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Predicting the Future of Kittery and Portsmouth

 

 

Misfortune-telling

Pundits who predict the future must inevitably fashion their opinions from what has already happened. In 1918, as we learned in an earlier column, former mayor FW Hartford predicted that Portsmouth would soon double in size as it became the most populated city and the industrial capital of New Hampshire. But when World War I ended the following year, so did the brief boom in the local economy, followed by a crushing Depression.

Kittery_Point_wharf / J Dennis Robinson

Ben Frisbee’s vision of steel forts guarding the Piscataqua River made sense in his day when wars were fought on land and sea, not from the air. Nuclear bombs dropped from airplanes was unimaginable. (Science fiction writer H.G. Wells finally proposed the idea in his 1907 novel War in the Air.) Frisbee’s prediction of high-speed transatlantic steamers, however, came close to the mark. By the 1950s the fastest crossing took only three days and 10 hours, but Kittery never became the destination point he dreamed about.

READ BEN FRISBEE's 1895 essay here

Pundits also tend to forget that what they value about their community may not please future generations. While Frisbee waxed poetic about the rich history and natural beauty of Kittery, he desperately wanted to see the city grow. His futuristic macadamized road on Gerrish Island was 64-feet wide and heavily trafficked by equestrians, people in electric cars, and riders on electric bicycles. As in his own time, Frisbee’s future seacoast was populated by large tourist hotels. In his vision the a Kittery newspaper would be published six times each day with a circulation of 533,140 readers. Shoe factories and iron wharves line the waterfront and the railroad runs along scenic Chauncey Creek. So many people want to live in Kittery Point that the thickly settled region breaks off to form a separate town called Piscataqua.

Our ancestors from the Gilded Age prized history and scenery, but Frisbee also wanted profit and progress. “Pepperrell’s Cove has been dredged to a depth of twenty feet at low water,” he proposed, “its ledges blown out and removed.”

The city of York will expand to 40,000 residents by 1955, Frisbee said. New Castle will become a thriving freight depot. Portsmouth will return to the business of shipbuilding, and just as F.W. Hartford would later promise, become the biggest city in the Granite State. Indeed, New England becomes so profitable in the 20th century that our neighbors to the north want a piece of the action. Canada is annexed in 1920, Frisbee predicts, as the states of Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, and Arcadia.

Lusitania

CONTINUE FUTURE PREDICTIONS

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017 
 
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