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Day 50 (10.21.07) - A Submarine & Two Museums

We are again heading south, stopping at anything that looks interesting and quite a splended section of very old Portsmouth, New Hampshire


Miles Driven: 46
Weather: Clear sky's, sunny and warm (mid to high 60's F)

Summary: Drove South along Maine Coast on Hwy 1, Stopped at "Johnson Hall Museum" in Maine, the "USS Albacore" Submarine Park and "Strawbery Banke Museum" in Portsmouth New Hampshire. Camping at Wal-mart.

Well, we have finally left Maine! We drove through some interesting looking coastal communites, quaint if a bit 'touristy'. Somehow, we managed to keep going but with the fine weather we have today I could see spending a day or two in some of them. I briefly turned into a US Post Office, thinking I could ship another box home. Mom was somewhat embarrassed when we realized it was Sunday and closed. Maybe that's a good sign - we're having so much fun we lost track of what day it was?

Before we left Maine however, there was an odd looking assortment of old buildings in Kennebunk. The sign said "Open". One of the buildings had a "Cummings" sign on it. Curious, we found a place to turn around and went back. The sign said "Johnson Hall Museum", and another said "$5 to walk through it". The chain was pulled to the side and another sign on the front door said "Open". This was very odd however because the front door was locked and nobody seemed to be anywhere around. It looks like someone (?) is trying to assemble old buildings and items to form a museum or historic village, but isn't very far along (most are in major need of refurbishment). Also, many of the items (museum exhibits?) are outside and had clearly been rained on, which doesn't seem like something a normal museum would allow.

Tonight I tried to find something about this place on the internet and there doesn't seem to be much information. True to form however, we took some pictures before moving on. The "Cummings" building was an old railroad depot. I found a place called "Cummings" on Mapquest and on the USGS web site (as a populated place in Maine), but couldn't find it on the US Postal Service web site or the Census web site, so if it existed, it may not any more or may have been absorbed by another town. An interesting tidbit in the 'Cummings' family history? The other three buildings shown are listed as from 1880, 1783, and 1901 (left to right). There were other buildings but I don't know anything about them so just uploaded these to give you an idea what sorts of things were at this odd place.


At least we didn't spend much time there since they were closed (in spite of the signs). With that, we got to New Hampshire in fairly short order. Immediately after crossing the bridge (on the Hwy 1 bypass I believe), we saw a submarine on the side, not in the water however. A sign said "USS Albacore Park" and it looked like there was a driveway so we turned inside. It was indeed a submarine that was rescued from target practice, restored and set up as a park.


She was built in Portsmouth, NH in 1953 and was the first modern shaped (round hull) submarine. The Navy used it to test different concepts, such as rudders, dive breaks, and sonar equipment and at the time it was built - it was the fastest and most maneuverable submarine in the world.

In 1989 it was made a National Historic Landmark, in 2000 the Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark and Historical Welded Structure, and in 2005 the Submarine Hll of Fame - of course I had never heard of most of these.

But what is really cool is that you can walk through it (or should I say Climb). Mom even decided to tackle the hatches and seemed to really enjoy going through an actual submarine! The submarine is set up with boxes so as you go through it, you can press a butten and hear an audio explanation of the room(s) and also some crew experiences.

I expected that space on a submarine would be at a premium, but even so the scale really surprised me. It's hard to imagine how men could even get into or turn around in some of the spaces essential for living and working. (It is very late and all these photo's have labels & descriptions attached to them, so I'll just post the thumbnails in roughly the same order as when you walk through the submarine. If you want to know more about a picture, just click on it to enlarge it and see the description).


There is also a small museum in a separate building that has some additional information and exhibits, including a photo of the submarine when it was operational.


They do have a web site if you'd like to learn more:


Now, for why we really came to Portsmouth - in the Travel Guide I had read about a place called "Strawbery Banke" (The Museum choose to mispell Strawberry, just as the early settlers did. Maybe I'm not the only poor speller out there?). When the area was first explored by Europeans, they were impressed by the wild strawberries growing by the river bank and decided it would be a good place to settle. Over the years, the town grew and was renamed Portsmouth in about 1850, which they thought sounded more sophisticated. The town grew and changed over the years, the old dock area's were no longer needed as manufacturing replaced maritime activies and fell into disrepair. After WWII, the governments 'Urban Renewal' projects started to tear down old inner cities to build modern spaces. Fortunately a few folks realized the value of preserving history and established a Museum of many of the oldest and most historic houses that hadn't been razed yet. Most are still at their original locations, but a few buildings of special historic value have also moved to the museum site, such as the Goodwin Mansion.

Today the museum is open year round and has 'interpreters' (rather than docents?) and often roll-playing characters in period costume (and full period character, as Mom found out). I suspect there is a lot more going on during the peak summer tourist season, but we did see demonstrations of spinners and 1790's cooking and role players for Mrs. Shapiro, Mrs. Goodwin, and Mrs. Walsh in their homes.

Again, it is very late - so for tonight I'll just post the thumbnails. To see the descriptions just click to enlarge. Also, they have a fairly thorough web site. If you click on "Learn & Explore", then "Buildings & Exhibits", you can get much better descriptions of the buildings and their history then I could ever write:


I also took some video's of the people (with permission), so will try to add those later (and maybe expand on the descriptions also)

General Scenes of Village:


Sherburne House (1695/1703 - Oldest surviving house in NH):


Shapiro House (As in about 1910, Russian Jewish Immigrants):


Abbot Store (As it looked about 1943):


1790's Cooking:


Walsh House (some details only):


Aldrich Musuem:


Goodwin Mansion:


Pitt Tavern:


Now, if this seems like a lot - just be glad I didn't upload all 357 pictures I took today!

Posted by jl98584 21:25 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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Hmm. Thomas Aldrich and the Aldrich house. Do you realize that he is probably a relative of ours?

by msj

Yes I suspect so, main reason I posted his picture up here. Haven't had time to try to look him up yet though. The museum info says 'Thomas Bailey Aldrich was born in 1836 in Portsmouth, NH. Maybe Uncle Bob can figure out the link.

by jl98584

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