The Sherburne House at Strawbery Banke is the sole existing building from that time period that remains on the Puddle Dock site and is the last physical connection with the earliest period of history at “Strawberry Banke” -- the original name, from the 1600s of the settlement here on the Piscataqua River.
The house offers a sketch of how the first English settlers in Portsmouth lived. When the house was constructed, between 1695 and 1703, English settlers were reproducing the wood-framed English architectural style of the late 1500s, but with American architectural innovations. Exhibit panels in the house describe the changes that were made on the house during the next three centuries and trace the history of Portsmouth and Puddle Dock.
The house was built by Captain John Sherburne. When the Treaty of Portsmouth between the English settlers and the Wabanaki First Nations on the coast was signed in 1713, members of the Sherburne family lived here. Cousins to the Sherburnes who lived at Portsmouth Plains were attacked by a Wabanaki raiding party in 1694. Also part of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, Sherburne House is notable because the Joseph Sherburnes kept two enslaved Africans in the household. As the Trail details,
"Joseph, was a mariner, merchant and farmer. He lived here with his family and two slaves who are listed in a 1744 estate inventory as "one Negro man [pounds] 200, one ditto woman [pounds] 50." The man probably worked for Joseph at sea, on the dock, in his store, and on Joseph's outlying farmland. The woman probably worked for Joseph's wife Mary at food preparation, cleaning, textile production and maintaining the kitchen garden behind the house. White Yankees typically assigned their enslaved people to sleeping space in attics, cellars, and back ells. The black Sherburnes probably slept in the attic of this cellar-less house."