Monday, November 3, 2008

Strawbery Banke: A Seaport Museum 400 Years in the Making

NH Books

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. 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 Tapping into private letters, unpublished records and personal interviews, the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.

About the author:

J. Dennis Robinson is editor and owner of the popular regional Web site An

award-winning author of over ten titles, 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 juvenile biographies of outlaw Jesse James and Maryland founder Lord Baltimore, and

Wentworth by the Sea: The Life and Times of a Grand Hotel. He recently received a commendation for

Best History Writer (2007) from NH Magazine, among other awards. He lives in Portsmouth, New

Hampshire, with his wife Maryellen Burke.

About the photographers Ralph Morang, Richard Haynes Jr., Douglas Armsden:

Richard Haynes Jr. earned a Master of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute in New York. Born in the South,

he is currently a noted New Hampshire painter, educator, and activist.

Ralph Morang grew up in Rye, and his family has been involved with Strawbery Banke since the

1960s. He has been a freelance -photographer and photojournalist in the -seacoast for thirty years.

Douglas Armsden photographed Strawbery Banke in its founding years. Born in 1920, he lives in

Kittery Point, Maine.

No comments:

Post a Comment