We set out for Portsmouth this morning after filling up on Karen’s home-made granola for breakfast. It was a 5 mile bike ride back across the river and seemed quite warm for the morning, but we pressed on. We didn’t have any specific plans for sightseeing, but I had seen signs for something called the Strawberry Banke Museum. We decided to start there. The town that became Portsmouth was originally called Strawberry Banke by the English sailors who explored this part of the New World. Apparently wild strawberries were quite abundant in this area and were noticed by the English who named the new town accordingly. At some point, town muckety-mucks decided that Strawberry Banke wasn’t going to cut it for the name of an up-and-coming colonial city, and renamed the city Portsmouth.
The museum is quite remarkable in that the property covers several small city blocks (about 10 blocks) and spans over 300 years of Portsmouth history. It reminded me of Williamsburg, VA, with its many houses and gardens to tour, but this museum covers so much more than just the colonial era of its history. Originally there was a small inlet called Puddle Dock that was the main wharf for the burgeoning city. The museum includes homes from that era, including the oldest home in Portsmouth, the Sherburne House. Other structures date from Portsmouth’s boom and bust times through the late 1800s. To make way for more housing, Puddle Dock was filled in and homes repurposed to house the waves of European immigrants arriving in the 1900s. Homes representing this time period, up through World War II are also available to tour. Strawberry Banke Museum is well-curated and has a lot of interesting things to see. We got to try out weaving on a loom and spoke with a tavern keeper role player from the 1750s. I feel a little awkward talking with the role players, but Alan always jumps right in and learns interesting things from them. I felt like we only scratched the surface of this museum because it was blindingly hot. Crazy hot. I felt bad for some of the girls dressed in colonial period garb: wool socks, petticoats, dresses, shawls and caps. They stayed in character well, despite the heat. After a few house tours, both Alan and I couldn’t do it anymore and left to find some ice cream.
More photos from today:
We rode back to Karen’s house and took her out to dinner in Kittery Point. We had a great meal at The Black Birch restaurant in Kittery’s downtown area called the Foreside. We had been anticipating rain all day and it finally started coming down as we got back to Karen’s house. We’ll do laundry tonight and wait out the rain tomorrow before continuing on through Maine.