Birthday weekend marks Puddle Dock area's role in development of NH, nation

June 19. 2014 1:11AM
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NEW HAMPSHIRE: Honoring the Seacoast's spirit of independence, Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth celebrates its ties to the state's heritage and nation's history with a free peek at 300 years of life in the Puddle Dock neighborhood. Admission fees will be waived for New Hampshire residents on Saturday and Sunday. 

Saturday will mark the 226th birthday both of the U.S. Constitution and New Hampshire.

Honoring that spirit of independence, Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth celebrates its ties to the state’s heritage with a free peek this weekend at 300 years of history in the Puddle Dock Neighborhood.

The dates for the state and the Constitution birthdays are the same because it was New Hampshire’s vote to ratify the Constitution — the ninth of a “super majority” of the 13 colonies — that created the United States. The Constitution had been drafted and signed on Sept. 17, 1787, in Philadelphia after three months of debate led by George Washington. Ratification by six colonies came quickly, but it took until June for New Hampshire’s legislators to approve.

Strawbery Banke created New Hampshire Week as a thank-you gift of sorts. Admission will be waived for New Hampshire residents between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the museum, 14 Hancock St.

Visitors are invited to explore the 10-acre outdoor history museum, which features 25 historic buildings and eight gardens, costumed role-players, traditional crafts and hands-on activities for adults, children and families. Entry also includes the special exhibit, “Finding Home: Stores from a Neighborhood of Newcomers.”

“Strawbery Banke (shares in) the history of the state and the nation, as it occurred in the same waterfront Portsmouth neighborhood for the past three centuries,” said Lawrence J. Yerdon, the museum’s president and chief executive officer, said. “Just as New Hampshire is the state that made the nation by voting to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Portsmouth is where New Hampshire began in 1623 with an English settlement named ‘Strawberry Banke’...”

For example, the Pitt Tavern during the War for Independence rang with arguments between city residents who were wealthy merchant Loyalists allied to the crown and a growing band of Patriots, some of whom carried out the first act of the Revolution by liberating gunpowder from the local British garrison at Fort William and Mary. The names of the restored houses at Strawbery Banke echo prominent merchant families — Shapley, Walsh, Wheelwright and Chase — while other Portsmouth citizens, John Langdon and William Whipple, were signers of the Declaration of Independence and delegates to New Hampshire’s Constitutional Convention. Stoodley’s Tavern, now the museum’s Education and Administration Center, was the place Paul Revere stopped when he traveled to Portsmouth in December 1774 to warn of the buildup of British troops who would need that gunpowder.

“Strawbery Banke continues to make history,” Yerdon said of ensuing years and milestones. “Each Fourth of July, the museum hosts a naturalization ceremony as part of its ...“An American Celebration,” welcoming new citizens in an historic neighborhood that has woven newly-arrived immigrants into the tapestry of the national family for centuries.”

Pitt Tavern alone has seen its share of visitors, from President George Washington during his inaugural tour in 1789 to President Barack Obama the day after he accepted his party’s nomination in September 2012, he said.

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