Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Peirce Block – Foye's Store

The Peirce Block is in Market Square, on the northeast corner of High Street and Market Square.

Joshua Peirce moved to Portsmouth from New Jersey around the year 1700. After purchasing the land on this corner, he built a large house here and ran a store on the ground floor. During his life as a merchant and ship owner, he married Elizabeth Hall of Greenland, and they had nine children. Peirce became a member of the King’s Council, and also served as town clerk, parish clerk, a selectman, and recorder of deeds for the province of New Hampshire. He died in 1743.

Peirce Mansion
The Peirce family lived on this corner, in the home built by Joshua Peirce, for nearly a century. In 1799, his grandson, John Peirce, built the Peirce Mansion in Haymarket Square, and the Peirce clan moved to their new home on Court Street. Their former residence in Market Square burned to the ground during the Great Parade Fire of 1802.

Two years later, in 1804, the family constructed the brick block known as the Peirce Block that still stands today.

Morris Cotton Foye, a two-term New Hampshire legislator, opened his first Portsmouth shop on Market Street in 1878. His store, Foye's Gift Center, relocated to the Peirce Block in the early 1900s. As shown in the vintage photograph above from C. S. Gurney's 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque, the Morris C. Foye shop occupied the easternmost retail space of the Peirce Block. By that time, the store was run by his grandson, Morris C. Foye II. 

During the 1940s, the store expanded east to the ground floor of the Portsmouth Athenaeum, where Ireland on the Square is located today, and operated as a department store until 1967, when it was reconfigured to be a gift shop. The Portsmouth Athenaeum's Website has several exterior and interior views of Foye's Department Store.

Unfortunately, the windows of the Peirce Block have been reconfigured to match the Portsmouth Athenaeum. Back in 1902, there were iron lintels over the windows, much like the ones in the Exchange Block on Pleasant Street.

Today, the retail space is occupied by Kaya Jewelers.

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