Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Peirce Block – Green’s Drugstore

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

Benjamin Green was born in Portsmouth in 1867, the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland. They most likely worshipped at Temple Israel on State Street. After graduating from Portsmouth High School in 1882, he worked as a clerk at Joseph Haven Thacher's apothecary in the Haven Block.

In 1888, he purchased the drugstore from J. H. Thacher, married Josephine Bodge of Greenland three years later, and moved his business to the corner store of the Peirce Block in 1898. When Benjamin Green's new apothecary opened,  the Portsmouth Herald wrote, "one of the most elegantly equipped drug stores east of Boston."

SeacoastNH.com has two photographs of Green's Drugstore in 1895. If their date is correct, these views would be the interior of the store in the Haven Block rather than the Peirce Block; however, no matter the store, it gives us a glimpse of what an early 1900s drugstore looked like.

Benjamin Green, a proprietor of the Portsmouth Athenaeum from 1922-1949, retired in 1939 and sold the business to his pharmacist, Frank M. McMahon. The apothecary continued with the name Green's Drugstore and remained on this corner of the Peirce Block from 1898 until 1965.

The vintage photographs are from C. S. Gurney’s 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque.
In the 1902 photograph of the Peirce Block below, Benjamin Green Apothecary is the shop on the left, A. P. Wendell & Co. Hardware store is shown in the center, and Foye's Store is on the right. Green's Drugstore is now occupied by a Starbucks coffee shop.

The Peirce Block is named for the family of Joshua Peirce, who 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.

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.

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