STRAWBERY BANKE MUSEUM

 


Exterior, seen from the garden and interior sitting room.

THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH HOUSE

For an all-ages introduction to Thomas Bailey Aldrich and his life in Portsmouth, click here.

Thomas Bailey Aldrich was born in 1836 in Portsmouth just a short distance down Court Street from the home of his grandfather, Thomas D. Bailey. While most of his youth was spent elsewhere, Aldrich returned to Portsmouth to live, from 1849 to 1852, with his grandfather in this house facing Court Street.

Thomas Bailey Aldrich married Lilian Woodman in 1865, and they moved to Boston the same year. Aldrich became friends with such literary notables as William Dean Howells, Mark Twain, James T. Fields (another Portsmouth son), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and James Russell Lowell. He was recognized as a man of ability and accomplishment, and in time he succeeded Howells as editor of the Atlantic Monthly, the most important literary magazine of the time.

It was shortly after the move to Boston that Aldrich began to record some thoughts on his own child hood. The result was The Story of a Bad Boy, a fictionalized recollection of adventures and impressions of his years spent in Portsmouth at his grandfather's house on Court Street. Aldrich's Bad Boy is significant as the first realistic treatment of a boy in American literature. It had great influence on other writers including the author's close friend Mark Twain, who six years later wrote a similar story about a similar boy, also named Tom.

Thomas Bailey Aldrich died in 1907 at the age of 70. The house had passed out of the family by then and in the 1880s served as Portsmouth's first hospital. It was repurchased by the Aldrich family and under the direction of Lilian Aldrich, the author's widow, the home and garden were restored as a memorial to him. This was the first historic house museum in Portsmouth and one of the first in the country to be restored to a specific period in its past. Mark Twain was among those who journeyed to Portsmouth for the dedication. The house remained an independent house museum until 1979, when it became part of Strawbery Banke.