North Church of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Formally organized in 1671 as “The Church of Christ in Portsmouth”, North Church of Portsmouth’s roots can be traced back to 1638 when the first public worship in town was held. The structure, located on Market Square, was completed in 1855. Seen from most parts of the city, the steeple, as well as the building’s edifice, is constructed in the Italianate style, which references 16th-century Italian Renaissance architecture. North Church has a notable list of members and visitors, which includes: General William Whipple, who signed the Declaration of Independence, John Langdon, signer of the U.S. Constitution and President George Washington. With this in mind, it is not surprising to read that the church’s mission states in-part, “We the members of the North Congregational Church family, a loving and compassionate people of faith, gathered to worship God, accept our responsibility to seek justice for all God’s people.”

South Church, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Completed in 1826, South Church also known as the “Stone Church” because of its granite exterior has been a Unitarian Universalist church since 1945. The building, which is thought to have been designed by Jonathan Folsom, is built in the Greek Revival style. Nevertheless, it should be noted that its current interior is in the Baroque style after an 1858 remodel. South Church is one of the first monumental granite buildings to be built in northern New England. On a plaque located on the facade of the building, it states that in 1717 Portsmouth’s first identified black family was baptized by South Church. With this in mind, it is fitting that the Unitarian Universalist church is housed in this very important landmark, as its mission in part celebrates “the worth and dignity of all people.”

Gosport Chapel, Star Island, Isles of Shoals, New Hampshire

Gosport Chapel is part of the non-profit Star Island Corporation retreat complex, founded on the spiritual ideals of Unitarian-Universalism and the United Church of Christ. The rustic island-based retreat located seven miles off the shores of New Hampshire offers a community-oriented, multi-generational environment for personal reflection and rejuvenation. Gosport Chapel, a modest stone structure built in 1800, sits on the highest point of the island and is at the heart of the complex. As part of a Star Island tradition at the end of each retreat day, participants gather at the foot of the hill and form a procession up a long winding path carrying candle lanterns to the chapel. Inside, the candle lanterns are hung on the wall, providing the only source of light for the evening service.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Formed in 1732, St. John’s Episcopal Church was first called “Queen’s Chapel” after King George II’s wife, Queen Caroline. After the Revolutionary War, the English reference became unpopular and Queen’s Chapel was given its present name. It’s current structure–the first church to have been built with brick in New Hampshire–was designed by architect Alexander Parris of Portland, Maine and feverishly built by local James Nutter along with other leading Portsmouth craftsmen in 1808. They completed the task in just six short months after a fire destroyed its original wooden structure the previous year.

Aside from its needlepoint covered kneelers and altar rail lovingly maintained by the women of St. John’s, the church houses the oldest pipe organ in the United States, as well as a rare Vinegar Bible gifted from Queen Caroline. Distinctive trompe l’oeil wall painting of architectural and religious imagery was completed in 1848, adding a majestic quality to the sanctuary. St. John’s stands as the oldest Episcopal parish in New Hampshire.