Strawbery Banke Museum
Updated: Oct 14, 2019
While back in New England for my class reunion, I visited Stawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with my sister, Melissa, and brother-in-law, Edward.
"Strawbery Banke is an outdoor history museum located in the South End historic district of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It is the oldest neighborhood in New Hampshire to be settled by Europeans. It is also the earliest neighborhood remaining in the present day city of Portsmouth.
Strawbery Banke is unique among outdoor history museums in presenting an authentic neighborhood, with most of the 39 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. The restored buildings were built between the 17th and 19th centuries in the Colonial, Georgian and Federal style architecture. The buildings once clustered around a waterway known as Puddle Dock, which was filled in around 1900. Today, the former waterway appears as a large open space.
The neighborhood's history goes back to 1630, when Captain Walter Neale chose the area to build a settlement, naming it after the wild berries growing along the Piscataqua River. By the eighteenth century, the site was a thriving waterfront neighborhood in an important seaport renamed Portsmouth in 1653. In the 1800's this place evolved into an immigrant neighborhood known as Puddle Dock. Strawbery Banke existed as a neighborhood for four centuries from 1630 to the late 1950's. The neighborhood's buildings were saved from 1950's urban renewal by the efforts of a large group of historic preservationists. In 1958, the museum salvaged a 10-acre site and its original buildings to create the outdoor living history museum. Strawbery Banke opened as a museum in 1965.
Nine houses are open to the public as furnished historic interiors. Costumed role players and traditional craftspeople recreate the lives, concerns and challenges of families in the community, basing their interpretations on diaries, letters, historical records, archaeology and collected artifacts. In a few locations, costumed role players portray characters from time periods past. There are also five formal exhibits on archaeology, architecture, woodworking tools and skills, post-and-beam construction, and amusements and entertainment. Hearth cooking and coopering demonstrations and tours are offered during a daily program season. Seasonal events are also held around major holidays."
"The Goodwin Mansion is one of the few buildings moved to Strawbery Banke. Originally built on Islington Street in Portsmouth, this house was the home of Ichabod Goodwin, who served for two years as Governor of New Hampshire at the beginning of the Civil War. His wife Sarah Parker Goodwin ran the household and created the garden that is reproduced at this new location for the house. Faced with demolition on its original site, the house was moved to Strawbery Banke for preservation in 1963 and was formally deeded to Strawbery Banke by the State of New Hampshire in 1970."
"Ichabod Goodwin purchased the house in 1832. Born in Berwick, Maine in 794, Goodwin came to Portsmouth at the age of fourteen to work in the counting house of Samuel Lord, a prominent ship owner and merchant. He followed that trade, commanding his own ship, but left the sea in 1832 to become a merchant in partnership with Samuel Coues. He moved his wife of five years, Sarah Parker Rice Goodwin and their daughter Abigail into the new house.
Goodwin recognized that as Portsmouth faced the changes that would produce progress that transportation and trade would depend on the railroads. Appointed a director of the Eastern Railway of Massachusetts, when the line was extended north, he became president of the Eastern Railroad of New Hampshire. From 1841 to 1876 Goodwin served as the head of the Portland, Saco and Portsmouth Railroad, later to become a substantial part of the Boston and Maine.
As manufacturing became more important to Portsmouth's economy in the mid-1800s, Ichabod Goodwin became president of the Portsmouth Steam Factory, taking over a six-story building containing 21,000 spindles and 450 looms. It employed 380 people who annually produced two-and-a-half million yards of fine, sheer cotton and linen fabric.
Ichabod Goodwin's greatest love was politics. After serving in the NH State Legislature for nearly twenty years, he became a Whig candidate for Congress in the 1850's. Although defeated, Goodwin was involved in the formation of the state Republican Party and was elected on that platform as Governor of New Hampshire in 1859 and 1860.
At the start of the Civil War, when President Lincoln sent an urgent request to the states for volunteers, the Legislature was not in session, so Governor Goodwin funded the raising of the First New Hampshire Regiment from his own pocket, to set a good example.
Ichabod and his wife Sarah opened their home to many prominent individuals, including President Franklin Peirce. Much of the interpretation of the Goodwin Mansion and garden is based on Sarah’s memoirs, which she began writing at the age of seventy."
"In 1867, the Goodwins' daughter, Susan, married a young naval Lt. Commander, George Dewey in this house. Dewey would later gain fame by defeating the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. Governor Goodwin died in 1882; Sarah Goodwin in 1896."
"The Goodwin house was begun in 1811 by James Hazeltine, a bricklayer, who started construction on the Federalist-style house in 1811, apparently “on spec.” The area where the house originally stood was developing into an exclusive residential district and the new house was sold in 1814 for $3,000 (including a sizable profit).
Architecturally the Goodwin Mansion bears numerous classical elements of Greek Revival decor. The front Ionic portico probably dates Goodwin’s purchase of the mansion in 1832, as may the Doric side porch. The laurel wreaths on the portico are believed by biographer Jim Craig to have been carved by John Bellamy. Most fireplaces retain the late Greek Revival or early Victorian marble mantelpieces and cast iron coal grates installed by Goodwin. The most thoroughly Victorian room architecturally is the “best parlor.” This is the only room in the house which contains a plaster ceiling rosette, installed for a gas chandelier, probably shortly after 1850. The white marble fireplace bears anthemion ornaments, derived from the honeysuckle which first appeared in America in Greek Revival work, and it probably pre-dates the room's altered woodwork. The base board is typical of the Victorian era, and the pilasters which frame the windows and door bear capitals which are equally characteristic of the Civil War period. They have two elements: three acanthus leaves at the bottom, and five Egyptian-themed water leaves, above. These are widely found in Victorian work in Portsmouth and seem to have been copied almost directly from the late Corinthian order of the Tower of the Winds in Athens, first illustrated in Stuart and Revett's Antiquities of Athens in 1762.
The rest of the house retains the original Federal period wainscoting, window and door trim, cornices and the graceful spiral stairway in the front hall. The hall is lighted by a beautiful fanlight over the door, and its cornice is enriched by simplified mutules and by cable moldings.
Governor Goodwin's residence is furnished with items of various ages and qualities, to recreate as closely as possible the appearance of the house when he lived in it. Some of the pieces are Victorian; others, which had been in the family many years, are much older. The overall image is one of tradition, wealth, and elegance, an image that Ichabod Goodwin, who rose from obscurity to become one of the most prominent men in the community and the state, strove to present."
"Sarah Parker Rice was born in 1805 to William and Abby Rice and was raised in Portsmouth. Gardening and reading were Sarah's passions and she often wrote down her thoughts about what she was reading and about her day in her "common day books". This was a tradition she would carry on throughout her life. Her recounting of her life has helped historians to understand her experiences and keep track of her family history. It also helps with the interpretation of the extensive gardens she cultivated.
Sarah and Ichabod were married on September 3, 1927, at Sarah's childhood home in Portsmouth. When not entertaining guests, ensuring the smooth running of the house and managing her garden, Mrs. Goodwin would have spent hours in this room, her bedchamber. Five of her seven children were born here and it is where Sarah and her newborns would have bonded during her period of confinement after each birth.
During the Victorian Era, it was common to entertain guests in one's bedchamber, which required several chairs to be places throughout the bedchamber to ensure all guests were comfortable. This room would also have been used for leisure such as sewing, reading and writing."
"Ichabod Goodwin was born in 1794 to Samuel and Nancy Goodwin in nearby rural Berwick. Growing up on a farm, Ichabod had a modest upbringing. He learned the importance of hard work, at an early age. He left the farm to work in a Portsmouth merchant's counting house, then as supercargo upon the ship Elizabeth Wilson, and on to becoming the Captain of his own ship within just a few years.
Throughout his life, Ichabod was interested and involved with local, state and national politics. At the age of sixty-five, he was elected Governor of New Hampshire in 1859. He was governor for two terms during which time the Civil War began. President Abraham Lincoln called for soldiers to fight in the war and in response, Ichabod borrowed $680,00 against his own name to prepare two regiments for battle.
Ichabod Goodwin died at the age of eighty-eight on July 4, 1882, due to an abscessed liver. Ichabod and Sarah were much loved by the community and Goodwin Park was dedicated to him in memory of his endeavors. The park was built across from the Goodwin Mansion on Islington Street, the original location of this house, exactly six years after Ichabod's death.
Above the chest of drawers hangs a painting by John Blunt of the Sarah Parker. The Sarah Parker was one of Goodwin's merchant ships and named for his wife."
Victorian (Greenhouse) Hot House
"The hothouse, donated by the Wentworth-by-the-Sea Hotel and historic in its own right, was recently rehabilitated for use as a Victorian hothouse featuring exotic plant varieties appropriate to 1870. This new exhibit won The Preservation Award from the Victorian Society in America.
The glass ceiling and walls in the hothouse are designed to trap heat generated by the sun’s rays. In the Victorian era, hothouses were most often heated with coal. In the future, Strawbery Banke Museum hopes to move toward solar power, in order to teach from the past for a more sustainable future."
Melissa, Edward and I decided to take the garden tour, also. We started at the hothouse.
Jason, originally from Gloucester, England, conducted the tour. We were his first tour group actually. He was very knowledgeable!! I learned so many new things. Victorian gardens were gardens for all the senses.
The showpieces in a Victorian garden were very colorful and fragrant plants.
Alyssum smells like honey.
"James Drisco built this house across Horse Lane from the Shapeley-Drisco House, where he lived. He had the house built in 1810, probably as rental property. The house is named for Peter Lowd, a Portsmouth cooper, who bought it in 1824 and lived there with his family until his death, in 1837. Making a living at coopering meant crafting the barrels and kegs needed for shipping New Hampshire products, Lowd was one of the many middle class artisans who made Portsmouth prosper.
In the early 1830's, when he had reached the peak of his personal prosperity, Lowd invested the money from his shop on Long Wharf in another wharf and several ships. After 1833, he and Portsmouth’s finances went into decline and he died leaving his wife and five children with extensive debts.
Architecturally, Lowd House’s rectangular shape and low-pitched hip roof are characteristics of a Federal-period house of its time. The exterior is plain, but the front doorway with its delicate fanlight and pilasters is a fine example of the Federal style in Portsmouth. The interior, too, is simple, although the rooms possess unusual cornice moldings.
The ell on the north is part of an older structure that dates from before the Revolution. Its origin is unknown, but great efforts were made to incorporate it into the building of the main house in 1810. Joining older structures to new ones was a common building practice in this neighborhood.
Lowd House now contains an exhibit on New Hampshire craftsmen and their tools. The display is from Strawbery Banke's Garland W. Patch Collection of Portsmouth area tools from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Other tools were provided by Mr. & Mrs. Winthrop L. Carter, Mr. Ralph E. Morang, Jr., J. Lee Murray and anonymous donors. The carved eagle is by John Bellamy. Lowd House was restored through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Edward V. French.
three- pattern ballusters c. 1760 These are possibly from the Cutter- Landon Mansion
"The Sherburne House at Strawbery Banke is the sole existing building from that time period that remains on the Puddle Dock site and is the last physical connection with the earliest period of history at “Strawberry Banke” -- the original name, from the 1600's of the settlement here on the Piscataqua River.
The house offers a sketch of how the first English settlers in Portsmouth lived. When the house was constructed, between 1695 and 1703, English settlers were reproducing the wood-framed English architectural style of the late 1500's, but with American architectural innovations. Exhibit panels in the house describe the changes that were made on the house during the next three centuries and trace the history of Portsmouth and Puddle Dock.
bark was not even stripped off
The house was built by Captain John Sherburne. When the Treaty of Portsmouth between the English settlers and the Wabanaki First Nations, on the coast, was signed in 1713, members of the Sherburne family lived here. Cousins to the Sherburnes who lived at Portsmouth Plains were attacked by a Wabanaki raiding party in 1694. Also part of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, Sherburne House is notable because the Joseph Sherburnes kept two enslaved Africans in the household. As the Trail details,
"Joseph, was a mariner, merchant and farmer. He lived here with his family and two slaves who are listed in a 1744 estate inventory as "one Negro man £200, one ditto woman £50. "The man probably worked for Joseph at sea, on the dock, in his store, and on Joseph's outlying farmland. The woman probably worked for Joseph's wife Mary at food preparation, cleaning, textile production and maintaining the kitchen garden behind the house. White Yankees typically assigned their enslaved people to sleeping space in attics, cellars, and back ells."
"Captain John Wheelwright was an elected member of the Marine Society, a group of mariners who were “more intimately acquainted with the Circumstances and Incidents attending the Navigation of (the Piscataqua River) than others.” During the five years preceding the American Revolution, Wheelwright commanded the brig Abigail on eight consecutive voyages to the West Indies. In September of 1775, the Abigail, laden with a cargo of lumber, was seized off the New Hampshire coast by a squadron of British ships, and taken to Boston, then under British control.
Wheelwright then served first as second lieutenant aboard the Portsmouth-built Continental ship Raleigh and later as commander of several privateers in Boston. He had little success in these ventures, however, and wartime inflation caused him to go into debt. When he died in 1784, he owed his creditors in excess of £400. To pay the debts, his house was sold at public auction. His wife, Martha was permitted to live on in a small section of the house, and his children Elizabeth and Jack, were forced to move away.
Built at the time of the American Revolution, Wheelwright House is an excellent example of a basic middle-class dwelling made more dignified by the addition of classical Georgian embellishments. It is not a large house but its features reflect the same style and taste found in grander homes of Portsmouth. The exterior details, the triangular pediments and the fluted pilasters on either side of the front door, are an example. Most notable inside is the abundance of paneling, including folding paneled window shutters and the deeply grooved pilasters that frame the fireplaces of the two lower front rooms."
Cooking demonstrations are held daily on the open hearth.
Thomas Bailey Aldrich House Gardens
"Thomas Bailey Aldrich was born in 1836 in Portsmouth just a short distance down Court Street from the home of his grandfather, Thomas D. Bailey. While most of his youth was spent elsewhere, Aldrich returned to Portsmouth to live, from 1849 to 1852, with his grandfather in this house facing Court Street.
Thomas Bailey Aldrich married Lilian Woodman in 1865, and they moved to Boston the same year. Aldrich became friends with such literary notables as William Dean Howells, Mark Twain, James T. Fields (another Portsmouth son), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and James Russell Lowell. He was recognized as a man of ability and accomplishment, and in time he succeeded Howells as editor of the Atlantic Monthly, the most important literary magazine of the time.
It was shortly after the move to Boston that Aldrich began to record some thoughts on his own child hood. The result was The Story of a Bad Boy, a fictionalized recollection of adventures and impressions of his years spent in Portsmouth at his grandfather's house on Court Street. Aldrich's Bad Boy is significant as the first realistic treatment of a boy in American literature. It had great influence on other writers including the author's close friend Mark Twain, who six years later wrote a similar story about a similar boy, also named Tom.
Thomas Bailey Aldrich died in 1907 at the age of 70. The house had passed out of the family by then and in the 1880's served as Portsmouth's first hospital. It was repurchased by the Aldrich family and under the direction of Lilian Aldrich, the author's widow, the home and garden were restored as a memorial to him. This was the first historic house museum in Portsmouth and one of the first in the country to be restored to a specific period in its past. Mark Twain was among those who journeyed to Portsmouth for the dedication. The house remained an independent house museum until 1979, when it became part of Strawbery Banke."
I loved that Jason wore his wellies, also called Wellington boots!
Besides the Governor Woodwin Mansion, I would have to say the Chase House was another favorite house to walk through.
"Chase House, at the corner of Court and Washington Street, is one of the grandest Georgian structures at Strawbery Banke. The Chase Family, Portsmouth merchants, lived in the house for over a century.
Chase House was built about 1762 by John Underwood, a mariner from Kittery, Maine. Underwood sold the house to his in-laws, the Dearings. This may have been when much of the finish work was done on the house, especially the elaborately-carved woodwork, inside and out as Ebenezer Dearing was a noted local ships’ woodcarver.
In 1766, only three weeks after repurchasing the house, Underwood mortgaged it to Barlow Trecothick and John Thomlinson, London merchants and English agents for the province of New Hampshire. The house remained part of the Trecothick Estate until 1799 when it was purchased by Stephen Chase, a successful Portsmouth merchant who had been living in the house for a number of years with his family.
Stephen Chase was a graduate of Harvard College. His wife Mary was related to the famous Pepperrells of Kittery, merchants involved in the West India trade. Chase's own business was located on the large Portsmouth Pier at the foot of State Street. When Stephen Chase died in 1805, his widow and two sons, William and Theodore, both merchants, continued to live in the house.
The last Chase to live here was William's widow, Sarah Blunt Chase, whom died in 1881. At that time Theodore Chase's son, George, a railroad magnate and philanthropist of Boston, bought the house and donated it as a home for orphaned children. When the needs of the Chase Home for Children outgrew the house early in the twentieth century, it was purchased as a residence by Mrs. Thomas Bailey Aldrich whom had opened her husband's boyhood home, just two doors down the street, as a memorial to him only a few years before.
Architecturally, Chase House is one of the richer dwellings in Portsmouth and a fine example of the classical influence on Georgian architecture. The front doorway is capped by a segmental or curved pediment. The door is framed by fluted pilasters topped by delicately-carved Corinthian capitals, and supported by paneled pedestals. The side door has a triangular pediment and fluted pilasters with Ionic capitals.
The interior of Chase House is even more sophisticated with attention paid to detail. The architectural highlights of the parlor include the intricately-carved frieze over the fireplace in the parlor, painstakingly carved from white pine by a master craftsman, perhaps Ebenezer Dearing, full-length sliding shutters, wainscoting, denticulated mantelpiece and cornice, and the arches on either side of the fireplace.
The Judkins and Senter sideboard facing the room was made in Portsmouth in 1815, as inscribed on one of the drawer bottoms. The piece is veneered with dramatic flame and birdseye maple and contrasting mahogany. It is branded J. Haven, but made its way back to the makers and sold again to Jacob Wendell on December 20, 1815 for $70.00. It remained in the Wendell House until 1988, when it was installed at the Chase House. On the sideboard and dining table are Wendell family glassware and ceramics.
In 1807, James Nutter, a joiner who was at that time "the head of his craft" in Portsmouth, boarded at Chase House. Nutter appears to have exchanged labor for rent, for it was at this time that the dining room was remodeled in the newer Federal style. The simplicity of the reeded wainscoting, shallow cornice, and mantelpiece contrasts sharply with the bold and elaborate Georgian woodwork in the parlor.
The bottom is a sliding shutter. Notice the scratch marks from it sliding in and out of the wall.
The formal parlor, with original carved pine over-mantel and crown molding, is an elegant stage for the Wendell furniture in this room. Jacob Wendell sent away for this gold painted set from New York City. The banjo clock, which also hung in the Wendell parlor, is significant for the églomisé, or painted decoration, and is signed by the artist. The china table that sits between the front windows was made in Portsmouth in the mid-eighteenth century by Robert Harold. There are seven known examples of this form, including one in the reception Room at the Department of Sate in D.C. This important piece came into the Wendell House through Mehitable Rindge Rogers, Jacob Wendell's wife.
The stairway balustrade, with a beautifully carved newel post, is composed of balusters of three types, a pattern typical of Portsmouth.
The docent assigned to the house made all the ladies promenade down the stairs. The docent really loved working at this house! It was fun pretending.
The two front upstairs chambers contain excellent woodwork, with especially wide panels over the fireplaces.
The details on this federal period bed indicate that it was made in Boston or Salem. The thick cornice rod are later additions, and matched curtain rods. To the left is a mahogany dressing table of rare form with elaborately turned legs. It has been suggested that this is the table Jacob Wendell paid $12.25 for at auction in September of 1825, which is likely the date of the table.
Jacob and Mehitable Wendell, the first Wendell family to live in the Pleasant Street home, had eight children. Jacob was billed $10 by Judkins and Senter for a mahogany cradle on June 10, 1817, with a note that he would receive a $1 discount. He dutifully entered $9 into his ledger. Mark Rogers Wendell was born on June 18 that same year.
The Chase family is one of the best documented in the neighborhood due to an extensive manuscript collection owned by Strawbery Banke; and the house is furnished based on the 1805 inventory taken at the death of Stephen Chase, and 1820 when Mary Chase died. These documents, listing the furniture and objects found in each room, provide a good idea of how the family used each room and reveal the living patterns of the people in the house. In general, much less furniture and fewer carpets and curtains were found in the house than is often supposed. One of the best examples is the parlor which contained little more than rows of straight-back chairs along the sides of the room."
"In 1750, Englishman John Stavers opened a public house, inn and tavern, on Queen Street (now State Street) under the sign of the Earl of Halifax. Taverns such as Stavers’ provided lodgings for travelers, but were equally important as gathering places for the local citizenry, providing newspapers, local news and gossip, and a meeting place for political discussions and closing business deals.
John Stavers was a member of St. John’s Masonic Lodge and host to their meetings. The Lodge was so important to him that it determined much of the way his new hotel was constructed when he moved to the corner of Court and Atkinson Streets in 1766.
The tavern also provided a base for the first stagecoach service from Portsmouth to Boston, a joint enterprise of John Stavers and his brother, Bartholomew, who was the regular driver.
After John Stavers died in a carriage accident in 1797 his heirs briefly continued to operate the tavern. Later the building became a multi-family house.
When the dispute began between Great Britain and her American colonies, Stavers' tavern could not avoid the political controversies of the coming Revolution. John Stavers loyalties are unclear, but were much doubted at the time. On January 29, 1777 Mark Noble, backed by a mob, tried to chop down the tavern sign. Stavers sent out his enslaved African, James, to stop them. James hit Noble in the head with an ax, knocking him unconscious. Noble recovered but within two days the Portsmouth Committee of Safety arrested Stavers and along with fifteen others "notoriously disaffected to the American cause" turned him over to the New Hampshire Committee of Safety at Exeter. When the Committee released the others, they kept Stavers, believing his life was in danger. The next day, Mark Noble, petitioned for Stavers’ release and on February 5th, Stavers was among twelve who were released after posting bond of £500 each, on condition of a year's good behavior.
Stavers remained under a cloud of suspicion and subsequently re-named his tavern the William Pitt Tavern in honor of the British statesman who advocated the American cause in Parliament.
Newspapers, thereafter, referred to it simply as Stavers Tavern. Stavers recovered the public's good opinion and in 1789, the Masons founded the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire Masons, one of the oldest Masonic Lodges in America, at Pitt Tavern. Subsequent visitors reputedly included the Marquis de Lafayette in 1782, John Hancock, William Whipple, General Henry Knox and George Washington, a Mason himself, in 1789.
Stavers' new tavern was designed so that the entire third floor could serve as a lodge room, separate from the comings and goings in the rest of the tavern. This made Stavers' hotel exceptionally tall at a time when there were few three-story buildings in Portsmouth.
The needs of the Lodge determined other unique architectural features of the tavern: the stairway was placed at the rear of the building and the chimneys were placed on the ends of the building to accommodate the need for the large, open lodge room. The room was soundproofed with grain chaff in the walls and fine grey beach sand under the floor.
With assistance from the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire Masons and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Strawbery Banke restored the Tavern to its original condition in the 1980s, with a small museum operated by the Masons on the second floor."
There are so many things to see and do at Strawbery Banke.
Learn about period architecture
You can explore herb gardens, house gardens and victory gardens.
Learn about fruit orchards and the importance of bees to the orchards.
Learn about different types of period fencing.
A low wattle fence was used in the herb garden.
Wattle is woven wood fencing. The upright stakes are sometimes called “sales” and the saplings called ‘weavers’. Hazel, willow, sweet chestnut, plum, forsythia or any supple, long, straight, slender saplings make good weavers. Newly cut, green wood is best and easiest. Willow is an exception as it can be soaked to become more supple. Use thin, long branches -or- larger saplings that are cut down the center (cleft) as ‘weavers’. The saplings you choose should be long enough to weave around at least three stakes (preferably more) for stability. The weavers are woven around the ‘sales’ like basketry. The simplest weave would be to weave each row of saplings alternating around the stakes, the next row is woven on the opposite side of the stake from the sapling below it. Each sapling row should be firmly pressed down.
This is an example of a cottage style cutting garden.
A shade garden's plants are different heights of green plants. Sometimes, white plants give the garden a splash of color. Natural elements, such as drift wood or stones, are also seen in the garden.
For me, the most unique tree I saw was the tulip tree, with its yellow blooms.
These trees are in the magnolia family.
Tulip trees are widely known by the common name tulip tree or tuliptree for their large flowers superficially resembling tulips . It is sometimes referred to as tulip poplar or yellow poplar, and the wood simply as "poplar", although not closely related to the true poplars. Other common names include canoewood, saddle-leaf tree, and white wood.
The trees are easily recognized by their leaves, which are distinctive, having four lobes in most cases and a cross-cut notched or straight apex. Leaf size varies from 8–22 cm long and 6–25 cm wide. The tulip tree is often a large tree, 18–50 m high and 60–120 cm in diameter. Th tree grows to an extreme height of 190 feet in groves where they compete for sunlight, somewhat less if growing in an open field. Its trunk is usually columnar, with a long, branch-free bole forming a compact, rather than open, conical crown of slender branches.
Flowers are 3–10 cm in diameter and have nine tepals — three green outer sepals and six inner petals which are yellow-green with an orange flare at the base. They start forming after around 15 years and are superficially similar to a tulip in shape, hence the tree's name. Flowers of L. tulipifera have a faint cucumber odor. The stamens and pistils are arranged spirally around a central spike or gynaecium ; the stamens fall off, and the pistils become the samaras . The fruit is a cone-like aggregate of samaras 4–9 cm long, each of which has a roughly tetrahedral seed with one edge attached to the central conical spike and the other edge attached to the wing.