Bob Woodall's home page
Manchester, Amoskeag Millyard, Hampton Beach, Fuller Gardens, Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point State Park, Fort McClary
York Harbor, Nubble Light House at Cape Neddick, Maine Diner in Wells, President Bush's Compound at Kennebunkport, Pine Point Beach in Scarborough
2004 Travelogue # 12 New Hampshire, Maine
Sand Dollar Inn
6/11 The weatherman got this one right; it was a crisp clear 50 degrees this morning in Manchester, New Hampshire. This is one of the oldest and largest cities in the state. In the 1600's it was named Derryfield but had a name change in the mid 1700's to Manchester. Our plan was to see a bit of this city before starting our drive up the coast of Maine; we'd begin in an area known as the North Side.
Elm Street is the premier street on the North Side and is uphill from the Merrimack River. This was a textile-mill town and the affluent built magnificent homes on Elm Street. Driving Elm, we passed General John Starks's home, built in 1736. He was a farmer, sawmill operator, and New Hampshire's most celebrated Revolutionary War hero.
While driving and admiring the homes, I happened to see a lady, out for her morning walk (she was 86, I discovered later). Pulling over to the curb, I asked her, "If she could help us?" We said we were passing through, slowly making our way up to Bar Harbor, Maine. Before relating a bit of the history of the area and the homes around us, she quickly corrected me saying, "First of all, in New Hampshire, you go down to Maine, not up and it's 'Ba Habor', you do not pronounce the r's."
I found out later that the phrase "down to Maine" was a maritime term referring to the winds off the coast of Maine. The predominant winds are down the coastline; so all the locals refer to, going to Maine as down rather than up.
In the early 1800's, the Amoskeag Dam was built across the Merrimack River, providing hydropower to several textile mills located along the River. Amoskeag is a Native American word for falls and means "place of many fish". At one time, a series of falls and rapids stretched for 1/2-mile and the Algonquin Indians came in the spring and fall, to catch salmon and shad, as they migrated up the river. In 1831, a group of investors purchased a three-mill complex on the River and named the acquisition the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company.
The mills began to grow during the 1840's and 50's, as German, Scottish, and French Canadians became the primary source of labor. The company built homes on the other side of the River for their workers and those brick row- houses are still in use today. In those days, work in the mills was preferred over that of agriculture work. I read a story about a man who spent 44 years in the mill, working 12-hour shifts; obviously, it was his whole life. We saw pictures of children, as young as nine-years-old, working in the mills. It wasn't until 1905 that a law was passed saying children under 16 could not do this work.
This small mill grew to become the largest mill complex in the world. The buildings were built of clay bricks, quarried, formed, and kilned nearby in the town of Hooksell. By 1915, these brick buildings along the River formed an unbroken mile-long stretch of textile milling, known as the Amoskeag Millyard. The Millyard reached its peak before World War I, when 8500 men and 7000 women were milling fabric and producing in excess of 600-miles of fabric per day. The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company went bankrupt in 1936. Today, some of the buildings have been destroyed but many still exist along the waterfront, having been converted into office buildings.
We found the Millyard Museum (Mill #3, Manchester, NH) www.manchesterhistoric.org) in one of the reconditioned buildings. It has been voted the best museum in Manchester and has excellent coverage of the world's once largest manufacturer of cotton textiles, the Amoskeag Millyard.
Entering the museum at 10 am, as it opened, the curator showed us their current exhibit of Manchester quilts. Quilting was relatively unknown in America until the introduction of inexpensive colorfast cottons near the end of the 18th century. The establishment of the mills brought an explosive growth to American quilting in the 19th century.
The ladies told stories in their quilting about their social setting, events in their lives, announcements such as weddings, births, marriages, or personal losses. A mother, we found of interest, made one of the quilts, from the material of each of her daughters' wedding dresses. It was composed of various colors of silks and satins but no white color. We didn't realize that it wasn't until the 1920's and 30's that white became the primary wedding dress color. This lady quilted her memories and they still live today.
As a boy, I remember Thursday night being the night to go shopping. Mom would load us into the car and we'd head to Sears or some store and shop until 9 pm. Here, I discovered how this late shopping night started. The mill workers received their pay envelopes on Thursday and the stores stayed opened so they could spend it. The town's merchant area provided a carnival atmosphere to entice the workers to open their envelopes and spend.
Leaving the Museum, we soon left Manchester and the inland by taking SH 101 east to Hampton Beach, then US-1A along the ocean. Our first stop was the summer estate of Alvin T. Fuller known as Runnymede-by-the-Sea. With the automobile invention, Fuller became a successful Packard and General Motors dealer and distributor, then became a Congressman, and later Governor of New Hampshire in 1924.
The Fuller Gardens (www.fullergardens.org) are across the road from where the once majestic home faced the Atlantic Ocean. Mrs. Fuller had these gardens designed so she could see the "front garden" from her second story bedroom windows. The home was too expensive to maintain and was torn down in 1961 by the heirs but the gardens remain today.
There was a small entrance fee. Some of the flowers were starting to bloom and add color, the rhododendrons were not bushes but trees and covered in blossoms; but the real show was yet to come, from the 2000 rose bushes covered with buds. This seacoast location provides the ideal growing condition for roses. There was also a Japanese Garden plus a greenhouse with tropical plants and cacti.
The gardens were enjoyable but the information we received from the artist, who was also the lady collecting the admission fees, brought us even more joy. She gave us the name of a small restaurant for lunch, Petey's Summertime Seafood & Bar, in Rye, NH across from Rye Beach, up the coastal road.
We continued following US-1A as it meandered up the 18 miles of New Hampshire coastline. The water was on our right while on our left were homes, some large and some cottages. Approaching a small commercial area, we came to Petey's, which at 1:30 still had a full parking lot, always a good sign. This was our first encounter with New England seafood.
Two ladies, dining at the table next to us, highly recommended the chowders. We ordered the seafood chowder (haddock, shrimp, and clams) and the haddock chowder. These were served in large cups and were the best we had ever eaten. Later we would realize that it was the best chowder of the entire trip.
There was only one drawback to this restaurant the parking lot. With space at a premium, the lot was designed for small cars and the "chowder" ladies could not get their Ford Expedition SUV out of the lot. I offered to find the owner of the blue Honda blocking their exit. Going from table-to-table, I finally found the owner, explained the situation, and asked her to move her car. Her reply was, "I am not parked illegally, it was the other car." I said, "Yes ma'am, I know you're not, but that's not the issue. Your car won't allow this car to back out." Once again she said, "I'm not parked illegally." Her dining companion finally explained it to her, she understood, and then said, "Here are my keys; you move it." I said, "You are a trusting soul" and took off to move her car.
At last, we were heading up the coast again but before long we pulled off the road to look at a rocky inlet. The out-going tide had drained the inlet, leaving little tidal pools and seaweed clinging to the rocks. We thought this would be a good place to park, walk out on the rocks, and take in the beauty of the clear waters and small pools. As we looked across the inlet, we saw a group of students exploring the tidal pools and asked a lady passing by what was happening. She informed us that they were an ecology group from the Center.
Off we went, around the inlet to the Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point
State Park. The Science Center has interactive history exhibits going back to
when fishing schooners sailed the seas, historical facts of the local area,
and how World War II changed the coastline.
Our next stop was Fort McClary, on a fortified peninsula protecting the entrance to the Piscataqua River. This fort has been used in 5 wars, the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish American, and World War I. Today it was very quiet and peaceful. We walked the embankment and then the outer granite edge overlooking the cliff into the water. It was a clear afternoon as small boats worked their way in and out of the mouth of the Piscataqua River.
We spent the night in Portsmouth, NH but retraced our steps to Kittery, Maine for dinner at Cap'n Simeon's Gally. This was our first major seafood dinner. Peggy had fresh broiled haddock and I had a 1½ lb steamed lobster melted butter, bib, claw crackers and lots of paper towels. We were pleased with our choice for the evening. What a way to end our first day in New England.
6/12 Leaving Portsmouth around 9:30 this morning, we headed back to the coast, to once again enjoy the clear, brisk ocean air. Our first stop was a park along the highway on Stage Neck Island at York Harbor, Maine. We walked to the top of a grassy knoll where three flags flew, resembling the mast of a schooner. The middle flag was the American Flag, to one side and at an angle was the State of Maine Flag, and the third, on the other side at an angle, was a US Navy Flag. Each gently billowed in the breeze. The Park was built as a memorial to those who lost their lives at sea. Below the flags, was a block of engraved granite with the words, "O hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea."
One fascinating and beautiful feature of this park was a narrow footpath, which wound along the cliff's ledge. Alongside this trail were wild roses, fuchsia in color and stuck in with the roses was sweet smelling honeysuckle in full bloom. Just past all this color and sweet "smell em's" was a dramatic drop-off onto massive black granite rocks, where the ocean came crashing in.
Viewing those huge granite rocks from above gave the impression that Mother Nature had tossed a handful of "ABC" blocks and they had landed haphazardly atop one another. On the other side, the path backed up to large beautiful homes with manicured, landscaped yards.
While watching the surf, we saw a large gull dive into the ocean and bring up a live crab. It flipped the crab over onto its back and pecked at its vulnerable underbelly. Nature's food chain is an interesting sequence.
Continuing up the coast along York Beach, we came to the Nubble Light House at Cape Neddick, Maine. This Light House, one of the most photographed in the world, was built on a small island, just off the Cape in 1879 by the U.S. Lighthouse Service. A small bronze plaque set in granite noted the date with the quote "to protect mariners from the savage rocks."
At the Cape was a small eatery called Fox's Shack, specializing in homemade ice cream and seafood. We sampled both, sitting outdoors on a picnic table, while enjoying the view of the old red and white Nubble Light House, sitting high on its own little island while the surf rolled in from the Atlantic.
After our snack, we were back on US 1A and soon came to a small wooden shack sitting on concrete blocks at the edge of a small inland bay. Attached to the side was a sign reading, Russell's Lobsters, "fresh off the boat". The shack was unique, with almost a "share croppers" look to it. The old hut had two red brick chimneys poking out the old "shake shingle" roof and multi-colored lobster-cage floats hung on the outside walls. Russell's fishing boat was tied up to the pier but barely in the water, while the other surrounding boats were resting on muddy flats waiting for the next high-tide.
I parked the car and walked down to the shack. Russell was outside sitting on top of a picnic table, wearing weathered blue jeans, green T-shirt, and a green cap. He was a portly man, weathered, and had about 6 days growth on his face. It appeared he had family members sitting at the table, maybe his daughter, her husband, and grandson. All were enjoying one of Russell's boiled lobsters as he downed a "long neck".
I asked Russell, "Could I step inside and look around"? He said, "Sure". What an interesting little place it was, with all sorts of lobster corks, fishing lures, and a large aerated tank in the center filled with lobsters of various sizes. I took a few pictures, walked back outside, and thanked Russell as I turned to leave. He said, "Sure" and then took another swig from his "long neck".
It was now late afternoon and Wells, Maine was our next stop and the Maine Diner (www.mainediner.com ) for lunch. The diner looks like something out of the 50's with a blue and white color theme. The tables are blue and white formica, with chrome chairs and blue padded seats. Many black and white photos of celebrities and dignitaries, who have frequented the restaurant, adorn the walls.
Here, we tried our first ever, lobster pie and lobster rolls. The lobster pie was baked in a small augratin dish with hunks of lobster covered by a crust of crushed Ritz crackers mixed with butter. The lobster roll (looks like a Poor-Boy bun) is served two ways: one with cool lobster meat, a small amount of mayo mixed with the meat, on a cool salad roll or a toasted salad roll, warm lobster with melted butter on the side to drizzle over the lobster. Peg chose the warm lobster roll and I went for the pie. The pie, made from an old family recipe, does indulge the Maine Diner customers with its rich buttery texture.
After lunch, we had to make a decision Do we find a place to take a nap or someplace to exercise? We chose the latter. The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge was our next stop. There, we found the one-mile-long Rachel Carson Trail, which ran along an upland edge overlooking sheltered tidal salt marshes. We had a close-up view of one of Maine's most valuable ecosystems. The Trail meandered through pinewoods and opened to vistas of salt marshes with boardwalks. The Refuge provided an interpretive Trail Guide brochure that added to our enjoyment.
Continuing up the coastal road, which became Ocean Drive, we rounded a corner and saw, across a small bay, President Bush's Compound at Kennebunkport. The town proper was very quaint and a place we want to come back to visit but for now, we needed to find a place to spend the night.
We drove to Pine Point Beach in Scarborough, Maine and found Lilly's Sand Dollar Inn (www.thesanddolarinn.com), a charming B&B close to the beach. After registering, we walked along the water's edge of the seven-mile white beach. It was very relaxing to hear and feel the waves.
For dinner, Lilly recommended an Italian restaurant up the road called Anjon's. A lovely place that has been in the same location for 50 years, it overlooked US 1 and a large 2 or 3-mile salt marsh. This was one of those white tablecloth, white cloth napkin, candlelight, and wine glass places with good "Sinatra" Hoboken music in the background. Not only was the homemade pasta wonderful, but also our young, part-time waitress, Leigha, a dental hygienist by day, was the 4th generation offspring of the founders, Ann and John DiSanto.
It was a fun-filled day; now closing it with good pasta, good wine, and sharing all this with my bride, made it pretty much perfect.
Bob & Peggy Woodall