Prescott Park was created and has been maintained by the terms of the last will and testament of Josie F. Prescott, a life long resident of the City of Portsmouth. It was her wish that a public park, free and accessible to all, be established along the Portsmouth waterfront replacing what had become a run down industrial area of Portsmouth.
The gardens at Prescott Park were created when the Prescott Sisters purchased the waterfront acreage in the 1930s and willed it to the City in 1954 for public enjoyment. In 1975, at the suggestion of then-Park Supervisor Michael Warhurst, the Trustees of the park agreed to invite UNH to move its All-American Selections Program trial gardens from Madbury to Prescott Park, and created 40 formal garden beds on the South Lawn of Prescott Park. Those trial gardens, planted with “a living catalog of flowers,” were designed to study which varieties of specific ornamental plants performed best in the seacoast environment. The formal association with the All-American Selections Program ended about ten years ago, but the City continued to purchase All-American Selections seeds and had the plants grown-out in the greenhouses of UNH. The formal gardens continue to be planted and maintained by Parks & Greenery with help from seasonal staff.
The gardens of Prescott Park serve the purpose of being both beautiful and educational. City gardeners identify the plants and flowers so visitors who might want to choose something similar for their own gardens know what they are.
Garden Tours -- Summer 2021
The 10-acre Prescott Park contains a variety of individual garden spaces, from the formal plantings around the sculptural elements of the massive waterfront anchor and Cabot Lyford’s “Whale,” to the bed of hostas along the shaded Mechanic Street edge of the garden. In between are the Liberty Gardens, beds of annuals designed and installed by City staff, including summer associates who are leading the tours. Designed with an eye for height, color and massing, the gardens attract butterflies and other pollinators – and provide inspiration for photographers, landscapers and home gardeners.
Free Prescott Park Garden Tours are conducted every Friday starting July 16, at 11 am and 1 pm, starting at the Liberty Pole. The City staff leading the tours welcome visitors’ questions about their designs and the plants they chose for this year’s gardens.
The tour also includes the three beds of Celia Thaxter’s historic garden at Appledore Island that the Shoals Marine Laboratory partnered with the City of Portsmouth to recreate at Prescott Park.
Prescott Park Docks
Publicly available docking space is available at Prescott Park on the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth.
Reservations for overnight may be made online by using Dockwa (see below) or in person and by phone (603) 498 6816.
The dockmasters monitor VHF Channel 09, and notice of arrivals is requested.