Maritime Portsmouth - The Sawtelle Collection
Publisher / Author: Portsmouth Marine Society
It started innocently enough. Joe and Jean Sawtelle
simply wanted a painting of a Portsmouth-built ship
to hang above the mantel in their seaside New Castle
home. New Hampshire's only seaport, Portsmouth
was one of the nation's key ports in the Age of Sail.
Skilled builders launched important ships into the
deep fast-flowing Piscataqua River as early as 1690.
The Raleigh, Ranger, Congress, and Kearsarge—all
built in this port—are among the nation's most
renowned early ships of war. Even "Old Ironsides"
stopped by frequently for refit and repair. The
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, established in 1800,
still pulses with life across the river in Kittery, Maine.
Shipyards up and down the Piscataqua crafted every
type of vessel imaginable, from speedy clippers to
two decades of purchasing nautical art and artifacts
around the world, the Sawtelles had treasure enough
to open their own maritime museum. And that
became the dream—to bring scores of Piscataqua
paintings back home to remind the region of its
glorious seafaring past. But when Joe died suddenly
at age seventy-one, the dream faded and the
collection went into storage.