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River House Restaurant

Portsmouth, NH

Photography: Kimberly Roseberry

The owners of the River House Restaurant were seeking to combine two adjoining floors in their historic building and add a generous exterior deck to the waterfront side. This required that extensive egress and building code review take place in conjunction with a series of work sessions and a public hearing before the Portsmouth Historic District Commission prior to the start of construction.

The result is that a new dining room and restroom were added to the main level and the new deck links the two spaces to create a spectacular view of the waterfront. The design of the deck includes a custom iron railing system whose details create a strong connection to the Piscataqua River and its rich maritime history. The new dining room features recycling of original wide pine wall panels and the restoration of the original heavy wood beamed ceiling. In addition, windows, doors and casework from the lower level were replaced, providing much-needed natural light and better access from the bar to the waterfront dining areas. The success of the design is in the careful balancing of old and new, vernacular and modern, that is so important when designing for these buildings, such that the intense functionality of the restaurant use does not overwhelm their inherent historic character.