The city of Portsmouth purchased Peirce Island for $11,000 in 1923, which now seems like an exceptionally good deal.
Occupying 27 acres of prime riverfront property adjacent to Portsmouth’s picturesque South End, the island has an illustrious past, being the site of Fort Washington, named for General George Washington, which played a role in Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
In the mid-1800s, ships, including the famed clipper ships, were built on the island, and during World War II it served as a recreation center for coastal artillery troops.
More prosaically, the city of Portsmouth built an outdoor swimming pool in 1937 (still in operation today) and added a wastewater treatment plant at the far end of the island in the mid-1960s. Also, since the 1970s commercial fishing boats have docked at the state-run fishing pier to stock up on ice and fuel and store their catches.
The city of Portsmouth operates a boat launch on the side of the island nearest the South End. The launch is free for noncommercial use by city residents. For nonresident and commercial rates, see the city website.
Most recently, walking trails have been added that connect five waterfront overlooks, making Peirce Island one of the most scenic and accessible parks in the city. (NOTE: Walking trails are currently closed due to construction at the wastewater treatment plant.)
See also Four Tree Island.