Up until a year ago, I had never heard of Strawberry Banke, New Hampshire. Strawberry Banke is a re-created village, not unlike Williamsburg, Virginia, located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. As far as I knew, Portsmouth was a landmark town on the way to Maine during family vacations. I did not know that Portsmouth has a rich seaport history and many devoted citizens who wish to preserve it.
My interest in Portsmouth was first piqued by Judith Livingston Loto, past president of the Antiques Dealers Association of America. Her opening remarks at the 2014 Award of Merit dinner concerning award recipient and furniture authority Brock Jobe held me spellbound. What was this place that Brock Jobe considered important enough to devote an entire encyclopedic book on the furniture of Portsmouth? I had to know!
By the way - here is a shameless plug for the Antiques Dealers Association of America's Award of Merit dinner. All are welcome to attend. I specifically enjoy this convivial evening because of the inspiring award recpients. In 2016, Joan & Victor Johnson will receive this special honor. The Award of Merit dinner corresponds with the Philadelphia Antiques Show in April. For me, it is always an evening well spent.
Back to Strawberry Banke. Imagine the banks of a river, in this case, the Piscataqua River, covered with fields of wild strawberries. Imagine weary seafaring travelers arriving on this shore in 1630 discovering these ruby gems. A logical name, Strawberry Banke, stuck with this area until 1653, when the inhabitants petitioned to have the name changed to Portsmouth, another logical choice for a thriving port.
Puddle Dock was a small inlet along the Piscataqua River shoreline at Strawberry Banke. Naturally, earliest inhabitants from the 1600's to 1800's built homes and shops around this useful inlet. Fast forward. As America expanded, this tiny inlet lost its original usefulness and was completely filled in by 1907.
Puddle Dock once occupied the current green of Strawberry Banke
Expansion of Portsmouth continued.The desire to preserve the Puddle Dock/ Strawberry Banke area became increasingly important to local citizens. A dedicated group of volunteers brought about the incorporation of Strawberry Banke in 1958. Nearly forty buildings comprise the restored village.
The July 1992 edition of The Magazine Antiques features a number of articles related to Strawberry Banke including topics such as textiles, buildings, furniture, metals, ceramics, glass and gardens.
In particular, I enjoyed the furniture, textiles, wallpaper and the gardens.Bring the kids to Strawberry Banke. There are numerous opportunities for children to participate in a variety of ways. Group games organized by the docents, quiet activities for tired children, dress ups for boys and girls-the choices are endless and well planned.
Docents are available in many buildings for self guided tours. Well labeled placards answer most frequently asked questions. The price of a ticket ($20.00 adults, $10.00 children 5-17, Free for children under 5 years old) will cover two days at the village. I easily spent two days there.
The construction of a door
Portsmouth has a variety of fine restaurants, hotels, and Bed & Breakfast inns. I highly recommend the Martin Hill B & B. Rooms were comfortable, quiet, and had every necessary convenience. Breakfast was delicious and beautifully presented. Russ the innkeeper, is charming. We had dinner at the Martingale. If you can gain an outdoor table you will enjoy the view of the Piscataqua. Portsmouth is a VERY lively town with lots to see and do. Parking is difficult in downtown Portsmouth. With careful planning you will enjoy a memorable visit.
View from Martingale Restaurant on Bow Street