October 03, 2003

Strawbery Banke

This is the only day of the whole trip where we weren't travelling. Our main tourist destination in Portsmouth, NH was Strawbery Banke.

In the 1950s, the Puddle Dock neighborhood of Portsmouth was slated for "Urban Renewal" which meant knocking down all the old houses and erecting apartment buildings. History buffs in the city rallied and managed to save the area as a historical park.

There seems to have been extensive, rigorous, and tedious archaeology performed to bring the various buildings and archives back to certain periods in time. The area had been constantly reworked and remodelled over the decades of its existence (the original settlement was in the 17th century), so rather than bringing the whole area back to a single period, they have concentrated on representing certain periods with each house as appropriate.

The Sherburne House shows 17th century construction techniques by highlighting the remaining portions of the original structure. The Shapiro house shows it as it was in the early 19th century when it was inhabited by an immigrant Jewish family. The Shapley-Drisco House shows the abode of a 17th century sea trader side by side with the 1950s household that it became 200 years later. A building that had served as a general store in WWII has been restored to its condition in that era, complete with shelves stocked with reproductions of the products available at that time. There are a couple dozen more buildings all with different focuses.

Many of the houses have docents whom we found to be uniformly well-informed and helpful with questions. Some of them were in character for the site with canned speeches, but even those were very natural and eager to interact with visitors.

There are also various gardens on the site, including an herb garden and a WWII Victory Garden.

The parts I personally enjoyed the most were the Lowd House, where they had displays of the tools used by various trades including cutaway displays of furniture construction, but the best of all was the Dinsmore Shop where a gentleman who works on the site as a cooper (maker of barrels and other stave-built objects like buckets) was out splitting red oak with a froe and talking to the people who came by. It was great fun to watch him work and talk about the wood he was working with and the process and history of barrel-making. Hand tool cooperage was basically dead as a craft by the mid- to late-19th century with automation taking the place of the craftsmen who had provided storage and shipping containers for centuries.

I didn't take any pictures at Strawbery Banke (at least none worth posting here) since they discourage indoor photography and there wasn't much to the buildings themselves to my eye. Plus my batteries were all dead.

We returned to Ann & John & Jeannie's place for another lovely meal and evening of conversation.

Posted by jeffy at October 3, 2003 10:13 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?