In My Footsteps
Trip 127: Amesbury, Massachusetts
November 9, 2011
Though it is a part of the North Shore the town of Amesbury gives a different view than one is used to. For one it is not situated along the coast so there are no ocean beaches to speak of. However for me the hills, winding roads, lakes, and on this trip the foliage, more than make up for the fact that there is no rocky shore to gaze upon.
I began my time in Amesbury with a beach of sorts. The beach is located at Lake Gardner. The very first thing I noticed upon arrival was the constant rush of water coming from a dam on the Powow River. It is just to the left of the beach and is what created the lake back in 1872.
The lake in general was very calm making a nearly perfect mirror image of the houses across the water. The beach is relatively small but there is an added bonus. A short walk will lead you to the Stagecoach Trail Boardwalk. This trail is part of the hundred acre Powow River Conservation Area along the eastern side of the lake. Lake Gardner, the dam, and the trails are just the beginning of the sites to see in Amesbury.
|Mill #1 on the Powow Riverwalk|
The Powow River flows down from Lake Gardner and there is a beautiful riverwalk area located just off of Friend Street. The spot where I stopped is near the town hall. In that area there is another dam where the water rushes by; the ducks and geese were hanging out and being fed by a mother and her young daughter. From where the walk crosses over the river there is a great view of an old stone arched bridge on Pond Street. It was built sometime before 1884 to increase accessibility to the Millyard. On the right side of the river is Mill #1 built in 1855.
After the walk along the Powow River there was a pair of historic buildings on my itinerary. First off was the Rocky Hill Meeting House on Old Portsmouth Road. It is just what the name says, an old meeting house. Built in 1785 this white building is virtually the same as it was when it originally opened. It was constructed to serve the west parish of Salisbury. The major claim to fame of Rocky Hill is the fact that George Washington stopped and greeted people here on his journey north in 1789. The pews inside are unchanged and actually have graffiti dating back over two hundred years scrawled on them.
Next I checked out the oldest house in Amesbury, the Macy-Colby House. According to the plaque outside the house it was erected before 1654 by the first Town Clerk, Thomas Macy. After seeing many 17th century homes during my trips around New England I am now finding that I can recognize the architecture of these dwellings. Macy was ostracized from the town a few years later for harboring Quakers which was a criminal offense. He fled to Nantucket and became the first white settler on the island. This was depicted in John Greenleaf Whittier’s 1826 poem The Exile’s Departure.
In my travels I enjoy finding the hard to find. This was the case with my last destination, the Old Powder House. This is a little deceiving as it is not a house at all. The ‘powder house’ is actually a bullet-shaped white structure. It was built in 1810 and used to store arms and ammunition during the War of 1812. The reason it was hard to find was partially my own fault as I missed the sign for it along Madison Street. I knew it was located in the woods and took to wandering around said woods for a bit before giving up. It was on my way back that I spotted the sign next to a set of stairs leading up a hill.
|The Old Powder House|
Although it is covered with trees there were still a few breaks in between where I could see the surrounding area from atop the hill. During the warmer months when the trees are in bloom it is probably impossible to see anything. The Powder House has been preserved thanks to the Amesbury Improvement Association.
Although not the typical North Shore town due to its proximity away from the shore Amesbury still retains that special feel that all the places in this area have. The view at Lake Gardner is incredible. There are some amazing historical buildings and homes that remind you of how life used to be hundreds of years ago. The Old Powder House is a cool find if you don’t mind a little search and walk. It may not have the rocky shores but Amesbury is a town that every traveler should pay a visit to. Have fun and happy traveling!
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Directions: Lake Gardner: From I-95 N take Exit 58B for Rt. 110W. Follow it .5 miles, turn right onto Elm Street, follow 1.7 miles, take 2nd exit at rotary for High Street. Follow it .3 miles, turn right for the lake parking lot.
Old Powder House: From I-95 N take Exit 58B for Rt. 110W. Follow it .5 miles, turn right onto Elm Street, follow it .6 miles. Turn right onto Amidon Avenue, continue across Monroe St. to Madison St. The sign for the Powder House will be on the right next to some stairs.
References: Lake Gardner Improvement Association