Stoodley's Tavern exterior in its Hancock Street location, and interior Hearth Room.
STOODLEY'S TAVERN -- Strawbery Banke Education Center & Offices
James Stoodley kept The King’s Arms Tavern (built in 1753), on State Street. During the 1750s James Stoodley served in the French and Indian Wars as a British Ranger with Major Roberts. In the 1930s, novelist Kenneth Roberts set some of the scenes of his novel, Northwest Passage, about those wars, in Stoodley's tavern. This tavern burned to the ground in 1761 and Stoodley immediately built the new one which survives today.
The tavern was home to James Stoodley and his wife, a daughter Elizabeth, a son William, and two enslaved Africans, Frank, and Flora. Stoodley also hosted auctions in this building, enslaved Africans were sold in 1762 and 1767, along with barrels of rum and bags of cotton.
In the 1770s, Stoodley's Tavern became important as a gathering place for those who would become Portsmouth’s Revolutionaries. In December 1774, Paul Revere arrived at the tavern to deliver a warning to Portsmouth that British troops were on their way to secure the arms at Fort William and Mary. James Stoodley's son-in-law Elijah Hall eventually inherited the tavern and lived in it until his death in 1830. During the Revolution, Hall had served as a lieutenant under John Paul Jones aboard the Portsmouth-built Ranger, named for Rogers’ Rangers.
Stoodley's new 1761 tavern was one of a cluster of gambrel-roofed buildings in Portsmouth whose construction is attributed to Hopestill March (or Cheswill), a mulatto housewright from Dover and Newmarket.
The building contains four rooms on the first floor, four more on the second, two rooms and what had been a long ballroom on the third floor. A two-story back ell, demolished long ago, was added at an early date. Paneled wainscoting, an arched window on the stair landing, six-panel doors, boldly-scaled cornices, shuttered windows and wallpapered rooms made it equal to the town's finest mansions.
The building was used as a residence into the early 1900s, after which it housed a series of businesses, including a restaurant and then a ground-floor appliance store with apartments upstairs.
In 1964, Stoodley's Tavern was scheduled for demolition to make room for a new federal office building and post office. In 1966 the building was moved to Strawbery Banke and placed along Hancock Street with other rescued buildings, including the Goodwin Mansion.
In 1996 Strawbery Banke restored and adapted the building to serve as an Educational Center and offices. The building is used for year-round camp and classroom programs in the large East Room, the Hearth Room, and the Cookstove Room. The space is also available for program and event rentals. The adaptation was funded through a gift from the Lou and Lutza Smith Foundation.