Liberty Pole Eagle
This eagle, perched in the main stairwell of the Library, dates from about 1824 when it was carved to cap the more permanent commemoration Liberty Pole which was the successor to the pole erected in 1766 at the time of the Stamp Act. Though the second pole was repaired in 1872, and replaced in 1899, the eagle retained its prominent position on Marcy Street until 1977 when it was deemed too fragile to continue to withstand the weather. This eagle was conserved and moved indoors to the Library in 1978. Yet another pole and replacement eagle currently stand on Marcy Street.
Measuring 43” high, with a wingspan of 31”, the eagle originally perched 110 feet atop the pole. A metal sheath in the base of the eagle originally rested on a wooden dowel on top of the pole, allowing it to spin as a wind indicator. The eagle is carved of wood and is covered in goldleaf. During conservation it was discovered the eagle had received at least 12 gildings in its lifespan. Its current iron hanger, originally created by Portsmouth metalsmith Peter Hapney in 1978 to suspend the eagle in the Academy building in the old Library on Islington Street, has been modified only slightly for the new Library.
The Eagle is attributed to Laban Beecher (1805-1876). A Boston wood carver known to have been called to Portsmouth by the Navy to do carving for the sloop-of-war Concord, Beecher would have been 19 years old when he created the eagle. He was the only known carver then in the area and is assumed to be the eagle’s maker.
Please visit the Library’s Special Collections for further information about Celia Thaxter, Isles of Shoals history, the Liberty Pole Eagle, as well as other local history and genealogy.
Landscaping & Gardens
The library was designed in a U shape to allow the library user to feel a connection with nature on all sides. Native, drought resistant plantings surround the library and fill the courtyard.
The front and side of the building are surrounded by Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis), white spruce (Picea glauca), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), black cherry (Prunus serotina), and white ash (Fraxinus americana).
The star of the foundation plantings are river birch (Betula nigra) and blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium) in a high planter at the south corner of the building.
Flanking the river birch and blackhaw viburnum in the raised planters are fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica), dwarf white pine (Pinus strobus), and lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium).
Along the pathways around the building are several Sweetgale plants (Myrica gale), a sweetly scented native shrub.
The library’s courtyard is newly renovated in 2022, and now features many new perennials native to New England. Many plants from the original design still flourish, including four serviceberry trees. You will also find white spruce (Picea glauca conica), common juniper (Juniperus communis), and bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi).
The original landscape design took great care to provide visual screening for our neighbors on Richards Avenue. Several winterberry (Ilex verticillata) and Hawthorn (Cretaegus crus-galli) are now quite large in their mature size. Red pine (Pinus resinosa) provide color and screening year-round.
In 2009, a grant from the Portsmouth Garden Club made it possible to build six raised garden beds behind the courtyard wall. Another grant from the Club allowed us to rebuild the beds in 2016, because they had become a valued site for youth as well as adult programming.
The library was selected as a Pollinate New England host site by the New England Wildflower Society (Now the Native Plant Trust) in 2017. Pollinate New England staff installed a pollinator garden along the Northwest foundation of the building. The highlights of the pollinator garden are spotted Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum), boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), and wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa). Red columbine (Acquilegia canadensis) is a welcome splash of red next to tall meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens), foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis), golden alexanders (Zizia aurea), and mountain mint (Pycanthium muticum).
Following the loss of a large willow tree which shaded much of the area behind the library, we arranged for our partners in Public Works to seed a wildflower meadow instead of lawn grass. We have been enjoying a colorful bonanza since 2020, which includes little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Canada wild rye (Elymus Canadensis), New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae), black eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta), and early goldenrod (Solidago juncea).
Teri Weidner Dahlen Memorial Sculpture
You may have noticed the rabbit sculpture welcoming you near the library entrance.
The sculpture was erected in honor of children’s author and illustrator Teri Weidner Dahlen who passed away in December 2019. The memorial sculpture fundraising effort was organized by local artists and illustrators, led by Tess Feltes and Lin Albertson Thorpe, who collaborated with Teri’s husband, Chris Dahlen. They commissioned Thomas Berger to sculpt a piece based on one of Teri’s illustrations. He chose to work with white granite from Bethel, VT - considered the finest kind of granite for sculpting.
Teri’s books have delighted children and adults alike, and her enthusiastic support of literacy, other artists, and the Portsmouth Community made her a cherished member of the seacoast.
In many ways Teri embodied library spirit. She fostered community, she constantly connected people to what they needed, and she shared knowledge and resources without hesitation. She saw the world through a lens of kindness and inclusivity.
Tess Feltes wrote in her tribute:
I met Teri many years ago in a critique group when I was transitioning from natural science illustrating to taking a big leap into illustrating for children. Teri gently gave me what she called “a kick in the pants” to send samples to art directors, resulting in my first assignments for Cricket Magazine.
That was Teri - always generous, always quietly encouraging and always helping others improve their work. She was incredibly talented and her illustrations always shone with her warmth and gentle compassion.
Teri became a dear friend, a fellow animal lover, loving wife and parent and an incredible inspiration …she is greatly missed.
I like to think she would approve of Thomas Berger’s sculpture, which he created from one of her own illustrations.
The stone rabbit in its new home on the Library grounds reflects the spirit of Teri’s love of books, of art, of all creatures great and small and her love of her Portsmouth community.
And in the words of Lin Albertson Thorpe:
I first met Teri working together in a local picture frame shop. To my delight I discovered that this friendly conscientious young woman also had an accomplished career illustrating children’s picture books - the one thing I had dreamed of doing all my life!
Teri became my friend, teacher, and mentor - also my biggest supporter and critic. She really knew how to inspire someone (aka “kick butt”!). Because she had so much confidence in me I couldn’t possibly disappoint her by giving up. So I still have her photo facing me where I create, encouraging me, and (silently) nagging me to “get to work!” And I do....
Teri has shared her knowledge, talents, and enthusiasm with many other artists. Several I know of attribute their own success to her guidance and willingness to direct them to the best publisher or outlet for their work. She was never self-protective or jealous of the success of someone else - rather she celebrated it with all her heart. Her drawings are filled with gentle, loving animals - bunnies, ducks, bears - all with warm, almost human eyes and emotions that children can relate to. She was so proud of the first book she both wrote and illustrated - “Always Twins” - a story based on her twin nieces and the fact that, while they may look identical, each of them is truly unique. And so was Teri - unique in her ability to connect with and understand others, to accept people as they are, and to go out of her way to inspire each person to do their very best as they strive to realize their own dreams.
Teri once said ‘I love to draw bunnies the most.’ And so this beautiful bunny sculpture by Thomas Berger seems an appropriate tribute to Teri and all she has given to us and the world of children’s books in her much too short life. We miss you.
Here is a statement from the sculptor, Thomas Berger:
The focus of my work is to portray the beauty and magic of life.
Life has many forms and faces, and as such I like to honor both noble and sweet creatures and those that are considered less attractive: scaly fish, crusty arthropods and archaic creatures of the sea.
My preferred materials are granite, basalt, marble and bronze. I am frequently inspired by the coincidental shape of a rock boulder, which might reveal a rare form of life that is waiting to be exposed. I often use a stone’s weathered and eroded surfaces to create a contrast with polished ones, representative of the tension between decline and renewal - the cycle of life.
In my art for children I try to promote an emotional attachment to the creature that is represented and hope to contribute to a bond between people and all other living beings.
May this bunny capture Teri’s spirit, and make you feel welcomed and seen as you are, to find delight in nature and animals, and inspire you to follow your dreams and to support others to follow theirs.