J. Dennis Robinson
It is sometimes hard to remember that Memorial Day is a holiday set aside, not for hot dogs and owls, but a day to reflect on the Americans in the military who made the “ultimate sacrifice” in defense of the United States. nation. Since the late 1800s, the place of such sightings in Portsmouth has been the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at Goodwin Park on Islington Street. Saved from collapse on itself, the beautifully restored park is the perfect place to visit.
Technically, the Bronze Man on the Bronze Horse in Haven Park on Pleasant Street does not qualify for Memorial Day. Born in Portsmouth in 1822, Fitz-John Porter served as a Union Army general during the Civil War, but was later summoned to court in a lawsuit launched by his political opponents. It took Porter 25 years to clear his name, so he did not die in the service of his country.
Memorial Bridge bears a WWI plaque
We have a Memorial Bridge connecting Portsmouth to Kittery, Maine. Opened in 1923, the original lift bridge was dedicated to sailors and soldiers lost in World War I from 1917 to 1919. The new bridge, inaugurated in 2013, bears the same plaque, making it an ideal site for Memorial Day . The nearby Portsmouth Veterans Memorial, added in 2013, is dedicated to “the heroic strength of souls of the men and women who courageously served our country and courageously risked their lives to preserve our way of life.”
Prescott Park, commemorative fountain
I could be wrong, but the only one-souled memorial survives, in part, in Prescott Park. It is perhaps the most often seen and least understood of our small collection of city statues. The memorial fountain is just inside the upper entrance to the park. It is marked by a bronze statue of an almost naked man. He holds a fish springing from the water in a circular pool where visitors toss coins. In his other hand, the bronze figure holds a metal rod that was once a trident.
The fountain in a maritime motif is a memorial to US Navy Ensign Charles Emerson Hovey (1885-1911) who was killed in the Philippines. You can see a bronze portrait of Hovey, created in 1918 by Frederick Warren Allen, sculptor of the Boston School, affixed to the front of the brick fountain.
A second plaque tells how Hovey was ambushed, according to the text, while “commanding a detachment of USS Pampanga men in pursuit of the outlaw Moros on the island of Basilan”. Hovey was the son of Rev. Henry Emerson Hovey, who was rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church on the nearby waterfront. He was also the uncle of the late Muriel Gurdon Seabury Howells of Kittery Point. Although she was only one year old when her uncle died in 1911, Muriel later became one of the main founders and financial supporters of the Strawbery Banke Museum opposite Prescott Park.
Hovey was born in Portsmouth in 1855 and is buried in St. John’s Cemetery. The destroyer USS Hovey was named in his honor. But the fountain was not always there. This postcard shows the original and much more ornate Hovey Memorial Drinking Fountain in its original location. It was dedicated in 1912 on the corner of Pleasant and State streets. It stood outside the old post office building, which now houses Book & Bar. Notice the columns of the Southern Universalist Unitarian Church on State Street in the background of the postcard.
Historic Portsmouth:The life of a boy in the new castle in 1887
Historic Portsmouth:History lurks beneath the Isles of Shoals
Fountain in peril
An article published in this newspaper in 1967 noted that the Hovey fountain was “in peril” since the post office building was sold and could be demolished. According to one headline, the foundation “could be moved”. At the time, it was proposed to move the entire memorial to the front of the new McIntyre building on Daniel Street. Others suggested creating a “grassy spot” closer to the center of the market square and centering the fountain there. In 1974, the editors of the Portsmouth Herald were still wondering why the fountain had not been moved, as proposed, to Prescott Park.
The delicate memorial, its cracked imported Italian marble fountain, has finally left its risky location. Muriel Howells of Kittery Point had campaigned to find a “worthy and beautiful place” to protect her ancestor’s memorial. With the support of colorful City Councilor Bill Keefe, in 1976 the renovated memorial opened in Prescott Park. The high pedestal and the marble fountain had been removed. The statue of Neptune, also imported from Italy, now stood in the center of a concrete pool lined with bricks. Today, the new location offers a spectacular tree-lined view of the Portsmouth, Maine shipyard. A number of Neptune’s tridents, according to legend, have disappeared over the years.
The historic town of Portsmouth is presented every Thursday. Copyright 2021 by J. Dennis Robinson, who is the author of illustrated books on the Isles of Shoals, Wentworth by the Sea, Privateer Lynx and more. His latest award-winning book, “Music Hall,” is available online or at your local bookstore. This is the weekly picture number 882. You can contact him at [email protected] or visit www.jdennisrobinson.com online.