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Yesterday and Today
by Bill & Connie Warren
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The Peirce Block


Yesterday, 1868-9, The Portsmouth City Directory ran an advertisement for Laws' of Portsmouth and Boston. Laws' was a shipping and commerce agency with offices in Portsmouth and Boston. They were located in the Peirce Block. It is the building with the address number 1 Market Square. The Peirce Block is on the east corner of High and Congress Streets. It was erected in 1804 following the fire of 1802. You can check out the magnitude of the Portsmouth fires in the 1813 fire map.

In our articles, we have spoken often about Market Square without giving any definitions as to what are the boundaries to 'the Square.' See any of our maps (or the aerial view which is taken above 'the square'} for Market Square but the 3-D 1877 Bird's Eye View is the better one to appreciate our 'Square' and the buildings that are on it. An overview of 'the Square' is: all the buildings that are opposite The North Church (Pleasant and Congress Streets).

A 'walk through' of Market Square is starting with the Peirce Block on Congress Street, 'the Square' runs from the east side of High Street to Market Street, then across Market Street to include the rounded front of the Sheafe Block. It continues across Daniel Street to, and including, the building that is now Fleet Bank, which is on Pleasant Street. Market Square also includes the church and the building directly behind the church. That location used to be its parish hall. The parish hall was moved to a new building on Spinney Road, and another building was erected (on Pleasant Street) where the old parish hall had been.

The building in which the parish hall had been was a wooden structure. In The Portsmouth Guide Book, published by Joseph H. Foster, Portsmouth, NH 1876, Joseph Foster says, "Erected in 1800, by Daniel Austin, the first three story store ever built in Portsmouth. At the time there were only fifteen three story houses in town, and most of them built within five years."


Today, Starbucks Coffee Company occupies the ground floor of the Peirce Block. Starbucks Coffee is new to Portsmouth. They are one of the companies that have come to our city and recycled an old ground floor store in which to sell their products and services. By this means, 'the Square' remains an interesting and vibrant part of our central business district. This is, in a business sense, gentrification at work.

In a statement in one of the Starbucks' brochures, their president (Orin Smith) says, "By working with Conservation International, Starbucks can bring quality coffee to our customers and provide positive social and environmental benefits in coffee-growing regions. We are excited to take this model to other parts of the world with CI."


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