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Chestnut St. Streetscape and Theater Exterior Upgrades

Plan view of Chestnut St. Streetscape improvements

The Chestnut Street renovation was first proposed by The Music Hall in 2009 as a 50/50 partnership with the City of Portsmouth. Its aim, to improve pedestrian and emergency access to the street, create gathering spaces, and connect a pedestrian-friendly corridor from The African Burying Ground Memorial to the Northern Tier. This plan, along with the gift of public art, a wayfinding archway, has recently been approved by a unanimous vote of the Portsmouth City Council after public listening sessions, work with city committees, and Art-Speak.

Sitting walls #1 Sitting walls #2

The pedestrian-friendly streetscape design will improve public safety by reducing trip hazards and addressing drainage runoff that causes icy conditions in the winter. School buses and emergency vehicles will now have access up Chestnut Street and all vehicles will have an improved turning radius onto Porter Street. The project will bury utility lines – while current loading zones and vehicular traffic will be unaffected. A decorative pattern of non-slick and easy to walk on pavers will be both an aesthetic and a safety improvement. In front of the Historic Theater, granite sitting walls will serve to extend the theater experience and slow traffic.


Wayfinding Arch Night

“Successful completion of a beautifully designed arch could set a positive precedent for future public art projects aimed at creating pedestrian friendly place-making spaces that connect neighborhoods across the city. ” Art-Speak Project Planning Committee Report Back to the City Manager

The Wayfinding Arch

The Music Hall is making a gift of public art to the City of Portsmouth. By fully funding the design, construction, installation, and a maintenance fund for the wayfinding arch The Music Hall will raise awareness and pay tribute to Portsmouth’s architectural heritage. The historic structures of Portsmouth feature hand-carved elements that have inspired this arch such as: a building’s threshold; the organic curl of a furniture pediment; even the nuts, bolts, and rivets of Seacoast bridges and maritime vessels. As a leading cultural institution in Portsmouth, The Music Hall values their role in promoting arts and culture, honoring the collective history of the Seacoast, fostering good public-private partnerships, and creating a sense of place. This project excels in all these capacities.

The Music Hall is pleased to have worked so closely with the City (City staff, Parking, Traffic and Safety, Trees and Greenery, the Historic District Commission) and Art-Speak, to hear their input and gain their insight on this during this project’s review phase. The Streetscape and arch design are better as a result of this collaborative work.

Streetscape and Arch Vendors:
  • Altus Engineering – Civil Engineer - Portsmouth, New Hampshire
  • JSN Associates, Inc. – Structural Engineer - Portsmouth, New Hampshire
  • Terra Firma Landscape Architecture – Designer- Portsmouth, New Hampshire
  • NeoKraft – Archway Builder - Lewiston, Maine

Completing the picture, but done in tandem

Marquee Draft Rendering #1 Draft Marquee Rendering

  • The Music Hall, as part of its ongoing Treasure the Future Capital Campaign will continue its mission of renovations, restoration, and revitalization projects by moving forward on an upgrade to the the exterior of the historic theater. It will:
  • keep its historic paint colors and fix trim and windows
  • Replace the damaged marquee with vintage-inspired illuminated marquee similar to what that was there in the early 1900’s.
  • This project is separate from the upgrades to the street and will be, as with the Arch, completely funded by The Music Hall’s Capital Campaign.
The project consists of:
  • A 50/50 partnership with the City for the streetscape
  • $400,000 for the street improvements funded by The Music Hall’s new Capital Campaign
  • $400,000 from the City, half from capital funds detailed in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) & half from federal Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) funds
  • A new Music Hall Capital Campaign for this project will fully fund a “Wayfinding Arch”  to connect the African Burying Ground and Vaughan Mall to the Northern Tier; a gateway with orienting signage


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