Portsmouth: New Hampshire’s Historic Seaport
By Esha Samajpati
Dinner by the Dock
As the sun began to fade, we drove to Newick’s Lobster House in nearby Dover. Located by the scenic shores of the Great Bay, the dock is a working waterfront for local lobster fishermen.
We were greeted at the door by Wes Rogers, Director of Operations and then introduced to Jack Newick, owner of Newick’s Lobster Houses. There are two of those in New Hampshire and one in South Portland, Maine.
We had expected a typical dinner in a seafood joint; little did we know that Jack and Wes had planned a tour of the surrounding dock especially for us. As the last rays of the sun faded over the horizon, the four of us walked out to the jetty. Lobster cages, crates, barrels, fishing rods, live baits and small boats lined the water’s edge, the air was salty and Jack had stories to tell.
“I’m a lobster fisherman who fell into the restaurant business,” Jack assured us. It’s not often that you see the restaurant owner himself take pride in fishing and sailing. Well, Jack is not your ordinary businessman.
In 1984, Jack dived down 15-20 feet underwater and saved a life from the treacherous waters of the Great Bay, but he would much rather talk about the joys of fishing or his sons, one of whose boats we saw in the distance.
A former member of the Coast Guard, Jack was ‘lobstering’ since he was all of eight. These days, he keeps tabs on the stock market and in his free time, builds playhouses for his grand-kids. But he maintains, “My heart is in the water.”
“The restaurant seats over 600 people,” Wes chimed in. An avid surfer, Wes has been working in Newick’s for most of his life. He enjoys being near the water and does a pretty good job of managing the eateries.
I realized how huge the place was as we walked in, past the store, the lobster tanks and into the dining area. As for the food, I don’t think I have to mention how deliciously fresh my baked seafood platter was. After all, the dock’s just outside! The chips were crunchy and made in-house. The lobster sliders my husband ordered were perfect as was the evening.
Back to the Inn
Soon we were back at the Anchorage Inns and Suites, where we had put up for the night. Located conveniently off I-95, this hotel has 92 exquisitely decorated rooms apart from the usual amenities like an indoor swimming pool, a fitness center, a hot rock sauna, conference rooms and free Wi-Fi.
We were offered a tour of the rooms by Tom but finally had time for a quick photo-shoot with Jason who took us through each room with efficiency and gave us a brief background whenever required.
The Prescott Park and the Seacoast Sands Suite had more to do with the location while the pretty Strawbery Banke Suite had historical significance.
We also met with Frank Tuscano, the General Manager who had thoughtfully prepared a folder with maps and brochures of local attractions for us. All in all, the nice clean rooms and the friendliness of the hotel staff made for a very pleasant and comfortable stay.
Next morning we found ourselves again at the Market Square, this time for breakfast at Popovers. We ordered a Swiss quiche and a panini filled with apple bacon, tomato, pesto and mozzarella. Each dish was accompanied by slices of fresh fruit and great-smelling coffee. The bread for the Panini happened to be my favorite, rosemary foccacia baked just right.
The thing that I loved about the place was the brick patio where locals relaxed over coffee and the Sunday newspaper. Some had their dogs with them and you could even open the umbrellas if it got too sunny! The place embodied the very spirit of Portsmouth… eat, drink, chill.
Strawbery Banke Museum
If you are wondering about the spelling, “the missing ‘r’ in ‘strawbery’ and the added ‘e’ in ‘banke’ were contrived by the colonial revival founders of Strawbery Banke Inc.,” says Dennis in his book on the seaport museum. According to him, “Strawbery Banke Museum is a core sample of a changing America.”
The entire city of Portsmouth has many preserved historic structures, but this seaport museum with its 32 on-site restored buildings on a 10-acre campus and a large collection of antiques is a must for history buffs.
Enactors and tour guides have a certain make-believe quality to them, so you need to wander off on your own for a while, as we did, to absorb the true colonial essence of the place.
Across the street from Strawbery Banke, lay Prescott Park on the Piscataqua waterfront, a summer favorite for concerts, festivals and art shows. The amazing view of the fish pier from Peirce Island is not to be missed on a trip to Portsmouth.
A thriving tourism industry, a working port, and a passion for preserving its history are things which make Portsmouth tick. One of the finest vacation spots in New England, this pretty harbor town has a strong sense of its past without losing sight of its future.
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