Welcome back to Portsmouth, New Hampshire's only sea port. In Yesterday's Article we had a look at the town from the water - today we will explore a bit inland.
The community's primary museum has a unique approach. It is named after the settlement's early name.
This living museum was the result of the efforts of a few people who really cared about this area's history. Back in 1950's and 60's Strawbery Banke was only a corporation that existed on paper. One of the early members talked about how day after day old structures were falling to the wrecking ball. He made it his business to get up before dawn and salvage what pieces he could from houses that were being demolished.
A mantle here, an iron railing there - bit by bit a collection was established. By the mid sixties this ten acre plot was recognized as having structures on it that spanned four centuries. Through a local historical preservation act they were able to spare this section from the wrecking ball. (The Strawberry Banke website says the site was saved from the urban renewal programs in 1956.)
Today, the site has ten houses that are open to the public, each representing a unique era in history. Volunteers dress in period dress and talk about what life was like in those eras.
Numerous areas are set up to show various skilled tradesman in their day and many workshops are given to teach folks the skills their ancestors used to survive in this area.
Each home is furnished with period furnishings, allowing one to walk see a large chunk of Americana.
There are even a couple of grocery stores set up with period products.
The most recent home is WWII era - I found this poser interesting.
There are numerous other bits and pieces of local, state and national history. It is a great setting if you like to wander a museum at your own pace and experience the setting as well as the relics.
This old church had an interesting background. It seems there was an old wooden church on this site, but account say drunken revelers burned it down. Early church records show a "scout" was watching the locals closely - aghast that the average resident consumed "13 gallons of rum in every 3 month period." The parish deemed another church necessary, but built this one out of stone so there couldn't be a repeat performance on the burning. Another old account wasn't quite so dramatic though - it just says that locals dismantled the church one winter for firewood.
All throughout town there are examples of architecture from various periods.
I love the intricate exterior decorations that used to be incorporated. The slate shingles almost look like fish scales.
Another piece of local history is the revival of the old barges that ferried freight from the inland cities to the harbor. These barges were referred to as "Gundalows."
Company brochure photo
They not only took advantage of the areas fast running tides, they also added a sail to help power them along.
The Gundalow Company has built a replica of one of these old craft, and operates it as a tourist river excursion boat.
There were numerous old bridges along the route, so the sails were a sort of cantilever setup so they could be dropped when necessary.
As you take the two hour cruise out to the mouth of the harbor and back, volunteers talk about the history of commerce and the role of these barges. Much to his delight, the boy in the photo was allowed to steer the boat a good portion of the return trip.
To get to the towns furthest up the river, sometimes a boat had to ride two or even three tides, anchoring when the waters ran the other way. The decks were usually stacked with brick, lumber or leather goods that were then offloaded and packed to ship to distant ports.
It really is a pretty sail out and back - I recommend the sunset cruise if you can make it.
There is an active Coast Guard presence here - three large ship that operate out of this location.
Like nearby Portland Maine, a devastating fire in 1808 brought on a city ordinance that all structures had to be made of brick.
The name "Strawbery Banke" came from the large number of wild strawberries in the area. This was the destination of Paul Revere's famous ride - he came here to warn them that the British were coming. The British actually headed to Portland Maine and bombarded the city. But for the time being the locals moved their capital inland.
There are a number of things I found interesting in the downtown - first it seems that at least one bank has escaped the ravages of inflation.
I also like the unique signage created when you don't have the big box stores all over. Here are a couple I that show some craftsmanship:
Murals are always interesting too.
Although the meaning is often obscure.
The day I arrived the downtown area was shut down for an annual bike race.
The faces of athletes exerting themselves always make interesting subjects.
This guy pulled way out in front of the pack and had a huge lead about halfway through the race. The announcers all but gave him the race.
But the pack overcame him and beat him handily. Its the old tortoise and hare story.
There were a large number of kids and numerous volunteers that helped them fix and adjust their bicycles.
I loved the helmet and facial expressions of this particular boy.
And that brings us to today's "Faces in the Crowd." These two men were watching intently as we came in on the boat.
Somehow Apple phones just don't seem very "monkish."
And for my Irish friends out there - a restaurant sign from back in Maine.
If you can contribute a few dollars to help with this project, please Click Here. You can email me at CaptureAmerica1@gmail.com.
Make it a great day !!