The Prescott Sisters

Mary and Josie PrescottThe Prescott sisters, Josie and Mary, are directly responsible for the creation of what is now known as Prescott Park. Josie and Mary were public school teachers and lived in Portsmouth all of their lives. When their older brother, Charles Prescott, died he left the two sisters a sizable inheritance. Josie and Mary loved their city and long desired to see the waterfront section along what is now Marcy Street beautified and made accessible to all. In the last will and testament of Josie Prescott a private trust fund of $500,000 was set up just for this purpose. This trust's sole purpose was to purchase land parcels along the Piscataqua River from lower State Street to Pickering and Gates Street and to make this land into a public park. In 1954 with much of the land purchase accomplished this private trust and associated land were turned over to the City of Portsmouth to be administered and maintained for perpetuity. The Prescott Trust Fund, now a city trust fund, is responsible for the care and maintenance of Prescott Park that includes most all the land and buildings from lower State Street to Mechanic Street and includes Four-Tree Island.

General Park Description

Prescott Park includes over 10 acres of prime waterfront property along the Piscataqua River. There are five distinct areas found within the overall park boundary. First, there is the upper or north park area featuring the parking area, the municipal docks, the Sawtelle walking pier and the Emerson Hovey Fountain. The next area is the center park containing the "T-pier" and the performing amphitheater and stage. In this area are the public restrooms and snack bar (both seasonal). Adjoining the center park area is the formal garden with the pathways, fountains and full planting beds. The fourth main area is the lower or south park area that includes the two main park buildings, the liberty pole and the "trial garden". The last separate park area is across the Peirce Island bridge and is called Four Tree Island where one can have the best views of the harbor or relax and have a picnic.

Prescott Park South Garden

Buildings and Facilities

Shaw's Warehouse at Prescott ParkThere are a number of buildings found on Prescott Park. The most prominent building is the 200-year-old Shaw Warehouse. The building features an all-wood construction including the original 12x12-inch beams supporting the three floors. Housed in this building are the offices of the Prescott Park Arts Festival and space for park maintenance staff and storage. Also in this building are public (seasonal) restrooms. Jutting out over the water is the oldest building found in the park, the Sheafe Warehouse (circa 1705). This building is generally used for storage, but in the summer months is used for exhibits and a juried art show. Located on park grounds but not generally associated with Prescott Park is the Marine Railway Building. This building dates back to the time when there was ship and boat building taking place in this area. The city separately maintains this building and is currently the home of the Players Ring theatre. Adjacent to the performing amphitheater area is a public (seasonal) comfort station and snack bar. During the summer season this building at the center of the arts festival activity. On Four Tree Island are picnic tables and grills, a pavilion and more public restrooms that are open in the summer months. Adjoining Prescott Park is a small municipal transient boat docking facility. Docking slips can be rented or reserved for stays of up to three nights.

A small maintenance staff maintains Prescott Park. There are two year-round positions and seasonal workers both for the grounds and for the docks. Corin Hallowell, Parks & Greenery Foreman, is the Prescott Park Supervisor

The previous Park Supervisor Michael Warhurst came to work at the park over thirty years ago as an intern from the Thompson School at UNH. He held many positions during his tenure and from 1988 to 2018 was the supervisor and full-time park manager. Much of the credit for the many beautiful flower beds and areas, the rich green grass and the overall park beauty originated with his skilled care. In 2020 the fountain and "Odyssey" sculpture in the Park's formal garden was dedicated in his name.

Michael Warhurst, Prescott Park Supervisor 1988-2018

Liberty Pole 

At one time much of the lower section of Prescott Park, where the gardens are today, was part of an open water inlet into what was called Puddle Dock. Puddle Dock continued west under a bridge on Marcy Street (then called Water Street) into a docking and residential area. In 1766, the local Sons of Liberty raised the first Liberty Pole in America, to protest the Stamp Act. on the site where the Liberty Pole stands now. During the Revolutionary War the Water Street bridge was patriotically named the "Liberty Bridge" by the local citizenry. In 1824 as part of a fourth-of-July celebration honoring the revolutionary past, a replacement Liberty Pole was raised, topped by a gilded eagle carved by Laban Beecher. That eagle was replaced in 2002 by an eagle carved by Ron Raiselis, master cooper at Strawbery Banke Museum. It was restored and regilded in 2019 at the same time the City refurbished the wooden Liberty Pole that had replaced the original on July 4, 1899. The Beecher eagle is now a focal point of the Portsmouth Public Library. commissioned. 

Liberty Pole in Prescott Park

Four Tree Island

Just to the east of the main Prescott Park land area just beyond the fishing pier is a small island called "Four Tree Island" (also called Three Tree Island, Five Tree Island, Gray's Island, Outer Island and Long's Island). It juts out into the Piscataqua River with fine views of the Navy Yard, river boating activity, the Memorial Bridge and the best harbor view of Portsmouth proper. While now connected to Peirce Island by a pedestrian causeway, Four Tree Island once could only be reached by a boat. Eventually, fire destroyed the buildings and for the most part through the early 20th century the undergrowth remained untamed. With the help of Prescott funds and a federal grant, Four Tree Island was purchased for the city and completely refurbished.

Four Tree Island is one of the beneficiaries of the City's annual investment in planting trees, an effort that the National Arbor Day Foundation has recognized for more than 20 years by awarding Tree City honors to Portsmouth.

Four Tree Island Arbor Day trees 2022

Prescott Park Arts Festival (PPAF)

Event tent logo - link to Prescott Park Arts Festival websiteIn 1974 The Trustees of Trust Funds for the City of Portsmouth, led by Trustee Paul McEachern, brought an outdoor theatrical summer production to Prescott Park with the help of the Theatre-By-The-Sea thespians, New Hampshire Art Association, League of New Hampshire Craftsmen and many other local performing groups. Every year since, the summer season at Prescott Park has included one or more full outdoor productions of a Broadway musical for a family audience. Accompanying the plays have been scheduled a variety of musical performing groups, art shows and viewings, youth arts and craft workshops, jazz and blues festivals and many other related arts and entertainment activities. In the early 1980's the leadership and responsibility for making the summer arts festival happen shifted from the Prescott Park Trustees to The Prescott Park Arts Festival Inc (PPAF Inc). a not-for-profit corporation, whose sole purpose is to provide Prescott Park and the greater Portsmouth community with wholesome family entertainment during the summer months in Prescott Park. For more information on the current events and schedules of PPAF please access the PPAF website.