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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #49: Prescott Park, Portsmouth

The garden spot of the Port City.

There are few places in the seacoast, indeed in all of New Hampshire, where the past and the future come together with the vibrant energy of Prescott Park. It's a place steeped in history, from the Puddle Dock to Sheafe's Warehouse, where privateers lurked and prostitutes worked, where the waterfront character of a city thrived with shipbuilding and smuggled goods and the early stirrings of revolution. Almost eighty years ago two schoolteacher sisters deeded the funds to buy the property for the public park, a place that would become rightfully famous for it's sumptuous and diverse floral gardens (my mom's favorite part of the park). Prescott Park is a beautiful open space, with sweeping harbor views and sprawling lawns, statuary and fountains.

And yet it's also a dynamic place, a kinetic one, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Prescott Park Arts Festival, a community non-profit that for more than forty years has promoted live music, dance, and theater. The summer shows draw big audiences (more than a quarter million people each year), but the arts are not solely a spectator sport at Prescott Park. The performers are heavily local, with an emphasis on opportunites for young talent to find its way to the stage through youth theater camps and roles in the main shows. I can recall during my Ballet New England days when our own student dancers would perform there (and well I remember the filthy, sweaty experience of laying marley dance floor with gaffer tape in the 90+ degree heat). Bands come to play as well, and there are big-screen movies too (right Trevor Bartlett?)

It's hard not to cherish a place of natural beauty, historic significance, artistic expression, and investment in youth. That's pretty damn near perfect.

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