I had read mixed views about this living museum. I wasn’t sure if it would be like Beamish in County Durham, which I visited nearly 30 years ago. We nevertheless decided to take a detour on our trip from New England to Boston via Portsmouth, an historic town with a busy merchant history.
Like Beamish does with Northern England, Strawbery Banke seeks to provide an experience of how people lived and worked in this typical American neighborhood through nearly four centuries of history. Using restored houses, exhibits and historic gardens, Strawbery Banke tells the stories of the many generations who settled in Portsmouth, New Hampshire USA from the late l7th to the mid-20th century.
The houses now located at Strawberry Banke (named after the wild fruits that grew there) were rescued from the urban renewal programme of the 1950s.
These historic properties were earmarked for destruction, in much the way the Victorian and Georgian slums of London were bulldozed. For the US to have such historic properties was almost a unique problem for the city planner.
While the architecture seemed very simple compared to that in the UK of the same period to which I am used (it is a common theme throughout my trips to the US: everything is simpler, the craftsmanship not as fine), the highlight for me was the character actors dotted around various properties. They stay in character 100 per cent of the time, so of course you can have fun asking them all sorts of weird and wonderful questions. They behave as though the house you are visiting is indeed theirs!
When visited: September 2013