In just a couple of weeks, three at the outside, we should be at peak fall color. So … what would you like to see?
Down in the Massachusetts border area there are some interesting things by the side of the road. Eighteenth-and-nineteenth century animal pounds, still standing. Pounds were built to be “Horse high, bull strong, and pig tight.” Dogs and goats … I don’t know. Cats, forget it. The pounds were used to corral straying animals or those that were creating a nuisance until their owners could come to claim them. “I’m sorry, farmer Jones, but your ox has been towed.”
Let’s go see some!
Take your best route to I-495 (the Blue Star Memorial Highway; the ring road around Boston). Get off at Exit 51B, Rt. 125, Main St., Haverhill, MA. Haverhill (pronounced “Averill”), interestingly enough, was the first town in the United States to erect a statue to a woman. (Hannah Dustin, of whom perhaps more later in another post.)
Go north on Rt. 125 (Main St.). When Rt 125 forks off to the right to become Plaistow Rd., take the left fork to remain on Main St. When Main St. crosses the New Hampshire line it becomes New Hampshire 121, and that’ll be our road for almost all of this trip. Welcome to New Hampshire! You’re now in the town of Atkinson.
The first pound you come to will be on the right (east side of the road, although the compass direction is north), on the corner of Rt. 121 and Stone Pound Lane (just north of and on the same side of the road as Feuer Lumber) 42.843012 N 071.161827 W. This pound dates to 1788, and is easily visible from the road.
Rt. 121 is a pound-rich environment. We’ll find two more along the way before we get to Manchester.
Continue north on 121, a nice winding two-lane blacktop country road. The road will take us through Hampstead (best known for its colonial-era homes along Main Street, dating from when Hampstead was a lumbering town on the edge of the frontier) and nip through the northwest corner of Hampstead where Derry (on the west, famous both for being where the first potato in Colonial America was planted in 1719, and for being one of the places where Robert Frost failed at farming) and Sandown (on the east, site of the first known labor strike in America in 1773) meet, and thus into Chester.
Chester was an important stop on the stage coach line from Haverhill, Massachusetts, to Concord, New Hampshire, up until 1830 or so. The railroad bypassed Chester (we crossed Depot Street in Hampstead; no such street here). The town has been in decline ever since.
The next pound we’ll come to along Rt 121 is at 42.967471 N 071.283339 W on Chester St., roughly two miles north of the intersection with Rt. 102 and Chester College of New England. (Chester College offers courses in creative writing and professional writing.)
The pound is on the west side (actually south by compass direction; left side if we’re driving north from Massachusetts) of the road, and is easily visible from the road. The dated carved on the lintel is 1804.
From Chester we pass into Auburn. Originally called “Chester Woods,” the town broke away from Chester in 1845 and was named “Auburn” from Oliver Goldsmith’s poem “The Deserted Village.” Just past Wilson Crossing Road (joining from the west on the left), we’ll find the Auburn Town Pound. It’s on the east side of the road (on your right as you drive north).
Like the others, this is a stone structure roughly thirty feet on a side. The date on the lintel, in Roman numerals, reads 1853. The second inscription below the date on the lintel is for the Women’s Club in 1905. The Auburn Pound is located at 42.986964 N 071.3355 W.
Unlike the others, this one isn’t easy to see from the road (although it’s right by the road), so I’ve supplied recognition photos.
Rt. 121 is called Chester Road here. About two miles north-west we’ll come to the village of Auburn itself, on the shores of Massabesic Lake. If you look at the swampy area beside the road on the west you’ll often see beaver lodges.
In Auburn, Rt. 121 makes a sharp left and becomes Manchester Road as it continues around the north end of Massabesic. It continues then to its end at the Auburn Circle. Hurrah! You’ve driven NH Rt. 121 from end to end; 22 miles of two-lane goodness, and seen three animal pounds! Rt 101 west (an easy entrance from the Auburn Circle) takes us to I-93 South at Manchester and thus back to Massachusetts. If that’s where you came from. (If you headed north on I-93 to Boscawen we could see the other statue of Hannah Dustin.)
By now I’m sure you’re feeling peckish. What can I offer? Typical American roadside food. If you go through the Auburn Circle and continue to the west paralleling 101 (the road is called Candia Road now), soon we’ll come to the Goldenrod Drive-In Restaurant on your left (south). (If we get to Anderson Equipment we’ve gone too far.) 42.996448 N 071.401273W We’re talking burgers, fries, and ice cream level of tech. Order at the window, they call your number when it’s up. They have a pinball machine to play while you’re waiting.
If you’re interested in something a bit more upscale than Dinner in a Styrofoam Box (though they do have inside tables where you can eat rather than go back to the car), may I recommend the Airport Diner?
Jump onto 101 West at the Auburn Circle. Continue on 101 as it co-locates with I-93 south, then co-locates with I-293 around Manchester. Get off on Brown Avenue (Exit 2), and head south, toward the airport.
The Airport Diner is on the right, built into, but not part of, the Holiday Inn. (42.945338 N 071.453083 W) I expect the Holiday Inn was built around the diner. This is your typical American trucker food. Very good, very plentiful.
Watch the New Hampshire State Foliage Tracker to see when we’re having peak color along the trip. The regions you’re looking for are Seacoast and Merrimack Valley.