The Connecticut River marks the western border between New Hampshire and Vermont and the road through the valley on the New Hampshire side (and on the Vermont as well) makes for a scenic drive. And for History Tourists, it has the added advantage of being lined charming towns with small but worthwhile historic sites.
Old New London Village
On our way from our home base in Manchester to the Upper Valley — though not quite there — was the hill town of New London and it’s 19th century doppelganger, Old New London Village.
Old New London is a recreation of New London as it was 150 years ago. Someone donated land to the New London Historical Society, and the Society moved it’s headquarters there. Then, through the years, they started bringing old buildings (although a few are new builds crafted in the 19th century way) from around the area to the site. Next thing you know, they’ve got a village.
Its star attraction is the 1835 Scytheville House, the first of the buildings to be brought to the museum site. Originally located down the hill in the town of Elkin (called Scytheville in the mid-19th century), it was a home for workers from a scythe factory. Dismantled and moved up the hill, it has been restored and furnished with period pieces.
There’s an exhibit space — in a large restored barn, if I’m remembering correctly — with objects donated by local residents. The objects aren’t heavily curated or labeled, but they’re charming and I got the sense of community from the exhibit.
I think it usually has an array of reenactors staffing various buildings. On the day that we were there, at the end of its season, there was one man being the blacksmith, and one volunteer docent in the museum.
Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge
As we left the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, we passed the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, that travels over the Connecticut River from Cornish, New Hampshire to Windsor, Vermont. It’s the longest covered wooden bridge in the US. The current iteration was built in 1866 and is approximately 449 feet long and 24 feet wide.
The Fort at #4
About 30 minutes south of Cornish, in Charlestown NH, is the Fort at #4, a reconstruction of a French and Indian War fort.
The original was built in 1740 and was home to about 10 families. I’d never seen a fort configured like this: all the living space was in one connected building that crawled along the inside of the exterior fort wall. The center was left for communal activities. They cooperatively farmed and ran businesses.
Unfortunately for those settlers, the French and their Native American allies started a campaign against them, around 1746. Their mill was burnt down and people were killed whenever they ventured out of the settlement. So the civilians left and the military came, to fight the French and Indian War.
The fort closed and disappeared after the Revolution. Today, the recreated fort is a living history museum with reenactors portraying townfolk and soldiers. Again, because it was the end of the season and attendance was low, there was only one man portraying a soldier and answering questions.
Burdicks of Walpole
Not a history site, but I have to give a shout out to one of my favorite chocolate shops: Burdicks of Walpole, a few miles south of Charlestown. Walpole is a cute little town whose claim-to-fame is that it’s headquarters for the production company of Ken Burns, the documentary film-maker.
It was October, so they had this Halloween display out. Next door to the candy shop is a related restaurant, which served the tastiest quiche I’ve ever had.
Fall in New Hampshire
I had, in part, chosen October for my New Hampshire trip because I was hoping to catch some fall colors along with the historic sites. Unfortunately, fall was late in New England last year and colors hadn’t peaked yet. But on our way back to Manchester from our Connecticut River Valley drive, we finally passed what I’d hoped to see.