Site Number 30. (98 Main Street) THE EDWARD SMITH BUILDING .
This is one of the smallest and oldest buildings in downtown Newmarket. It is only 12 feet wide, and it may have been built out of spite.
The property was originally part of a land grant to Lieutenant Joseph Smith of the Smith Garrison on Bay Road. It ended up in the hands of his rather quarrelsome nephews, Edward and Walter Smith. They were already neck deep in a lawsuit with the Newmarket Manufacturing Company when they got into another land dispute with George Kittredge over the nearby Rundlett Tavern property.
An 1826 deed makes no mention of a building here, and Edward and Walter mortgaged this narrow lot in 1828—perhaps to fund construction. They apparently defaulted on the mortgage, and the property was later sold at auction.
Built on one-eighth of an acre, the building has fan shaped windows over the door. In 1830 there was a millinery shop here. Charlotte Murray was the first woman recorded to own her own shop in Newmarket. It is unclear whether she owned the building. She would later become James Creighton’s second wife.
Later occupants included the milliner Mary Wood and a druggist, Dr. George Bennett. When he became Newmarket’s postmaster, it became the post office. Decades later, it would become a post office again.
The turn of the century brought in H.A. Rowton’s Tobacco Shop downstairs, with Patrick Haley’s grandson, the famous Patsy Haley providing boxing lessons upstairs.
For the next 50-odd years it became an eatery—first in 1906 run by Eva Filion Willey. Then in 1936 it became Jordan’s Lunch—a downtown fixture for 21 years. Owner and chef John Jordan also served in town as Supervisor of the Checklist and a School Board member for much of that time.
Since 1957, this tiny building has been home to a travel agency, clothing stores, a photo studio, a beauty shop, and a tattoo parlor. Inkwell Florist Shop has been here since 2015, surviving the pandemic with efficient online customer service.
Site No 31, the Memorial Bandstand is back across Main Street in front of the mills.
END OF AUDIO TEXT. See below for photos and more information.
The original site of this property was part of land granted to Lt. Joseph Smith of the Smith Garrison on Bay Road which was willed to his to his sons. Part of that land was owned by Walter Bryant who had some of his garden which included parts of the Central Street area up to the front of today’s Hotel Willey. This parcel was deeded down through the family to the Lieutenant’s two nephews Edward and Walter Smith who battled the NMCo for years over access through their property to Spring Street.
In a deed dated 1828, Edward and Walter conveyed to a Daniel Brown of Portsmouth a mortgage deed with the standard wording that if Edward Smith paid off the mortgage on time the deed would be voided. Apparently, Edward defaulted, because Brown sold the property at auction.
1826 - There was no building mentioned in the deed.
There was a bitter land dispute between the Smith Brothers and George Kittredge in 1828, at the time that Kittredge bought the adjacent property for the construction of the Rundlett Tavern. This might explain the reason for this property being only 12 feet wide twelve. The narrow lot itself is only 1/8 of an acre more or less. The building has fan shaped windows over the door and in the attic gable, in the style of the Late Federal period. The building was constructed around 1826, the same time as the Brooks Building, also made of brick.
By 1830 the building was occupied by Miss Charlotte Murray’s millinery shop on the ground floor.
Miss Murray is the first woman recorded in Newmarket’s history to own her own shop. Women have always done work for hire: either working on farms, or tailoring/dressmaking at home, or part of a cottage industry by spinning or weaving wool/flax/cotton and then taking their woven cloth back to mills. Before and during and after the Civil War, women would take home patterned pieces of finished cloth from the B.F. Haley Company on Main Street, them together at home , then return them to the shop — an early form of piecework.
The only refence in Newmarket History of a Charlotte Murray during this time frame is Miss Charlotte Clark Murray (1802-1867) the daughter of Deacon Timothy Murray, Jr. and Elizabeth Chapman. She was one of twelve children, and sister to Deacon David Murray (site # 47 ). She was also the second wife of businessman James B. Creighton of Newmarket whom she married at age 28 in 1837. In Creighton’s autobiography (written in the last years of his life, and concerns more of his past proffesional life, and not too much about his domestic life) there is no mention that Charlotte operated a millinery shop.
1832- 0nly listing on an old map is of “a brick building” no mention of the business or ownsership of the property.
Around 1837 —It is quite likely that after Charlotte’s marriage in 1837 she would have sold or leased the building. Her name at this site was replaced by “Mrs. Mary A. Wood’s Millinery Shop”. Mary A. (Hanson) Wood (1820-1907) was the widow of carpenter Samuel T. Wood. Mary had lived in Newmarket for 40 years, most of that time she was in business as a milliner and retailer of “Fancy Goods” the 1860 census lists her worth as $2,700 (equivalent of $92,290 in 2022).
1843- George A. Bennett, Druggist. (b.1818-d.1900)
The next mention of any ownership of the building is in 1843 when Dr. Bennett opened his drug store here. George was born in Beverly, MA to Robert G. and Hannah Lovett. He went to school and learned the druggist trade in Beverly. He worked for a time in New York City then Utica, NY before coming to Newmarket in 1843 where he opened his business in this building.
Newmarket was his ancestral home. His father was born here as was his grandfather, and as far back as an Arthur Bennett (1694-1722) who settled the land in 1715 and was killed by Indians while working on the family farm on Wadleigh Falls Road. A stone is still visible in the field marking the event.
In 1845 he was appointed Postmaster after a letter requesting his appointment was signed by 83 voters of the town and delivered to US Postmaster General Cave Johnson in Washington D.C.
In 1849 George sailed for California with his friend Benjamin Brooks ( Site# 35). The voyage around Cape Horn took six months. Along the way, they visited several ports in South America. After his return, he purchased the old Bennett homestead on Wadleigh Falls Road and made it his residence. He married Abigail Shackford in 1852, and the couple took to farming. He was active in the Masonic Lodge, sour erved as a town selectman for three years, and as representative to the state legislature for 2 years.
Between 1843 and 1850 the building was still a Post Office, it had moved at some point between 1850 and 1866 to the old Dufort building which was adjacent to today’s Kennebunk Bank.
1879 & 1880 Always looking for a cheaper lease, the Newmarket Post Office returned to this building under Mr. Johnathan Garland who was the Postmaster between 1861- Jan 1883 for 22 years.
1887 – A fruit store was on the bottom floor; a cobbler worked on the 2nd story.
1892 –> 1898 = SA Haley bought the building and leased both bottom and top floors to the fruit store & cobbler shop that wa sthee in 1887.
1903-1906 Henry A. Rowton purchased the building and a tenement in the rear. He operated a Tobacco Shop on the bottom floor, and leased business space upstairs.
The Rowton Family had moved to Newmarket by 1900. Both John and his son Henry A. worked as “roll top coverers” for the NMCo., This was a position requiring specific skills associated with cotton spindles. John and his wife Emma immigrated from England in 1848 arriving in Salmon Falls employed in the cotton mills there. The family moved between Lawrence MA, Salmon Falls, NH and Saco, ME wherever there was a better paying work in the respective cotton mills.
John enlisted during the Civil War in Co, M. Mass. 24th Regiment Heavy Artillery and was naturalized shortly after. In 1894 Emma, who had been working in the cotton mills in Saco, MA., died of consumption. John and Emma’s son Henry A. moved to town shortly prior to 1900. The 1900 census lists him operating the cigar shop; in 1903 he married Barbara Stewart of Manchester and the couple made their home here. Both he and his father were popular in town and Henry was elected the Commander of the Macabees in 1903.
By 1906 the Cigar shop was not making that much of a profit. There was a lot of local competition for cigar sales as some shops importing Cuban cigars — Darius Mariotti was selling his 5 cent Watch Dog Cigars all over town.
The family closed the shop in April, 1906 and moved to Fitchburg, MA where both father and son were back working as “roll top coverers” in the mills there. Henry and John would return to town often stopping in to visit friends on their way to or from Salmon Falls to visit Henry’s only sister Maude, Mrs. George Dyer. Maude was later murdered in 1929 with a shot to the head by a 32 revolver by her son-in law Ernest Dupuis, as Dupuis claimed Maude was keeping her daughter away from him.
When Patrick Haley’s grandson the famous boxer Patsy Haley came to town, he would rent out space upstairs over the cigar shop to give boxing lessons. (see site # 34 for the Haley family @ the Branscomb Tavern).
In April 1906 The Freaks Ball costumes were rented from the empty shop. The costumes were based on comical character s such as Mrs. Katazenjamer, The Bearded Lady, The Snake Charmer, Albino Girl - and ladies lined up early to get first choice.
After 1906 — George N. Willey owned the building, and his wife Eva Filion ran a restaurant here with Nevil Atherton employed as cook, This continued as a favorite lunch counter spot for almost 30 years. After 1936 Nevil worked as a cook at the Ruth Lee Restaurant up the street until it exploded in 1948.
1936-1957 Jordon’s Lunch - John L. Jordan ( 1900-1967) Born in Barre, VT worked as a baker at the Mooreland Hotel in Gloucester Mass in 1918 prior to coming to Newmarket. He owned and operated Jordan’s Lunch at this site for 21 years, many of those years he was head chef. Mr. Jordan was a 30-year member of the Eagles, the Polish Club, Knights of Columbus, and Newmarket Service Club. He was active in town affairs and was supervisor of the checklist, but he was mostly involved in the Newmarket schools, elected as school board member for 21 years.
After 1957 - 2014 — The building housed a travel agency, a children’s clothing store, a specialty shop selling just dungarees and denim clothing, a photo studio, a beauty saloon and a tattoo parlor.
2015- Today the building is home to Inkwell Florist Shop – The shop opened in 2015. During the pandemic they closed the doors to walk-in traffic, but remained open by taking telephone and online orders. Noted for handling same day delivery in Newmarket, they are able to support some urgent orders for occasions such as a funeral and pressing events — they try for a delivery time within 45 minutes. Check their arrangements displayed on their website: www.inkwellflowers.com
NH Chronicle broadcast 2-minute vignette in the spring of 2020. The announcer stood in front of the building, spread his arms and declared that this was perhaps the narrowest business building in the entire State of New Hampshire.