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September 22, 2012

Driving around New Hampshire II
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:13 PM * 31 comments

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.

If you want to fire a machine gun, the Brown Avenue Range isn’t far away. If not, head on home.

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.

This trip starts an hour from Boston or three hours from New York City.

Comments on Driving around New Hampshire II:
#1 ::: John Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 10:28 PM:

"may I recommend the Airport Diner?"

I'll second this. One of the bright spots of flying into Manchester is getting to stop there on the way home. Try the sweet potato fries. (When I go further south, I conspire to make a trip to Five Guys, though we're apparently getting one in Lebanon this year...)

As an aside, we went to the Tilt'n Diner a couple weeks ago, and thought the menu was awfully familiar. The waitress informed us that it is exactly the same as the Airport Diner in every way, except the wait staff were more attractive.

#2 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 11:10 PM:

If you're interested in non-chain places to eat in Manchester, there are a couple of others.

More upscale there's Milly's Tavern, a brewpub in one of the old mills (Civil War era, made woolen cloth and shoes) in the millyard area just east of the Merrimack River. 500 Commercial St., Manchester. Limited free parking nearby, pay lot adjacent.

Or, you could go over to Pappy's Pizza and Subs on Elm St. for breakfast. Just north of City Hall, on your right. At breakfast time there's no one there but cops, firefighters, and EMTs, but it's packed with them. Just drive north on Elm. If you get to where Rt. 3 turns a 90 degree right, you've gone too far.

#3 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 11:19 PM:

I miss machine guns. Perhaps Merav and I will make a trip sometime. Then again, I really liked rolling up from Maine to Canada, through Dixville Notch, so perhaps I'll make some time and take a week, or two, to go riding next late spring, after the last chance of frost.

#4 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 08:19 AM:

Terry: I miss machine guns.

And that, as we say at my house, is a sentence you don't hear just anywhere.

I'll pass, but may you enjoy whatever floats your boat!

(HLN: My dog Sarah ceremoniously peed on the first leaf of fall this morning. In other news, the Grit in Athens has the best sweet potato fries on earth. Also the best macaroni and cheese. They also have a cookbook.)

#5 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 10:51 AM:

Both Hampstead and Sandown still have existent town pounds. The Hampstead pound (1756) is off the end of Old Forge Road and is maintained by the local Boy Scout troop. The Sandown pound (1793) is used as a geocaching site.

Far more about town pounds in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine, details on their construction techniques and many photos at Stone Structures of the Northeastern United States.

#6 ::: Marko Kloos ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 11:50 AM:

Don't forget Chez Vachon on Kelley St. in Manchester. They make a decent poutine, probably the best south of Quebec.

#7 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 12:20 PM:

Chez Vachon is right around the corner from Catholic Medical Center, and I've had their poutine many times. It is good.

The poutine at The Spa restaurant in West Stewartstown may be better, but I'm not certain that "250 yards south of Quebec" is really fair when saying that something is "the best south of Quebec."

If you're eating at Chez Vachon and feel sudden-onset chest pain (poutine is not heart healthy), CMC is one of the best hospitals in the state for cardiac care. Or, if what you need is a rosary instead, Cathedral Church Goods on Granite St. is very close. (If you're building your own rosaries they have the parts. That's where I picked up some crucifixes for Miss Teresa.)

#8 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 02:27 PM:

Quick local question which the assembled may be able to answer. There's a restaurant around these parts, a small chain, pretty famous for New England cooking -- lobster pie with real Ritz cracker crust, that kind of thing. (Also Dutch apple pancakes? That's what I remember having. Delicious.) Starts with a B, I think -- Brennevin's? Brannigan's? Beverley's? Something like that.

My folks are in town next week and have heard me rave about it, and I'd love to be able to take them, but I can't find the right terms to put into Google.

#9 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 02:36 PM:

Kevin Riggle: Brannigan's is a small chain that exists in New England, but I know nothing of its menu. It might be what you want?

#10 ::: BigHank53 ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 02:57 PM:

I am pleased (and somewhat surprised) to be able to add another NH town pound to the list. It's in Wilton Center, NH, next to the Unitarian Church. It's one of the circular ones, six foot high walls, in good repair. Take 101 west from Manchester and look for the signs for "Andy's Summer Playhouse" just after Route 31 heads south to Greenville. GPS or the DeLorme map book highly recommended.

If you continue west to Peterboro (Our Town, such as it is) you can dine at the Peterboro Diner, favorite haunt of presidential candidates, or feast on snootier grub at Twelve Pine. In between the two you'll find the Toadstool Bookstore, a fine independent shop.

#11 ::: LBlankenship ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 03:07 PM:

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

wave at my parents as you drive past my childhood home...

LOL. It's a small world.

#12 ::: little pink beast ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 03:32 PM:

Kevin Riggle @ 8, Rikibeth @ 9: Brennevin's is the name of that exact same chain in an alternate history 'verse, where their speciality is brandy made from local Vinland grapes.

#13 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 04:01 PM:

Kevin #8:

Bickford's has both lobster pie and apple pancakes on the menu. It's a very small chain, more in Massachusetts than New Hampshire. I've been to the one in Salem.

#14 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 04:34 PM:

Rikibeth @9: It is? All my searches turned up for "brannigans restaurant" were one location in British Columbia.

Jim Macdonald @13: Yes! Bickford's it is. Hmm, I see that they're under new management -- I wonder if they're still good. Well, we may find out. Thank you!

#15 ::: John Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 05:00 PM:

I still haven't made it out to Chez Vachon, sadly. I really need to at some point, though possibly only once, and after making a reservation at the medical center. (I like poutine, what can I say?)

There's also the Puritan Back Room out on Hooksett Road, which has the odd distinction of having really good chicken fingers.

#16 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 05:20 PM:

One interesting feature of New England roads is that they're often named by where they're going. (Thus, Hooksett Road, in John Murphy's #15, Chester Road, Manchester Road, and Candia Road in the main post.) But this sometimes leads to the same road having two different names depending on which way you're going.

Rt. 26 between Errol and Colebrook is Colebrook Road if you're heading west, but Errol Road if you're heading east.

#17 ::: John Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 06:42 PM:

Uncle Jim #16: Hah, good point! This is Hooksett Rd in Manchester, Rte 3. (One of those roads that takes the Google Maps app forever to say in spots)

#18 ::: Finny ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 09:05 PM:

Hmmm...I wonder if this Hannah Dustin is who the town of Dustin Heights (or Hights?) in some of John Bellairs' books (the Johnny Dixon ones, I believe) is named after? I shall have to look that up.

#19 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 01:26 PM:

Terry Karney @3: Dixville Notch is amazing. I saw it for the first time this year, when Jenett and I drove back from Farthing Party, and I've been fantasted by the memory ever since. Jenett was all gleeful at showing me something that got my eyes that big.

Kevin Riggle @8: Lobster pie? *scribbles a new note on the list of Regional Delicacies I Would Like To Taste*

#20 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 04:04 PM:

I think Hannah's last name is usually spelled Duston, though English spelling was not exactly standardized at the time.

The pepperoni and mushroom pizza at Kreuger's in Haverhill is called the Hannah Duston.

#21 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 04:11 PM:

I recently made my first visit to a true marvel of this area: Pinball Wizard Arcade next door to the Chunky's in Pelham, home to more than 100 pinball machines (mostly covering the solid-state era, late 1970s and after), most of them in excellent repair. I think you can count the worldwide pinball emporia of this size on one hand. Definitely on two.

(Take I-93 to the exit for the Mall at Rockingham Park, then follow the signs pointing to Pelham and stay on 38 until you get there.)

#22 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 04:19 PM:

Elise #19:

Dixville Notch is where the hiker fell last year. There are a couple of trails there I could show you (Table Rock on the south, Sanguinary Ridge on the north) that are pretty spectacular.

From Table Rock you can see three states and Canada.

(Hannah's last name is variously spelled, by equally eminent authorities, as Dustan, Dustin, Duston, and Durstan. The historical marker in Boscawen spells it Dustin. The statue in Haverhill spells it Duston. Take your pick.)

#23 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 05:02 PM:

Lobster pie is pretty simple.

Take a bunch of lobster meat. Mix up a thick gravy of cream, melted butter, lobster juice, flour, and a pinch of corn starch. (Some people add a little white wine.) Put the lobster into an oven-proof vessel of some kind. Pour on the gravy until the lobster meat is just barely covered. Top with a mixture of Ritz cracker crumbs and melted butter. Bake until the top is browned. Serve it.

#24 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 05:52 PM:

The Loft in North Andover has lobster mac-and-cheese.

#25 ::: Columbina ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 11:47 AM:

I would just like to note that apparently in Plaistow - where for various reasons I spend a fair bit of time - Haverhill is pronounced AVE-r'l, with a long A and not much else.

#26 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 03:40 PM:

It's also fall fair season. I live near Topsfield Fair (in Massachusetts), but often hear folks talking about some of the fairs in New Hampshire.

Any comments or recommendations regarding the various New Hampshire fairs?

#27 ::: ford prefect ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2012, 09:36 PM:

I grew up in this area, and the first "h" in "Haverhill" is not silent. "Hay-vrille"is about right.

I believe there's also a town pound in Fremont, on 111A? Memory is foggy, but not too far out of the way of the route you've described here.

#28 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2012, 10:19 PM:

ford prefect, you're from a small planet it the vicinity of Betelgeuse. Don't try to tell US about New Hampshire!

IOW "New Hampshire...don't talk to ME about New Hampshire!"

#29 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2012, 11:44 AM:

Xopher (28): Nice joke, but not very welcoming to a newcomer.

Welcome, ford prefect! That's very interesting.

#30 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 11:31 AM:

Many thanks, Jim. I followed your exact itinerary & instructions, and had a wonderful time viewing the pounds.

I can also recommend The English Muffin in Hampstead for an excellent breakfast: four items on my plate, each one expertly and specifically done.

#31 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2013, 12:03 PM:

... site of the first known labor strike in America in 1773 ...

I should probably tell more about this.

In 1773, the workers constructing what is now known as the Old Meeting House on Meeting House Hill, near the exact geographic center of Sandown, were being paid one-and-six a day plus all the rum they could drink.

The rum-barrel ran dry. So the workers called a meeting, and downed tools and sat on the lumber until the rum could be replenished. Town Selectman Steven Batchelder drove down to Newburyport in Massachusetts to procure another half-barrel of rum, and without pause drove all night back, returning at dawn, to allow construction to continue.

The Old Meeting House in Sandown is reputedly the oldest unrestored Colonial Congregational Meeting House in America. Many consider it the finest example of its kind. It is certainly worth a visit if you're in the area.

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