Read Also: Rethinking Strawbery Banke
Piscataqua region first
settled by European fishermen at what is now Rye, NH
NH settlements set up along the Piscataqua River
at "Strawbery Banke" (named for wild strawberries found there),
Technically the region stretches from Rye to the riverfront area of
Portsmouth, but originally centered at New Castle. One group settles
near the tidal pool at what is to become Puddle Dock.
From a Boston record, a "Mr. Williams of Piscataquak" was
charged with having an enslaved man captured in violation of a
Massachusetts law (because he was seized on the Sabbath). This first
record of African American history is now noted on a plaque at
Prescott Park near Puddle Dock.
Strawbery Banke residents petition to change their parish
name to Portsmouth and to bring the colony under the protection of
Massachusetts. Mass Bay takes over NH and Maine. Rye and New Castle
eventually become separate parishes.
Town divides up all Portsmouth lands among its citizens to
avoid challenge of other earlier land claims.
NH Lieutenant Gov. John Wentworth house built at site of current
museum parking lot, but was torn down in 1926 and the interior
contents sold, in part, to the Metropolitan Museum, alerting some
preservations to the growing loss of local architectural treasures.
Portsmouth becomes a popular and busy American commercial
port trading world wide.
Portsmouth mob sets up protest banner on "liberty pole" set
up at Swing Bridge near current museum site in defiance of British
Stamp Act that helped spark the coming American Revolution.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard established just across the Piscataqua
River in Kittery, ME.
Portsmouth fades as world shipping port and privateering
profits disappear after War of 1812, but city survives with coastal
trade and as a ship building and naval community with fishing.
Houses on Puddle Dock mixed in with brickworks, a dozen wharves,
coal pockets. As century continues, the waterfront falls into
disrepair. Water (Marcy) Street includes more than a dozen
Navy yard helps force closure of the Red Light district along
the dangerous Water Street area, but oral history indicates that the
Puddle Dock tidal pond filled in and the area becomes close-knit
and crowded low-income neighborhood populated by about half
immigrants, half old Portsmouth "Yankee" families. Housing is a
mixture of colonial, new and tenement homes interspersed with
businesses including a number of metal scrap yards.
Thomas Bailey Aldrich House preserved as cityís first house
museum with other independent house museums to follow around town.
Portsmouth celebrates tercentennial of first settler in 1623 and
tries to invigorate a sense of local history.
Portsmouth city officials and local preservationists talk with
National Park Services about what do with the historic South End.
Discussions donít go far and are interrupted by the outbreak of
World War II. Heiresses Josie and May Prescott purchase land along
the waterfront and begin a "beautification" process. Their efforts
remove commercial buildings, bury wharves, plant trees to form a
Librarian Dr. Dorothy Vaughan speaks at
Rotary and "lays it on the line" about the continued destruction of
historic Portsmouth architecture and a plan to combine urban renewal
with historic preservation takes shape. Vaughan will be 100 years
old in 2005.
Strawbery Banke is Incorporated as a preservation agency.
Stockholders invested money, technically not expecting a return.
First annual report issued by president Dorothy Vaughan under the
title "History Incorporated". The concept of SB as an educational
nonprofit museum did not fully evolve until the early 1980s.
Strawbery Banke, Inc designated redeveloper for the
Marcy-Washington Streets Urban Renewal Project. The original plan
was to create an approximate simulation of old Market Square,
centered around the restored Old State House and employing buildings
rescued from destruction from elsewhere in Portsmouth. After meeting
with consultants from other recreated historic village museums, the
idea evolved into preserving the existing older buildings in the
Puddle Dock area as part of the campus. Portsmouth Housing Authority
rules allowed only 25 "deteriorated" houses to be preserved, so
19th and 20th century buildings were
sacrificed. Five newer buildings were saved, including a barn and a
warehouse, to be used as museum buildings. The saved homes dated up
to 1820 only (using the 1813 map of the city as a guide). The idea
evolved to preserve and eventually restore all the surviving houses
to their original appearance then add more buildings to create the
appearance of an 18th century village in a separate
corner of the campus. William Perry, architect of Williamsbug, VA,
submitted a detailed plan that was not adopted. Part of the nine
acre campus was named the "Area to Receive Historic Structures from
Without" where "rescued" historic houses were moved from other areas
Chase house, Wheelwright house restored. Goodwin Mansion moved to
SBM from Islington Street in 1963. Herb garden established in 1965.
Sherburne house restored. Dunaway Store built in 1966.
Strawbery Banke, Inc., acquires official title to 9.5 acres of
the Marcy-Washington Streets Urban Renewal Area.
Opened to the public with just two buildings (Chase and Goodwin)
restored as house museums
Vaughan Street Urban Renewal Project authorized by President
Johnson the morning before he signed the National Historic
Preservation Act in the afternoon. Project thus avoided federal
review of its impact on North End historic buildings.
First guidebook published.
Puddle Dock archaeology project under "pick-and-shovel historian"
Roland Wells Robbins uncovered
a small section of
buried wooden docks near the foot of Atkinson Street.
State of NH moves surviving fragment of Old Statehouse to
Strawbery Banke for purposes of restoration there, but the project
stalls. SBM moves to professional museum staffing by hiring
professional director and curator.
Begun as a multi-faceted project in the 1950s, Portsmouth urban
renewal plan began to take its toll on the North side of town where
400 buildings (200 houses) were razed. Dozens were identified as
historic, but just 13 were preserved on "The Hill" nearby and used
commercially. A group called Portsmouth Preservation Inc was first
to attempt the non-museum market-based preservation approach, but
current tax laws then favored new construction over
Reuben Shapley and Keyran Walsh houses restored. Joshua Wentworth
House moved to from Hanover Street by barge and tugboat in 1973.
Thomas Bailey Aldrich house became a part of the museum in
1979.Carter Center purchased and donated to the museum as a
collection center in 1977. SBM decides to sell two unrestored
buildings outside the fence to private owners under preservation
easements, but the policy was soon abandoned.
Prince Charles of England visits as part of Portsmouth
Museum publishes photo collection book "Historic Portsmouth"
after moving museum library into newly restored Daniel Webster
house. Prescott Park Arts Festival begins across the street bringing
thousands of visitors to outdoor summer events added to its
well-known summer gardens.
SBM accredited by American Association of Museums
First afternoon Candlelight Stroll in winter
draws a few hundred visitors. Today the event draws thousands of
visitors over a two-week period.
Rider-Wood House and William Pitt Tavern restored. Shapley-Drisco
house restored to illustrate two periods in the life of the house,
the original in 1790 and the last in the 1950s. Receipt of very
important Jacob Wendell collection with over 200 pieces of antique
furniture and historic objects.
After three years construction by a nonprofit group, 4,000
onlookers watched gundalow moved by oxen from museum grounds and
launched in the Piscataqua River.
Animosity reaches a peak as a gentrified Portsmouth begins a
tourist renaissance and newcomers move in, but amid a sluggish
economy and a rise in crime and property taxes. City Councilor
Evelyn Marconi, whose Puddle Dock home had been lost to urban
renewal, tells the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine that her
family was evicted to make room for SB. "The revitalization of
Portsmouth was a big flop," she says. "They disemboweled Portsmouth.
They cut out the heart."
25th anniversary celebration
Following new studies of the Old Statehouse, Elaine Krasker of NH
state senate introduces a bill appropriating $1.75 million to
rebuild it there. Senate Bill 247 was killed and the loss of funding
rendered the building project moot. Until then SBM was to entertain
the idea of providing a site for the building if the State of NH
agreed to pay for future staffing and maintenance. Two years later
the building was disassembled and move to a holding trailer in
Concord, NH where it remains.
Restored Abbott Store opened in 1993. Shapiro House restored and
opened in 1997. Reproduction privy created behind Rider-Wood house.
Renovated historic Stoodley's Tavern opened as an education center
in 1997. Museum receives first 7-figure charitable gift. First
role-players added to the museum staff.
Museum featured in special 60-page supplement to Antiques
End of major capital campaign raises $7 million exceeding its
goal, for capital expenses (restorations) and endowment and
Work on a new $2.1 million, 8100 square foot Tyco Museum
Visitorís Center at Strawbery Banke halted to avoid damaging
archeological impact on early Puddle Dock occupation.
Museum gives up management and housing of gundalow that then
forms The Gundalow Company. Receives Hawes porcelain collection.
Receipt of a $2 million gift.
Museum engages company to create a 10-year master plan for the
Museum begins search for its tenth director.
Visit the Strawbery Banke Official Web
Compiled by J.
Dennis Robinson and the NH
Copyright (c) 2004l by
Black and white images
courtesy of Strawbery Banke Museum
Top color photos by Richard