Views of Portsmouth have changed, with development from one end of the city to the other. People's views of the city have also changed. This is one of them

Jon Wyckoff bought his first home in the city's South End for $7,000, when he was a bass player in the rock band The Devil's Own.

It was 1972 when he bought the 454 Marcy St. house he said was "a total wreck," but came with seller "Goody" Goodwin's furniture. Wyckoff said he was 22, had a beard and "hair down to here," so his father gave him a home loan, figuring no banker would.

He bought a copy of the book "The Architectural Heritage of the Piscataqua: Houses and Gardens of the Portsmouth District of Maine and New Hampshire," by John Mead Howells. With that as a guide, he began a lifelong study of local architecture and taught himself carpentry and construction skills.

The Marcy Street home is now assessed for $470,500 and Wyckoff lives on Sparhawk Street near North Mill Pond in a home he bought in 1976 and filled with Portsmouth-themed books, art, signs and artifacts. Among the collections, some categorized in ledgers, is the paperwork he's collected as a years-long volunteer member of the Historic District Commission.

When he was appointed to the HDC in 2005, he said his grandfather built most of the homes in his neighborhood and he's worked on half of them

Through one of the windows of his antique home, Wyckoff's view across the pond has changed to include the new Foundry Place parking garage, now obstructing the North Church steeple. Through his volunteerism with the HDC, Wycoff's view of other recent development is largely favorable.

His favorite newly constructed building is at the foot of the Memorial Bridge, across from Renaldo's restaurant, where the Raleigh wine bar anchors a corner adjacent the Wright Avenue parking lot.

"You would've thought it was the end of the world," he said about public opinion when the project was first presented to city boards.

Wyckoff said the HDC viewed that as a "legacy building" and the end result met their definition. Two-over-two windows with granite sills, granite storefronts and mahogany windows, he said, make the building a beauty and is the result of city oversight.

"You have to remember what you don't see," he said, citing an example as "fake stucco stuff."

"Now you drive down State Street and you don't even think about it," he said.

The large Portwalk development on Maplewood Avenue "doesn't bother me now," he said. But bay windows hanging over the sidewalk from at the 51 Islington St. building, "always bothered" him.

"They had 60-feet of height, so were within their rights" for height, he recalled. "All we could do was try to control the design."

Wyckoff said when he and his wife "had a night" at the Ale House Inn on Bow Street, he gazed at the streetscape below and remarked, "All those buildings are new and people don't know it."

He recalled that after urban renewal left empty lots across the city's North End, it was a "big deal" when, in the mid-1980s, the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel was built.

"People said, 'Thank God, someone's building something,'" he said.

Wycoff's career as a contractor had humble beginnings during the 1970s; first making speaker cabinets for his band and tearing off an addition built on posts at the Marcy Street house. His first construction job was peeling asphalt-shingle siding off one of the many Portsmouth houses that had it at the time.

The son of a Navy man, born in a Navy hospital and the youngest of four boys, Wycoff said his mother, Ruth Wycoff, was one of the area's first female real estate agents. He said she wanted to get the family to "the other side of Middle Street" and through hard work, got them a home on Willard Avenue. From there, he said, he'd ride his bicycle down South Street, "which hasn't changed a bit really," to Mechanic Street to get to Peirce Island.

When his family needed medical care, they went to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Wycoff recalled Sam's Furniture was "always going out of business," the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge had a 10-cent toll and playing gigs with The Devil's Own throughout New England. The band's cover of the song "Hey Joe" was number 16 on WBBX on Nov. 28, 1966.

"Playing at Ladd's was a big deal because all the high school kids could see you," said Wycoff, who was in the band his sophomore, junior and senior years at Portsmouth High School. "This was a professional band. We were traveling."

George Carlisle was the high school quarterback and football players "were pretty much in control of Portsmouth High School," Wyckoff said.

"On the fringe was John Wyckoff and the band guys," he said.

He partnered with others to develop a Rollinsford mill building into 23 apartments. He developed a Dover building into multiple rental units and said he "might have been part of the reconstruction" of Portsmouth when he bought and developed a Bridge Street building where the Thai Paradise restaurant recently closed. Using some city redevelopment money, he said he bought it "for $9,000 or something" and turned it into two apartments and a restaurant space. It was painted red and the owner of the downtown topless bar turned the restaurant space into the Purple Cow bar.

When he needed building supplies, Wyckoff said, he put it on his account at Littlefield Lumber in the area where a Marriott hotel is being built on Vaughan Street. After Pease Air Force Base closed, he said, "Things really slowed down."

"Then I decided I'll work for other people," he said.

At his own home, Wycoff has a wood door on his shed that a customer once had him remove and replace with a cheaper box-store version. He built an archway of driftwood and his garden is adorned with weathered Mark Fenwick "clothespin people" sculptures he bought from the sculptor 20 years ago at the Press Room. Old bottles, pulled from low-tide muck across the pond, are displayed in a window. 

When a home in his neighborhood was planned for demolition, to make way for a bigger, newer home, Wycoff thought it was time the city had a review board to study demolitions if anyone objected. He now sits on the Demolition Review Committee, which to date has reviewed demolition plans for a home on Pinehurst Street, the former St. Patrick's School and the historic Carey Cottage.

He's also on the hunt for old recordings of The Devil's Own.