Sunday, August 23, 2009

Putting the "port" back in Portsmouth

This is a post that I started back on May 17th of 2008, according to my saved draft. I remember that it was sparked by an article I read in one of the free local papers, written by a well-known professor of maritime history at UNH, Jeffrey Bolster (who later served on my thesis committee). The article addressed the maritime history of Portsmouth and it inspired me to begin this post (though apparently not to finish it).

At any rate, I believe I remember a few sentences and the general thrust of the article. Bolster pointed out the odd conundrum of Portsmouth as a tourist destination - it's a seaport city, but without a beach. The nearest beaches are in Rye (to the south) and Kittery (to the north). However, Portsmouth is still a working port and its bridges, cargo ships, tugs, and old warehouses seem to be a good starting point for reminding visitors to the city of its maritime heritage.

I attended the Tall Ships event at the state pier a couple of weekends ago and it was neat to see all the local organizations that have some connection to the maritime history and environment in this region. They ranged from historical organizations like Strawbery Banke and the Gundalow Company to scientific/environmental organizations like Great Bay Stewards and University of New Hampshire Marine Docents and business organizations like the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce. And the whole event was made possible by the Piscataqua Maritime Commission.

It seemed to me that the large turnout at the event and the good number of organizations in the NH Seacoast for promoting and interpreting the region's maritime history were a perfect match. It's reassuring, in a way, to see that there are many others who care about ensuring that both visitors and locals understand and appreciate the ways in which Portsmouth, and other towns along the Piscataqua, have always been connected to the sea.

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