For close to two weeks we’ve enjoyed the company of my California sister, a potter, and my Virginia sister and husband, both archaeologists and great history buffs. Yesterday was the last day for them and today the house seems eerily quiet today. We’ve spent our time on the go exploring the sights of New Hampshire, Maine and a side trip to Lexington and Concord for the two archaeologists and lots of of art for the potter sister.
We visited the Portsmouth Historical Society’s Discover Portsmouth Center and the Seacoast African-American Cultural Center and learned much about local history before we ventured into Portsmouth to enjoy the rich architectural styles and plethora of shops and restaurants.
Shopping and sightseeing in Portsmouth electrified everyone’s sense of taste, touch, smell, sound and sight. We drifted in and out of buildings and up and down the old streets of this historic town for much of a day.
Later in the week, Strawbery Banke delighted my family. An outdoor history museum, it’s a neighborhood first settled in 1630, then spans the next four centuries of habitation. We thought we might be only interested in the oldest house, the 1695 John Sherburne House.
But we were surprised to discover a potter at Strawbery Banke and spent time getting to know Steven Zoldak who is skilled at intricate carving and design. Yes, he and my sisters knew several potters in common and, yes, we all bought his wares….
An adorable Mrs. Shapiro, complete with Russian accent, greeted us in the 20th-century home of Russian-Jewish immigrants. She showed us how to drink tea by first placing a sugar cube on the front teeth and sipping tea through it. The home was completely furnished, soup on the stove, dining table set for Shabbes or Sabbath dinner, and family photographs proudly displayed throughout.
We spent the next couple of hours meeting folks in character in different homes. In the Pitt Tavern, we met the owner’s daughter who greeted us and said word is arriving about the sad deaths in the Revolutionary War. Although the Marquis de Lafayette (a favorite of my brother-in-law) lodged at the tavern, the mistress knew nothing of this since she was in character for the beginning of the war, before his visit.
Among other buildings, we toured a twentieth-century grocery store, a weaving shop, and the Victorian gardens at the mansion of Sarah Goodwin, the wife of the former New Hampshire governor, Ichabod Goodwin. There we met Sarah dead-heading her flowers in her colorful garden.
Having been raised in Williamsburg, Virginia, I think it’s difficult not to have have a critical eye when touring other restored areas BUT we delighted in Strawbery Banke and the colorful 400 years of history. It’s a not-to-miss adventure.