2.10.2014

Strawbery Banke

Walking through Strawbery Banke is like slipping seamlessly through the centuries. Time travel is as effortless as walking into a new doorway, or peering into another window.



Strawbery Banke, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire is an outdoor history museum. This neighborhood, named after the wild berries growing on the banks of the Piscataqua River, was settled in 1630, and each house is decorated in a different era from the neighborhood's history, all the way down to the 1950's. None of these homes are replicas. This was a real neighborhood, that housed four centuries of people, four centuries of lives, of births and deaths, of joys and tragedies.




It was a breezy, warm October day when we strolled through this old neighborhood, full of whispers of times long past. It was a quiet weekday, not many other visitors were there, and the mostly empty homes and paths became a blank canvas for my imagination. I could see neighbors visiting in the lanes, spreading news of the Battle of Lexington and Concord or discussing the merits and dangers of the new Declaration of Independence as they borrowed butter or milk from each other. I imagined big hoop skirts swishing through doorways as ladies called on one another, hands wringing in worry over neighborhood boys off to fight in a Civil War. I imagined a more modern day scene, kids playing marbles in the dirt, talking in hushed whispers of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, or singing to the tune of Duck and Cover that they had watched in school.






There is not an era in New England's history that remains untouched here. I enjoyed weaving in and out of the decades and centuries. I relished in the little surprises, like wandering into a home built in the 18th century, but set up as the 1940's home of a Russian-Jewish immigrant family, the Shapiro's; a real family that lived in the house at that time.





There is not another place that I've been that does as good a job of encapsulating the totality of New England's history in a single place. And it is done in one of the most beautiful settings in our region. The spirit of each generation that made this place home is strong and can be felt in the turning of a door knob or in the creak of wood floors. It is place where ordinary people lived quiet lives, and watched as this country morphed from a far-flung colony of the British Empire to a mid-twentieth century world powerhouse. And treading on the same paths and hallways of these ordinary New Englanders is a day well spent.

12 comments:

  1. It really is a cool place. Peter and I went to Portsmouth for our anniversary a few years ago and spent a day at Strawbery Banke. We really enjoyed it. Your pictures and writing are, as always, superb. I'm excited that you're being recognized by Yankee magazine!

    ReplyDelete
  2. My sister and I visited Stawbery Banke last July . It was my sister from the UK's first visit to New England and was a nice introduction for her to understand the history of the area.
    It looks so much nicer in your photos, the day we visited it poured with rain but we still enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is another place you have whet my appetite for - I think I will need to plan a New England vacation and hit all of these wonderful spots. Congrats on the Yankee Magazine gig!

    ReplyDelete
  4. That looks a wonderful place. We visited New England last year and it was just amazing.We are in love with the place!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've lived in New England for almost 11 years and have never heard of Strawberry Banke. We'll have to check it out on one of our excursions to New Hampshire this summer.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is on my list of places to go! Looking forward to seeing the next Yankee Mag with your article. I just forwarded the blog article to everyone I know- gorgeous photos!

    ReplyDelete
  7. So dang beautiful! Your photography is just as good as your writing!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I visited Portsmouth this past January and was able to drive by those buildings but sadly not visit cause it was closed! Very nice post, Aly, as I can see what I have to look forward to when the weather gets warmer!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great post, Aly! I just visited Portsmouth this past January and was able to drive by these buildings. They're closed for the season now, obviously, but now I have an idea of what I get to look forward to when the weather gets warmer!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great post, Aly! I just visited Portsmouth this past January and was able to drive by these buildings. They're closed for the season now, obviously, but now I have an idea of what I get to look forward to when the weather gets warmer!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for posting pictures of Strawberry Banke. We stumbled on the museum 10 years ago and have been back several times. We used to fly into Boston from SLC, but now fly into Hartford.

    ReplyDelete
  12. How did I miss the whole writeup about you, your house and your village?! At least it made it a treat for me to read today!

    ReplyDelete