Walpole, N.H.: the Quintessential New England Small Town
Hurwitz. Page updated on 11/16/16.
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I have seen the much-heralded picture-perfect, quintessential
England towns -- including Woodstock and Weston Vt., Stockbridge,
Mass., and North Conway, N.H. -- but I'll take tiny, friendly Walpole,
N.H., any day.
Tucked away and nestled in the southwest New Hampshire countryside,
Walpole just might be as " picture-perfect New England" as any town in
the six-state region. Upon entering the main district, you'll see
fabulous old Colonial and Greek-revival homes leading to a quaint
"business section." Here, you'll see a small community grocery store,
U.S. Post Office, the Walpole Historical Society Museum and Gift Shop,
old-fashioned public library, a beautiful church, a Mayberry RFD-like
gas station (no Air Supply music playing at the pump) and one of the
most delightful trifectas... a combined French-American restaurant,
chocolate shop, and cafe with baked goods! LA Burdick Chocolate
is the name of the business -- famous in many circles as an upscale
chocolatier (there's one on Brattle St. in Cambridge, Mass.). Few
know, however, that Walpole is the home of LA Burdick. While the
setting could have come across as precious and pretentious, LA Burdick
has created a cozy, "hometown" feel that just adds to the warm feeling
of Walpole. LA Burdick is like an unofficial community meeting
place -- and a joyous one, at that, with some wonderful "local"
conversations amongst the staff and locals.
To illustrate the friendly, down-to-earth nature of Walpole, I asked
the waitress at LA Burdick if they had any sandwiches, as that was my
preference. She said, "No, I'm so sorry. But you can buy a sandwich at
the grocery store and eat it in our dining room. It's really not a
problem at all." Let's face it, you won't always get that response at
restaurants in tourist areas!
Feeling a little awkward buying a sandwich to bring over to eat at
another business, I settled on the Walpole Village Tavern at 10
Westminster St. (right next to Ruggles and Hunt gift and clothing
store). Above the tavern sign, you can see the old "Walpole Village
Store" sign, although no evidence of this type of retail store remains.
This neighborhood restaurant/bar brought in, on this day, locals
wanting to drink at the bar and families and old-timers catching up on
the week with each other in the sunny dining room. I had an amazingly
large and juicy burger and large, crispy fries. The service was so
friendly and unpretentiously "small-town."
Around the corner from the Tavern, you'll find the most amazing town
green, long in size and with a gazebo, benches and a spectacular
Memorial site dedicated to Veterans. Representing "true New England,"
you'll find nine old homes, three churches, and the ancient but
restored Town Hall surrounding this beautiful parcel of land. Also in
the area is the Walpole Inn (297 Main St.), a spectacular 1760s bed and
breakfast that fits in quite nicely with the charming look of the town.
With its tree-lined streets, fresh-air feel and leisurely, slower pace
of life, I love Walpole. Although Vermont gets the press for
these kind of classic New England small towns, Walpole seems more
"Vermont" than many towns in that state. You won't find as many shops
and restaurants as in the other picture-perfect New England towns, but
there's enough to do... and not to do (simple relaxation and reflection
were once the main components of a New England travel getaway). The
town has little interest in becoming a destination and has never been
the poster child of New England travel guides or television shows
promoting the region. That's fine, I believe Walpole likes it that way
as the residents (factoid: film maker Ken Burns lives here) seem to
enjoy their picture-perfect town while visitors like me enjoy, and
deeply appreciate, the special moments of finding the real New England.
Book a room in nearby Peterborough, Jaffrey or Keene
Quaint downtown Walpole business district.
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