Strawbery Banke Museum began as a “save our history” effort by the citizens of Portsmouth. In the late 1950s, Puddle Dock, an area of dilapidated homes near the Piscataqua River was targeted for urban renewal. All the “substandard” homes in Puddle Dock — some of which dated back to the 1600s — were to to torn down and replaced with modern buildings. That was until city librarian Dorothy Vaughn addressed the Portsmouth Rotary Club one day in 1957.
That day Vaughn “laid it on the line” for the Rotary Club, telling them that every time one of the old houses was torn or an antique piece of Portsmouth furniture shipped out of town, the city was losing its past. The Rotary Club was galvanized into action, and while Puddle Dock did undergo urban renewal, much of it has been saved as a historic museum.
Named after the earliest Portsmouth settlement, Strawbery Banke Museum, today on the 9.5 acre museum grounds are buildings from four centuries displayed as living history. Each building shows a slice of life from a bygone era, and serious archeological and crafts work continues to be done by staff and artisans on the museum grounds.