on June 15, 2006
Strawbery Banke is not quite like any other historic village I have ever visited. This is not recreated, this is real. Most of the homes here are on their original location. Five were brought here to preserve them from demolition and the Walsh House was moved 60 feet to allow them to create the Goodwin Mansion Gardens. Beyond that, this is a real neighborhood that has existed for over 300 years. In the center of Strawbery Banke is Puddle Dock. Today it looks like an open meadow but once this was an inland tidal cove and the edges of the dock are still visible. You begin your visit at the Visitor Center. Be prepared for crowds of children, the day we visited there were three bus loads of 5th graders. We just tried to either be in front or behind them but I could not even visit the gift shop, it was that full.Don’t forget to use your AAA card, it will get you $1 off your ticket, or if you stay at the Martin Hill Inn you can purchase a ticket for $13 which will save you $2 per ticket. You begin by watching a 7-minute video "Four Centuries of Living". It will introduce you to the history of Portsmouth and the Strawbery Banke. The name of the whole city was originally Strawbery Banke from the wild strawberries that the sailors found growing there.By the 1950s redevelopment was encroaching everywhere and the whole area was in danger of being torn down and replaced with modern structures. Thank goodness the locals recognized the historic nature of what they had and stopped the wrecking before it cleared the area forever.What you have today are the results of systematic renovation. Some of the buildings are fully furnished, some are partially furnished and some have no furniture at all. Some look as if the family just walked out, others are made into museums. You can learn about architecture and the crafts involved in home building. You will receive a visitors guide when you get your ticket. The guide will tell you what is going on. One June 12th at 11am there were tavern games and entertainment at the Pitt Tavern; A garden tour at 1:00pm; and more. There were ongoing demonstrations of cooking in the Wheelwrights House and Mrs. Tucker was at Abbott’s Store. Mrs. Tucker was the only interpreter in costume and character. Many of the other houses had guides but they were themselves. The houses here run the gamut from the Sherbourne House built in 1695 to the Shapiro House, the home of a Ukrainian Jewish Family in about 1910 and there are plenty of things in between. Some are homes, some are businesses. Plan to spend several hours, maybe even more. There is plenty to read along the way. There are also several gardens, both formal, herb and community along your travels.
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