Your Local Bank Since 1877
The Piscataqua Heritage Is Rich In History.
This was the consensus of a group of prominent Portsmouth citizens who were granted a charter to organize the Piscataqua Savings Bank on July 19, 1877. 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’s first President, a position he held until his death in 1878.
Mr. Hackett’s successor was Ichabod Goodwin, who served as New Hampshire’s first war governor during the Civil War and was keenly interested in shipping, railroad transportation, and banking. His expertise in legal matters, finance and management greatly benefited this new banking venture. 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.” In today’s world this cooperation might seem odd, but in those days national banks were not in the savings business, and savings banks did not offer checking accounts.
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, 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 do not realize that they are stepping from one building to another.
In 1925, the Bank underwent extensive remodeling. The original vault made of bricks was replaced with one made of reinforced concrete and steel. The renovation was not met with universal enthusiasm. Many customers felt that this “new-fangled” vault would not be as safe as the old one.
The facilities were elegant for the 1920’s, complete with a public telephone, a ladies “retiring” room with a couch for resting, and beautiful potted palms.
Prior to the great fire of 1813 the land located behind the Bank was occupied by the large wooden home of the Sheafe family, which was lost to the fire. A new residence was then built of brick, as was required by state law after the fire. This stately mansion, abutting State Street, became the home of Jonathan M. Tredick, former president of Rockingham National Bank. Later in 1892, the Rockingham County Court House occupied this site.
When the Court House was moved to Exeter in 1960, the Bank was not successful in the bidding for the building. Its new owner, Seaward Construction Company, demolished it and installed a paved parking lot offered for rent and controlled by a gate with cards issued to renters. Then, in 1969 the parking lot was offered to the Bank and immediately purchased.
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 since then. The gardens have been expanded, granite work laid and a wrought iron fence installed. Our significant corporate contribution to beautifying downtown Portsmouth has been appreciated by many. Called “An Urban Oasis” in a feature article written by Jenny Donelan and photographed by Nancy Grace Horton for Accent Magazine, our gardens have been the backdrop for tourist and wedding photographs and are thoroughly enjoyed by the community year after year.
Beginning in 2017, a major renovation of the Bank began to improve accessibility and efficiencies. SEE THE VIDEO OF THIS PROJECT.
In 2019, the Bank became a B Corporation to reinforce its commitment to customers, community and employees. Becoming the ninth company in NH to be certified, and only the second Bank in the state.
We also have dedication to the importance of art. We’ve incorporated support for local artists into our culture with the purchase of numerous original works by many well-known artists that hang in our building. The waiting area displays a contemporary wall sculpture called the “River of Time,” forged by local blacksmith Peter Happny with hand-blown glass inserts by David Bellantone. And now, nearly thirty years later, our new sign was a collaborative work commissioned to these same two artists along with wood-carver Art Swanson and we’re proud of their contribution. Read the full article.
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.
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