“The Granite State”, “God’s Country”, “The Mother of Rivers” and “The Live Free State” are just a few of the nicknames associated with New Hampshire and for good reason. The lazy, slow paced lifestyle mixed with postcard views, New Hampshire is the ideal place to visit. The only question is which part to visit first. For me, it was an easy answer. Portsmouth (whose motto is “Heaven’s Light Our Guide”). Hands down.
One of my favorite areas to visit, Portsmouth, New Hampshire has always incorporated just the right amount of quaint, sleepy town with a modern, new city feel. Yet recently, it has felt like perhaps it is incorporating too much modern feel. Previously unscathed land is littered with cranes, earth moving tools and other construction equipment, even to the point of marring otherwise perfect landscapes. This is not your parent’s Portsmouth. That being said, Portsmouth still has a plethora of attractions and sites to keep you busy all weekend.
While it is not exactly clear how Portsmouth got the nickname “Pompey”, some of the leading theories include that it is the nickname of the football club in Portsmouth and a variety of theories based on legend and tales.
The scenic drive, mainly on Routes 1, 93 and 95, was a breeze coming from Boston. Just watch out for the Exit 3 to Portsmouth. It comes up pretty quick after the fork in the road on 95 . And, of course, there are the not so inconspicuous state troopers lying in wait. The driving only gets tricky when you get to Portsmouth. It’s an old town so there are lots of one way streets, narrow roads and the parking can be sparse if you don’t get there early. The good thing is everything is within walking distance and, if you luck out, there is free parking at the parks. Parking enforcement workers were prevalent throughout.
I began my trek at Prescott Park, the main hub for entertainment as it is the venue for the summer arts and festivals for the area. Prescott Park offers benches, well kept grass, flowers, monuments and scenic views of the Piscataqua River. When you first approach Prescott park, you will be greeted by a monument, a common theme in Portsmouth. An over sized anchor dedicated to Billy Juse who, with Tim Nordeen, died working on the Deer Island Sewage plant stands near the center of the park. This is one of the appealing things about Portsmouth. The town has strong ties to their past and they remember those they have lost. They don’t forget.
Prescott Park also has a vivid array of flowers. Petunias, “Black Eyed Susans”, Saxifraga and “Goldliocks” are just a few of the flowers you will find here.
Prescott Park also has a water fountain dedicated to Ensign Charles Hovey. Envoy was a Naval Academy graduate who was commanding a detachment of men when his men and he was ambushed, leaving Hovey mortally wounded. I’ve always wondered why some receive honors and others dies in anonymity, Not to question Hovey’s and his men’s bravery, yet so many, even from the Portsmouth area, have lived, fought and died courageously with little, if any, appreciation.
It being a seasonable New Hampshire day, with low humidity with a cool breeze, I decided to continue on my walk all the way to the center of town, aptly named Portsmouth Center. Portsmouth Center is only about a half a mile walk from Prescott park. But, along the way, there were many attractions and sites to detour you. There was the City of Portsmouth Fire Department’s memorial, Vigilance. The two sided monument is dedicated to all of the firefighters who risk their lives protecting others.
As impressive as the monument is, some visitors were more interested in the water flowing in the monument. Well, it was a warm day and Lulu and Seka couldn’t resist the watery goodness.
Further along my jaunt, the Praying Hands sculpture at Temple Israel caught my eye.
The “crown jewel of Portsmouth”, Pierce Island is another must see section of Portsmouth. Who wouldn’t want to live on that island? The photo below is only one of the gems of the area.
Pierce Island is also host to Four Tree Island (or Three Tree Island, Five Tree Island – maybe they had a hard time counting all the trees). A peninsula shaped picnic area, Four Tree Island has a wide variety of bird life and other types of critters. I was lucky enough to run into this guy. Woodchucks like this are common to the area and generally aren’t very dangerous. And, no, I don’t know how much wood he would chuck.
There is also a diverse group of bird life on Four Tree Island. I caught this bird in flight.
There were also a few ducks floating out there as well.
A remnant of the past, a fishing trap lies on some rocks.
Two comorants huddle on a rock.
Portsmouth is a dog-friendly town. Everywhere you go you are sure to see someone walking their pooch and seemingly ever other vehicle has a canine passenger, their head excitedly thrust out the open window. There are also many parks, some hotels (provided they meet certain height and weight limits) and parks that allow dogs such as, South Mill Pond. Not only are there pretty flowers and scenic views (it must be especially pretty during sunrises and sunsets), there are also ducks for Fido to play with.
One thing Portsmouth does not lack is memorials and monuments. One of these memorials is called, fittingly enough,Memorial Park. Memorial Park is a fairly new addition to the monuments in Portsmouth, having been constructed in 2013. A tribute to all of the veterans who have served, the Memorial Park The bricks on the ground surrounding the memorial have the names of veterans and others who have passed away. “Honor”, “protect” and “remember” are emblazoned on the stones in the from the original Memorial Bridge which are stacked in the middle of the memorial. Flags were at half staff in tribute to the victims of the Texas floods.
Another memorial is the New Hampshire Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial on Pierce Island that remembers all of the men and women who have been lost fishing the waters of New Hampshire. The monument, which was dedicated in 1987, states “In Memory Of Those Who Fished And Were Called Away. With Prayers For Those Who Fish Today.” It’s hard not to think, even briefly, of how much the area has changed. A once vibrant fishing community has now evolved into a modern economy. Like many seaport towns in New England, the fishing industry has dries up for many people and the modern era of commerce has prevailed. Although you will see the occasional palm reading den and mom and pop shop, office buildings, financial institutions, bars and construction companies now chiefly make up the economy.
And, in Portsmouth Center, you will find another fountain. This one is dedicated to former Portsmouth Mayor McEachern Keenan,
New Hampshire, the Portsmouth area particularly, being a historically important area, has many historical houses and museums that are open to the public. In the interest of time I was unable to view them, except from the exterior. Posted below is the Governor John Langdon’s House. Langdon was, among other things, the second Governor of New Hampshire.
I’m not sure the frog is an original part of the Langdon’s estate.
The Treadwell Jenness House is another beautiful mansion I put on my “things to next time I am in Portsmouth list”, which may be sooner rather than later.
There are many other attractions I didn’t have the time for such as The Portsmouth naval Shipyard Museum The Isles Of Shoals Tours and The Strawberry Banke Museum.
Despite the congestion and having too much to do to fit into one day trip, the hardest decision I had to make for this trip was to leave.