Portsmouth (New Hampshire)

Portsmouth is the third oldest city in the USA and is prominent in New Hampshire‘s seacoast region.

. . . Portsmouth (New Hampshire) . . .

Settled in 1623, as Strawbery Banke, Portsmouth is a historic seaport that boasts an intriguing mix of the old and the new. As one of the oldest cities in the US, it was founded just three years after the settlement at Plymouth MA, the city has a walkable scale that is more often seen in European villages than in US cities.

The city sits 2 miles inland from the sea, on the safe deep harbor waters of the Piscataqua river. Its history as a seaport is an integral part of understanding Portsmouth today and yesterday. The city once was home to the founder of the US Navy, John Paul Jones, whose historic house still stands and is open to the public. It continues to be home to the Portsmouth Shipyard, where the HMS Falkland was built in 1690 for the British Navy and continues today, more than three centuries later, as a Navy shipyard that repairs and upgrades Los Angeles class nuclear submarines.

Today, the city’s economy is a mix of the traditional with tugboats pulling in large ships to haul scrap material, fishman still plying the waters from Pierce Island, and new economy jobs in software and biotech at Lonza Biologics which is now one of the area’s largest employers.

It is also the center of a growing metropolitan region, often called, “The Seacoast,” that is home to 125,000 and includes the coastal towns of Rye, Hampton, and Newcastle in New Hampshire and Kittery and York in Maine, as well as the inland cities of Rochester and Dover, NH. This region is known for its high quality of life and ranks as the 16th safest region in the United States according to Morgan Quitno’s 2003 report.

Although the city has attracted an influx of newer residents who have come for the small town with big city amenities in the midst of an area of great natural beauty, the city still retains a good measure of stubborn independent spirit. If you doubt this, pick up a copy of the local weekly newspaper, the New Hampshire Gazette, which is free around town and take in the local view.

Today, you will still find an old styled barbershop as well as upscale coffee shops, a shop selling handmade gourmet chocolates across from a cooperative art gallery, and a slick seafood restaurant that could be in LA (the owners were from LA) next to place called the Friendly Toast that is decorated with 70s kitsch purchased on eBay.

In this friendly small town you will also find an easily digestible mix of small town vibe combined with cultural, dining, shopping, and nightlife variety that is usually only found in more urban settings. The downtown contains Strawberry Banke, a living history museum, Prescott Park a beautiful urban park, and a number of riverside bars and restaurants to while away the day. If you want to get away from downtown, within a few miles are several ocean side parks that have facilities and beaches, often built around a historic fort, usually including a charming view of a lighthouse and sailboats.

To take maximum advantage, slow down and explore the city on foot. Take the time to linger a bit and talk to the locals walking their dog or the visitor relaxing at a sidewalk cafe. This is the best way to get a feel for the strong sense of place that has made Portsmouth a vibrant community both in the past and today.

. . . Portsmouth (New Hampshire) . . .

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. . . Portsmouth (New Hampshire) . . .