Let’s Start at the Beginning
On July 19, 1877, a group of prominent Portsmouth citizens were granted a charter to organize the Piscataqua Savings Bank. This group elected its Board of Trustees in January 1878, and the Bank opened for business on April 2, 1878. William H.Y. Hackett served as Piscataqua Savings Bank’s first president, a position he held until his death in 1878.
In its first published statements in 1879, Piscataqua Savings Bank reported assets of $62,518.24 — an impressive figure for the time. On opening day in 1878, the Bank’s entire operations consisted of a single teller’s window, loaned to it by the First National Bank of Portsmouth “without cost or rent.” It’s safe to say we’ve come a long way since then.
In 1813, a great fire swept through Portsmouth and destroyed much of the city, from Pleasant Street down to the Piscataqua River. Following the fire, a row of brick commercial buildings known as the Exchange Block was built. In 1857, a new structure, designed by Boston architect S.S. Woodcock, was built at the end of the Exchange Block. It was a local landmark design that towered over its Pleasant Street neighbors.
The Rockingham Bank, established in 1813, occupied this building until 1865, when it was succeeded by the Rockingham National Bank, which closed in 1905 without a successor. Piscataqua Savings Bank purchased the building in 1905; however, it didn’t move to the location until 1925.
Several of these Exchange Block buildings now form the quarters of Piscataqua Savings Bank. The merging has been so skillfully done that customers often don’t realize that they’re stepping from one building to another.
A Bank With a Green Thumb
When the courthouse was moved to Exeter in 1960, the Bank placed a bid for the building but was not successful. The building’s new owner, Seaward Construction Company, demolished it and installed a lot for rental parking. Then, in 1969, the parking lot was offered to the Bank, which immediately purchased it.
In 1978, the parking lot was completely redesigned with landscaping and gardens to create a park-like environment. We’ve continued to beautify our grounds ever since. Today, the gardens have been expanded, granite work laid and a wrought iron fence installed. Called “an urban oasis” by Accent Magazine, our gardens have been the backdrop for tourism and wedding photographs and are enjoyed by the community year after year.
Renovations That Respect History
In 2017, the Bank began a major renovation to improve accessibility and efficiency and create a more comfortable environment for customers and employees.
The renovations involved opening up the main lobby and reconstructing the back entrance, to make both more accessible. The back entrance, more formally referred to as the conservatory, is now connected to the main lobby. The conservatory features a plant wall above the teller stations, as a nod to our landmark outdoor garden. A glass ceiling was also constructed, to provide more natural light to complement the greenery in the space. We will forever be grateful to Maugel DeStefano and Pine Brook Construction for their vision and exceptional work.
Honoring Art In Our Community
We’ve incorporated support for local artists with the purchase of numerous original works we’re proud to display in our building. The waiting area features a contemporary wall sculpture called River of Time, forged by local blacksmith Peter Happny with hand-blown glass inserts by David Bellantone. Our new sign was a collaborative work commissioned nearly 30 years later from these same two artists along with woodcarver Art Swanson.
Over the years, Piscataqua Savings Bank has been recognized by civic groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Portsmouth Advocates as a standard setter for architectural and environmental excellence. The Bank has received several awards for the best use of an existing building and for preservation of the townscape. We are the only mutual bank based in Portsmouth today, and we feel a deep responsibility to preserve the historic character of our town.