Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Liberty Pole and Liberty Bridge

The Liberty Pole is located on the southern end of Prescott Park, slightly north of the Point of Graves Burial Ground and just east of Marcy Street.

For years, the section of Marcy Street from the Liberty Pole to Pleasant Street was named Water Street. A cove, or river inlet, used to flow west from the Piscataqua River, just north of the Liberty Pole, through the field in the middle of Strawbery Banke, to Pleasant Street. During high tides, it sometimes flowed all the way to the South Mill Pond through the Governor Langford property. It was originally called the Dock, but when it was later narrowed and partially filled in, became known as Puddle Dock.

A private bridge was built over the cove in 1731. According to Nathaniel Adams’ 1825 book about the city's earliest years, Annals of Portsmouth, “This bridge had a hoist or draw in it for vessels to pass through, and was called Swing-bridge."

Another bridge without a draw, called the Canoe Bridge because it could only accomodate small vessels, spanned the cove on Washington Street.

On January 9, 1766, nine years before the beginning of the American War of Independence, it  was renamed the Liberty Bridge when Portsmouth’s rebellious Sons of Liberty erected a flagpole here in opposition to the Stamp Act. On the pole they raised a flag with the motto, “Liberty, Property, and No Stamp”. This was the first flag protesting the Stamp Act in the American Colonies. On the same day, the Sons of Liberty “compelled” the Stamp Master, George Meserve, to surrender his commission, which had just recently arrived, although he had given up the office the previous year.
(See Haymarket Square for more information)

On May 22, 1766, the town of Portsmouth celebrated repeal of the Stamp Act by the British Parliament. They built a battery of twenty-one cannons near Liberty Bridge and dedicated it to the King. Thirteen of these guns were fired on April 28, 1783, to celebrate the end of the Revolutionary War.

To honor the original pole, Portsmouth erected a new flagpole on the Fourth of July,1824 and again on the Fourth of July, 1899. The city filled in the Puddle Dock cove in 1899 and dismantled the Liberty Bridge.

The vintage photographs above appeared in Portsmouth resident C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque. This view is of Marcy Street looking north towards Prescott Park, with the intersections of Hancock Street on the left and Mechanic Street on the right.

The white building (right) on the southeast corner of Mechanic and Marcy Streets in both photographs is the same. I am still researching whether or not the green building on the left in my photograph is the same although moved back from the street and enlarged as the one in the left foreground of the old photo.

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