After a hundred and thirty-one years in business, the Piscataqua Savings Bank has hoisted new signage on the face of our Pleasant Street building in downtown Portsmouth. But, true to our firm commitment to historic preservation and to maintaining the charm of downtown, this was a process undertaken with a great deal of thought and care.
Jay Gibson, President of Piscataqua Savings Bank, said, “We wanted to be sure that whatever we did the new signs would reflect on the core values of our Bank. So it was important for us to create authentic signage that truly reflects who we are by tapping the talents of local artisans who understood Portsmouth’s maritime history and our place within it.”
Enter Peter Happny, David Bellantone and Art Swanson, three self-proclaimed ‘old-school’ artisans who’ve worked together since the 1970s in varying capacities. In fact, Happny and Bellantone forged the contemporary wall sculpture that hangs in our waiting area today, entitled “The River of Time,” back in 1975.
David Bellantone, of Bellantone Design based in Greenland, NH, developed conceptual sketches for the primary Piscataqua Savings Bank sign as well as a secondary sign that reads, “Home Mortgages.” From there, he built a 3D model of the “Florence Leland,” a four-masted schooner lost at sea in 1910 that was to be incorporated into the sign. A full-scale 1930s model of the same ship is on display inside the Bank and has come to be known as its symbol.
“As a sailor,” said David Bellantone, “it was important that this sign capture the graceful curve and forward motion of a schooner at sea. That visual interpretation shifted when the piece was raised ten feet above eye-level so I had to account for that. I think we succeeded in creating something with an artistic sense of realism that holds to the theme of Portsmouth and the sea, and that appreciators of historic vessels will see the time and effort that went into this.”
Peter Happny, a local blacksmith, did the metal work in stainless steel from the 3D model and patterns created by Bellantone. Happny also created the unique lighting and hanging brackets for the signs. Art Swanson of Cider Hill Woodworks in York, Maine did the woodcarving for both signs.
“This is a very unusual piece,” said Peter Happny. “And when it’s going to be hanging in one of your pathways, where you know you’re going to have to look at it for years, you want it to be right. Good things take time.”
Art Swanson adds, “Peter and I have been working together for years. For us, it’s important to use the best materials and take the time to finish things properly. We’ve got signs that have been hanging around for thirty years and still look great. Any job worth doing is worth doing right.”