Newburyport, MA (photo by Eric H.)
England offers a remarkable concentration of
communities. Unlike other parts of the country where you have to travel
miles and miles of strip malls and faceless condos, New England has an
innate respect for history including its Colonial homes, buildings,
town commons, churches, and farms.
New England has seen its share of cookie cutter
threatening our blessed landscape, there's still enough old-time
character to make the six state region unique and unforgettable.
Picture yourself in Stonington
Borough, CT, where the old sea captains
homes are right
up on the front sidewalk and the local bakery, toy and news shops are
housed in old, well-maintained buildings shaded by trees near the sea.
Imagine being in Weston
VT where the whole town is listed on the
National Register of Historic Places. It's a great place to admire the
old homes, tour the local shops including the famed Vermont Country
Store, and walk the small but beauitful town common. Newly revitalized
Providence RI has not forgotten its past as Benefit St. that has
perhaps the largest concentration of Colonial homes in the United
States. Deerfield, MA,
might challenge that claim, however, as this
classic New England town has a mile of Main St. homes -- around 80
originally built in the 18th and 19th century. Most prominent are
the Deerfield Inn, a charming-looking
184 inn, and the leafy Deerfield Academy, a renowned coeducational
boarding school In Old
Lyme, CT, sea
captains lived in many of the homes of tree-lined Main St. -- most of
those homes are still standing today. Coastal Newburyport, MA, is
restored town with brick sidewalks and buildings that now house
interesting little shops and wonderful restaurants. High St. offers
some incredible and plentiful examples of Federalist architecture. Rockland, Maine, is
a true historical gem of a coastal town, steeped in the industries of
shipbuilding, lime processing, granite quarrying, and commercial
fishing and lobstering. Main Street has been gloriously revitalized and
features restaurants, and the presence of the 1923 Strand Theater movie
house. The Maine Lighthouse Museum focuses on American lighthouses
andthe United States Coast Guard's role in maritime safety, while the
Farnsworth Art Museum features a renowned collection of works from many
of America's greatest artists including the work of three generations
of the Wyeth family! The otherwise
urban small city of Dover,
NH, features the William Damm Garrison 1675
House (New Hampshire's oldest intact Garrison house) located at the
Woodman Institute on 182 Central Ave. Nearby Portsmouth, NH,
the 10-acre Strawberry Banke, an outdoor
museum of sorts, where you can tour 42 buildings dating back to 1695.
more well-preserved charming New England cities and towns:
Old Whethersfield, CT
-- Located off the manic Silas Deane Highway outside of congested
Hartford, Old Whetersfield, founded in 1634, feels like a million miles
away from the hundreds of thousands of people that live in this region.
Named by "Old House Magazine" as one of the nation's best "old house"
neighborhoods, Old Whethersfield has 50 houses predating the
Revolutionary War, 100 going back before the Civil War and an
additional 150 homes before the turn of the 19th century! These aren't
your basic, old run downs homes; most have been extremely
well-preserved. Add a leafy look to the village, a classic village
green, and a nice downtown Main Street with antique stores, galleries,
a tavern and cafe, and you have a perfect, little village that reminds
you that you are officially in New England.
downtown listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Beautifully-tree-shaded and with lots of great dining options and small
town stores, you'll find a remarkable historical concentration of
"commercial enterprises, civic buildings, churches, mills, sailors'
shacks and slave-traders' mansions," as stated by the National Trust
for Historic Preservation. Also check out north of town at Colt State
Park where you'll find Coggeshall Farm where you'll learn
traditional agricultural practices in a series of historic buildings.
South of town is the 45-room English-style manor, Blithewold,
considered New England's finest garden estate.
Grafton, VT -- The ultimate Vermont village,
Grafton probably doesn't look all that dfferent from what it looked
like in the 1800s. Thanks to local residents and the Windham
Foundation, Grafton has been lovingly maintained and restored with some
of the prettiest old buildings and homes you will ever see.
The centerpiecce of Grafton is the Old Tavern Hotel at Grafton, an 1801 stagecoach inn with a
wonderful front porch and an overall classic Vermont inn look.
North Easton Village, MA
- As part
Easton, North Easton Village was settled in 1694, incorporated in 1725
and later became famous for the Ames Shovel Company. The Company
provided shovels for the Union Pacific Railroad which opened the west!
Oliver Ames was perhaps the best-known of the family -- he was the
Massachusetts governor from 1887-1890. But it was famed
architect H.H. Richardson who gave North Easton Village Its "look,"
with late 19th century beautiful Romanesque-style buildings like the
Ames Free Library (currently being renovated), Oaks Ames Memorial Hall
(for meetings), The Old Colony Railway Station (current home of the
Easton Historical Society) and the Ames Gate Lodge (I think it is still
owned by the Ames Family). Beautiful churches complement the area
including the Gothic revival style of the Ames built Unity Church.
We realize that
sometimes looking at a bunch of old buildings is not every one's cup of
tea, so please note that North Easton has other features that should
please most visitors. The Children's Museum of Easton, features three
floors of educational, cultural, and social learning, primarily for
children 1-8 (including more than 100 exhibits and programs). The
Museum is located in the former old Easton fire station, has a fun
yellow-colored exterior, and offers entertaining areas like an art
room, theater stage, doctor's office, wood shop, a fire pole to climb,
an outdoor learning center, a fishing boat, and more. The Children's
Museum in Easton might not have the flash of some of the more refined,
high-profile urban museums of this genre, but it seems to keep kids'
attention and interest just as well! To validate the greatness of this
wonderful attraction, the Museum was recently selected as a
Nickelodeon's Parents' Pick for Best Kids Museum in Boston and
There's also a
scenic pond right behind the Museum down on Sullivan St. It's a nice
place to reflect, or take a stroll.
activities take place at Borderland State Park, Frothingham Park, and
the sheep pasture. All feature open land to walk or run around,
especially Borderland which features "walking and horseback riding on
woodland trails, fishing and canoeing in the ponds, or, in winter,
ice-skating and sledding," according to the Borderland Web Site.
Borderland also features an "English-style stone mansion created in the
1900's by artist and suffragist Blanche Ames and her husband, with 20
rooms surrounded by open meadows." It's really a gem of a state park
and is well-aligned with the theme of North Easton as an outdoor
example of historical preservation.
The Main Street
downtown area might be limited in regards to shopping and dining, but
does feature the Main Street Cafe (122 Main St.), a pleasant
old-fashioned small, "hometown" restaurant. Primarily a breakfast and
lunch place, we especially enjoy the homemade muffins and pancakes, as
well as the lamb specials and fresh turkey sandwiches. They also offer
some tasty ice cream in big portions!
The downtown also
features nice residential side streets with historic homes. We
recommend walking or driving Center, Seaver, Park Lincoln and Jenny
Lind Streets to see the grand architecture. Also on Center St. is Pires
and Sons Hardware Store. It is very old, looks like it is falling apart
and has in business for a very long time. We wish there were more
hardware stores like this, the old-fashioned neighborhood type. Back on
Main St., there's also an insurance agency and barber shop with old
signs and friendly-looking people inside that looks like a scene out of
the Andy Griffith Show. Just walking by these businesses makes you feel
like you've gone back to another era.
North Easton is
also home to Stonehill College, a fine denominational learning
institution, that not only provides educational and cultural
opportunities but also is aligned with North Easton's natural beauty
with its beautiful ponds and wooded trails. The esteemed Princetown
Review named Stonehill in its 2009 publication, The Best Northeastern
Colleges 2009 as one of the best colleges to attend in the northeast.
A less cultural
but perhaps more appetizing North Easton destination to round out your
visit is Hilliards Confections, a big house featuring "homemade
chocolates, truffles, turtles, bark, toffee and brittles, fudge,
non-pariels, nuts, and caramel apples."
What a perfect
way to end (or perhaps start) a historic and fun day in this
underrated, unique community, which, by the way, was featured as number
48 on Money Magazine's list of Best Places to Live!!
NH -- Littleton,
NH, a historic mill town beautifully situated at the edge of the White
Mountains near Vermont, could have been just another dying New England
industrial community but, fortunately, has employed a vision to make
the most of its modest, rural location.
The downtown is
surely one of New Hampshire's best examples attracting businesses that
have ultimately attracted visitors and pleased residents looking for a
full service town center. With a movie theater, toy and book store,
Chutters candy shop, a classic in town diner aptly called the Littleton
Diner, a furniture store, a post office filled with character, a
100-year old Opera House, the historic Thayer's Inn and restaurants
popping up all over the place, Littleton is more than a stop along the
way. It's, on one hand, picturesque with its typical New England big,
white churches and mountain views, and on the other, a town with a
downtown that has nearly all of its storefronts filled -- unusual in
this tough economy. There's also a new walking bridge that provides
residents and visitors a scenic downtown river walk. Coming from the
green, but often regressing suburbs of Boston, we thought, "Why can't
we have a downtown like this?"
fact, has done such a great job with its town center that in 2003, The
National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center
recognized Littleton for its outstanding achievement in the
revitalization of a downtown!
Essex, CT - A former
shipbuilding town dating back to the 1600s, Essex looks refined and
perfectly manicured today, but that polish doesn't take anything away
from its authentic small town look and feel. With the old, sprawling
Griswold Inn (one of the oldest continuously operated inns in the
country) as one of its "anchors," Essex has a timeless quality that
hasn't pandered to modern chains and cookie-cutter architecture. What's
more, there are 14 miles of sidewalks that allow you to stroll through
this relaxing, picturesque community. Essex, CT, has all the small town
bells and whistles required to make it a special vacation destination:
a tree-lined downtown with specialty shops and restaurants, big old
historic homes up near the sidewalk,, and a pleasing park with gazebos
and picnic benches leading to wonderful, relaxing views of the
Route 6A Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Route 6A maintains the integrity of the "real" Cape Cod with its big,
old captain's homes and tree-shaded drives juxtaposed with pleasing,
gentle Cape Cod ocean views. Also known as the Old King's Highway,
you'll find charming bed and breakfasts inns and restaurants along the
way in this 34-mile stretch of road that includes quaint Cape Cod towns
like Bourne, Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, Brewster and
Orleans. When the fall foliage arrives, it's an unexpected treat as we
often think of northern New England as the best New England autumn
England preservation not only exists in the well-known areas, but also
the small communities that we call home. There's the citizens of
Walpole, MA, that saved Adams
Farm from becoming a golf course or a
housing development. Today, the 365 acres -- run by the Friends of
Adams Farm, a group of area residents -- provides a true respite from
the stresses of modern day life. It's a great place for fall foliage
leaf peeping, hiking, picnics, cross country trail walking,, non
motorized bike trail riding, nature photography, bird watching, cross
country skiing, snow shoeing and sledding. The Friends of Adams Farm
recently raised over $100K to create a beautiful red barn and
pavillion. Not only is it a rural visual delight, but also a wonderful
place to have a picnic -- the open fields, distant farms and woods
create a dining atmosphere better than any restaurant!
list of New England preservation goes on and on. We recommend reading
our original New England travel articles, that frequently mention our
commitment to preservation in New England. We hope you enjoy our
one-of-a-kind-region and all the historical integrity that fills many
of our towns and cities.
Follow me on
|Search New England
Sign up for our
free VisitingNewEngland.com E-NEW ENGLAND TRAVEL NEWSLETTER
latest New England travel insider's news updates and stories, discounts
Stay Connected at Our New England Travel and
Vacation Social Media Village
Follow VNE on
a Facebook Fan of VNE
Follow the VNE Blog