Music Hall: How a City Built a Theater and a Theater Shaped a City

by J. Dennis Robinson
Music Hall Benjamin Franklin Gold Award 2020

2020 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award-winner for History!

This fully researched, color illustrated history traces the cultural development of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, from the arrival of its first settlers. The Music Hall was built in 1878 and expanded by “ale tycoon” Frank Jones in 1901. Within these brick walls generations have watched America evolve from minstrel shows to musicals and Hollywood blockbusters, from animal acts to symphony orchestras, and from vaudeville to TEDx talks.

​Shuttered and decaying during World War II, New Hampshire’s vintage venue went on the auction block in 1945. It served as a movie house for the next four decades. Saved from demolition by a grassroots team of volunteers in the 1980s and gradually restored to its Victorian splendor, it has been pivotal in revitalizing the city’s downtown. Signature programs like the “Telluride by the Sea Film Festival” and “Writers on a New England Stage” put this historic theater on the national map. A must-read for anyone who cherishes the performing arts.

“I’m so glad they saved the hall. For me, oh God, this is one of the greatest places I could play, and I’ve played all the great halls.”
— Jazz Legend Dave Brubeck after a sold-out Music Hall performance

“Loving history as I do, it is a special pleasure to be speaking in a place that has such a treasured past.”
— Author Doris Kearns Goodwin during her appearance for “Writers on a New England Stage”

About the Author

J. Dennis Robinson is a popular columnist, lecturer, and public historian.
He is the author of a dozen narrative history books on topics ranging from Jesse James, Lord Baltimore, and child labor exploitation to Wentworth by the Sea Hotel, Strawbery Banke Museum, Privateer Lynx, archaeology at the Isles of Shoals, and the infamous 1873 Smuttynose Island ax murders. His latest book is a colorful look at the 1878 landmark Music Hall performing arts center. He lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, just across the swirling Piscataqua River from Maine.
Author website:

Product Details

Hardcover 8×10, 256 pages, 288 color illustrations
Order Books online: Pathway Books
Books are also available at The Music Hall, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Distributed by Pathway Book Service, 1-800-345-6665

Services Provided by Great Life Press

Cover and page design / layout. Published November 2019 by Great Life Press.