By John Hirtle, Beach News Staff
Beach News, Thursday, August 4, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of Beach News]
Portsmouth is a city rich in culture and history, making it a prime destination for vacationers seeking more than just sun and fun along the Seacoast’s beautiful beaches.
The city began as the settlement of Strawbery Banke, so named for the strawberries that grew wild along the shores of the Piscataqua River.
As it grew and became the leading port town in the colony, the name was changed to the far more Christian name of Portsmouth in 1652 to please the neighboring Puritans. Strawbery Banke lives on though, as a historic museum along the banks of the Piscatequa River, which highlights the many varied aspects of the city’s past, from its humble beginnings to the 20th century.
A visit to the museum is a must to realize that not so long ago this founding part of the city was once a scrapyard next to coal docks, and part of the city’s red light district. Any trace of that sordid past has been swept away. The old coal docks and red light district have been razed and are now part of Prescott Park, a lush riverside area filled with beautiful gardens and docks for pleasure craft. It is also home to the Prescott Park Arts Festival, which puts on a wide variety of plays, musical and children oriented entertainment. Some restaurants and lobster pounds still hide in the narrow streets of the South End, just south of Prescott Park, where you can get a meal fresh off the boats that just brought it in.
Away from the waterfront, as you follow the main road going west from the Memorial Bridge, you will find the city’s center, Market Square, which is marked by the towering white spire of the historic North Congregational Church. This downtown area is sometimes cordoned off for festivals, such as Market Square Day and New Year celebrations. As the center of town, Market Square is in easy walking distance of several historic sites, including the John Paul Jones House, the Moffat-Ladd House, the John Langdon House, and the Warner House.
The Portsmouth Atheneum, the region’s oldest private library is located in the square itself, and provides an excellent source of historical information for researchers. For those interested in shopping though, these central streets are lined with interesting boutiques, stores and restaurants.
While there is plenty to do and explore in Portsmouth, one should remember that this is the centennial of the signing of the Russo-Japanese Peace Treaty, also known as the Treaty of Portsmouth. Plenty of celebrations are underway to commemorate the event which signaled the rise of Japan as a world power, and the start of the decline of Czarist Russia.
Patriot's Corner Gas, a great place to fill up on gas or groceries.
Pease Golf Course, a premier place to golf.
Petey's Seafood, featuring great food and great views of Rye's salt marshes.
The Purple Urchin, a great place to eat, listen to music on the Seashell Stage, and watch fireworks from.