Strawbery Banke Museum is a rich core sample of an ever-changing America. The ten-acre museum campus, New Hampshire's earliest neighborhood, began as a British plantation on a tidal inlet. Abandoned by its founders in 1635, the settlement "accidentally" named Strawberry Bank survived to become New Hampshire's only seaport. A century later the bustling Portsmouth waterfront was home to royal governors, tall ships, skilled artisans, and wealthy merchants. When the maritime economy crashed and the city burned in the nineteenth century, the "Puddle Dock" neighborhood drew waves of immigrant families to its ancient low-rent buildings. Then in the twentieth century, fearful of urban "blight," a federal redevelopment project went off here like a neutron bomb. The population and the junkyards disappeared, but a grassroots preservation movement saved many historic buildings from the bulldozers of progress.
Rich with pictures and painstakingly researched, this work is actually two books in one.
The first tracks 400 years of history along the Piscataqua River with dramatic tales that will surprise even New Hampshire natives-and reads like a thrilling adventure novel. The story then goes behind the scenes to the controversial founding of Strawbery Banke Museum in 1958. Tapping into private letters, unpublished records and personal interviews, the author explores the politics of preservation in a small blue-collar city. Always lively, this highly readable history tracks modern Portsmouth from a gritty working seaport to a cultural heritage destination, assessing what is gained and what is lost along the way.
J. DENNIS ROBINSON is editor and owner of the popular regional web site SeacoastNH.com.An educator, audio and video producer, lecturer, and columnist, Robinson has published over a thousand articles on local history and culture. His most recent books include Wentworth by the Sea: The Life and Times of a Grand Hotel. He lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with his wife.