The Rockingham House occupies the site of the home once owned by Judge Woodbury Langdon. When this mansion was built in 1785, it was one of the most handsome brick houses in New England.
It was first opened to the public as a hotel on Nov. 1, 1833 by Thomas Coburn. Frank Jones became the owner of the Rockingham in 1870 and greatly enlarged it. In 1884, there was a disastrous fire which destroyed all but the octagonal dining room. Mr. Jones rebuilt the hotel around this room, sparing no expense. His payroll for the project was more than the entire Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
Much of the Rockingham’s original elegance and grandeur has been well preserved, and it is still very much in evidence:
- The dining room ceiling was constructed by Pullman Car Woodworkers in 1889.
- The outside panels are a Lindcrusta Walton (formed from pressed linen) separated by mahogany molding. The middle octagonal panels are hand-painted.
- All the mirrors in the dining room were imported from France and are lined with silver.
- The paneling is hand-carved Spanish mahogany.
- The lighting fixtures are all original (inlaid with semi-precious stones) made by Shreve, Crump and Low of Boston.
- The foyer and dining room floors are of Italian marble (the dining room floor had to be covered).
- The marble-topped bar in the lounge was originally the front desk of the Rockingham Hotel.
- The most significant historic event to take place at the Rockingham was the signing of the Russo-Japanese Treaty on August 8, 1905, for the press.
Just a few of the noteworthy personages who have eaten or stayed at the Rockingham include presidents George Washington, Franklin Pierce, James K. Polk, Theodore Roosevelt, Chester Arthur, William Taft and John F. Kennedy.
The Rockingham was purchased by a development corporation in 1973 for restoration as condominiums. The restaurant re-opened in 1975, which was when the Library Restaurant was introduced.