His Place in Portsmouth
The Athenaeum recently acquired a very small but important portrait of one of the more colorful residents of Portsmouth in the early Federal Period. Edward Parry (1766-1834), a native of the island of Anglesea in Wales, arrived in Portsmouth in 1792 with a poor command of English and £230 worth of merchandise to sell. He set up shop in Market Street and quickly found success. In 1794 he married Joanna Chauncey and five years later built a fine mansion on the corner of Pleasant Street and Edward Street (which is named for him) in what is now Haven Park. The house was built in the latest Adamesque fashion and was renowned for its splendid garden which terminated in a battlemented folly known as “Fort Anglesea” fronting on the mill pond. The 1813 map of Portsmouth clearly shows the battlements along the shore of the mill pond, as seen in the detail of the map.
Joanna Parry died in June of 1800 and Edward went to Britain to visit his family. It was probably on this trip that he had his 3-inch high miniature portrait painted by an unidentified artist. He returned to Portsmouth only to see his store burn in the great fire of 1802. When he rebuilt, he placed a marble tablet in the center of the façade which reads: “Burnt Dec. 26th, 1802, when 120 Buildings were destroyed with other property to the amount of 300,000 dollars. Rebuilt, 1803, by Edward Parry.” The tablet may still be seen above the awning of the current J. L. Coombs store at 46 Market Street. Parry rebuilt his fortunes and remarried, to Ruth Collins of Danvers, in 1804. Shipping losses in the War of 1812 ultimately led to Parry’s ruin and he was forced to flee his Portsmouth creditors in 1818. He removed to Baltimore and then to Philadelphia, where he died in 1834.