The Peirce Block is in Market Square, on the northeast corner of High Street and Market Square.
The Wendell Hardware Store in Market Square was opened in 1834 by two Wendell brothers, Abraham and Daniel. Abraham’s son, Andrew Peterson Wendell, who was born in Portsmouth in 1844, graduated Portsmouth High School in 1859 and then began working in his father and uncle’s hardware store fulltime. After Daniel left the business, he became partners with his father and his younger brother, Henry Wendell, in 1864.
Andrew Wendell married Ruth Ann Osgood in 1865 or 1867, and they had four children. Sadly, little Nellie only lived for about three weeks in 1878. A scrupulous man, Wendell kept annual diaries in which he recorded each day’s weather, often including the temperature and amount of snowfall. Like his father, who retired in 1874 and died in 1882, A. P. Wendell served as an Alderman of Portsmouth.
Upon his father's death, Andrew Wendell became the proprietor of the hardware store, renamed the A. P. Wendell & Co. Hardware and Paints Store. The vintage photographs are from C. S. Gurney’s 1902 book, Portsmouth . . . Historic and Picturesque.
In the 1887 Leading Manufacturers and Merchants of New Hampshire, A. P. Wendell & Co. was listed as “Dealers in Hardware and Cutlery, Paints, Oils and Varnishes, Oars, Rowlocks, and Boat Fittings; Guns and Ammunition”.
In the 1905 Portsmouth Directory, A P Wendell Hardware was still in business and listed under the following categories: Agricultural Implements, Artists’ Materials, Bicycles, Cutlery, Fishing Tackle, Hardware, Paints Oils and Glass, Powder and Shot, Pumps, Sporting Goods, and Weather Strips.
Andrew P. Wendell died in 1926.
In the 1902 photograph below, the A. P. Wendell & Co. Hardware store is shown in the center of the Peirce Block in Market Square. The store to the right is Foye's Store, and the one to the left is Green's Apothecary. The retail space where A. P. Wendell once sold hardware is now occupied by Warner's Card & Gift 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.