entitled Portsmouth Women: Madams & Matriarchs Who Shaped New Hampshire’s Port City, edited by Laura Pope (available in the library and as a downloadable ebook via Overdrive!).

A final collection to mention is the Library’s small collection of original artwork by Helen Pearson (Portsmouth, 1870-1949) . Helen Pearson, an accomplished pianist, greenhouse keeper, as well as artist, illustrated and published Vignettes of Portsmouth in 1913.  It includes 21 original engravings.

Whaleback Light
Whaleback Light, ca.1913

The library collection includes a small collection of her original ink drawings, some with watercolor added. Included are 2 stunning depictions of the iconic local lighthouses.

Both of these drawings are on view in the Library Lobby in the case adjacent to the large portrait of Celia Laighton Thaxter…maybe she feels at home surrounded by lighthouses!

Fort Point Light, ca.1913






Thank you to Jeremy D’Entremont and Ron Kolek and the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses for providing this exhibit for Portsmouth Library visitors to enjoy! See the FPHL Facebook page for more information. Please Join FPHL at their event at the Library on Thursday, June 19, 7-8:30 in the Levenson room. This event is free and open to the public.

The Special Collections Room of the Library is open to the public during all Library hours.


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