We visited Portsmouth, New Hampshire after leaving Kennebunkport. A beautiful old city with a downtown area that we could have spent days in. The reason for our visit was to experience this museum.
Strawbery Banke was the name given a small tidal inlet off the the Atlantic ocean by the first European visitors to the area. They named it after the wild strawberries they found growing in abundance. It was the first settlement of what was to become Portsmouth.
The inlet and adjoining neighborhood was know as Puddle Dock from the 1600’s until the mid 1900’s. It was first a fishing village, then a port of entry for goods from around the globe, being brokered by locals living and working from their homes. As the industrial revolution took hold, the area became home to immigrants from around the world. The inlet was filled in with rubble and became a park surrounded by junkyards and rental property. Urban renewal called for destroying the entire area in the early 1960’s. That is when a few folks realized the history of the neighborhood was too rich to be torn down. They created the Strawbery Banke Museum.
All the buildings within the museum, except for four, are on their original locations. There is one that dates from the late 1600’s.
Thirty six different buildings, restored to their original appearance.
The homes are restored to their most important time in history. Most from the 1800’s, but the 1950’s are also represented. Gardens, stables, taverns; They’re all there.
Each day different homes have docents appearing in period dress, giving the story of the home.
Some of the buildings are still being restored. Notice the old board siding?
Nothing was wrong with my camera. Waves in the old window glass.
Each one give a different view of what life was like for their occupants during a specific time period. From an importers home of 1830,
equipped with a shower,
to the local grocery store of the 1940’s.
There was also a temporary exhibit showing the history of six different immigrant families that moved into the neighborhood in the early 1900’s. It gave a short history of each family, along with many family artifacts.
This family came from Italy, and the display contained their naturalization papers, as well as a favorite pizza pan.
Puddle Dock was a neighborhood much like thousands of others. Made up of people doing what they had to do to make a living. First the fishermen, then the businessmen; to be replaced with immigrants looking for a new beginning in a new Country. What sets it apart is that the neighborhood, and it history, has been preserved.
Puddle Dock, as it appears today.
Filled in, and covered with grass. It’s hard to picture it as a small muddy inlet that gave birth to a neighborhood. A neighborhood which is in it’s fourth century….jc