FINDING HOME: Stories from a Neighborhood of Newcomers

In 2014, Strawbery Banke Museum presented Finding Home: Stories from a Neighborhood of Newcomers, detailing the arrival, experiences and lifestyle of immigrants in the waterfront neighborhood of Puddle Dock. The exhibit focused on the “Great Wave” of immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when immigrants from the Canadian Maritimes, Ireland, Italy, Greece and the Ukraine, along with others, created a richer cultural mosaic in the neighborhoods at the mouth of the Piscataqua River. 

The “Finding Home” exhibit included maps, personal items of immigrants to Portsmouth, archaeological artifacts that help characterize life on Puddle Dock and an opportunity for visitors to record their own personal family stories from neighborhoods of newcomers across New Hampshire and beyond. These oral histories will be archived at Strawbery Banke Museum and the Portsmouth Athenaeum, becoming tools for future research and preserving chapters of personalized American history.

 “Finding Home” introduced visitors to

  • Daniel Riordan, who immigrated from Ireland in 1883, worked at the Portsmouth Brewing Company and lived with his wife Ellen in a rented flat in the Thales Yeaton House.  
  • John Stavers, English-born proprietor of Pitt Tavern, who made a new life and enjoyed a booming business in New Hampshire’s colonial capital.
  • The Shapiro Family, who joined two dozen Ukrainian Jewish households in Portsmouth at the turn of the century as Mr. Shapiro ran a pawn shop and was instrumental in the founding of Temple Israel in 1905.

Finding Home traced the history of an expanding community on Puddle Dock through the stories of individual triumph and tragedy. Strawbery Banke is the site of an annual US Naturalization Ceremony on July 4th, witness to over 100 candidates from 50 or more countries each year taking the oath of US citizenship, making Strawbery Banke a shrine to the American tradition of welcoming newcomers to this ‘nation of immigrants.