The present-day site known as Strawbery Banke has a long and rich history, stretching back to the earliest years of English settlement in New England. In 1630 Englishmen chose this tidal inlet of the Piscataqua River as a safe harbor for their first settlement; they called their outpost Strawbery Banke for the profusion of wild berries they found near the river. By the eighteenth century the site was a thriving waterfront neighborhood in an important seaport renamed Portsmouth (in 1653); in the nineteenth century it evolved into an immigrant neighborhood known as Puddle Dock; and by the latter half of the twentieth century it had recaptured its original name, this time as an outdoor history museum. Throughout these centuries of change people lived and worked here, experiencing in a small, personal way, the major events and currents of America's history.
Strawbery Banke, the museum, is dedicated to the study of the lives of these people and others who left their mark on Portsmouth's history. A few are well known: Washington and Lafayette, Daniel Webster and John Paul Jones, Paul Revere and Admiral George Dewey. But most were more typical figures, merchants and seamen, fathers and mothers, native born and immigrant.
Strawbery Banke is unique among outdoor history museums in presenting a authentic neighborhood, with most of the 42 historic buildings on their original foundations. These structures, the earliest dating to 1695, provide our strongest link to the lives of the people who lived in this neighborhood. Some of the houses have been restored and furnished to particular periods in the past; some are used for exhibits on such special themes as architecture or archaeology; still others serve as shops for artisans practicing traditional trades. This variety of uses enables Strawbery Banke to provide a rich opportunity for the exploration of the past.