Friday, November 26, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 87: Rockland, Maine

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 87:  Rockland, Maine
October 2, 2010

            The next town over from where I stayed in Owl’s Head, Rockland, Maine is a popular tourist destination and it is easy to see why.  Called ‘Catawamteak’ by the local Abenaki Indian tribe which means ‘great landing place’ Rockland is a small town yet it has all of the amenities of a larger town.  It was known as Lermond’s Cove and then ‘Shore’ village from when it was settled in 1769 until adopting the name Rockland in 1850.
Wyeth Center, as seen from 'inside' a sculpture.
            Rockland originally made its name through shipbuilding and the production of the mineral lime.  However as time passed into the latter half of the 20th century it became popular due to its amazing Main Street with many shops and restaurants.  There are also some really nice art galleries.  I checked out the Farnsworth Art Museum on Museum Street and enjoyed the outdoor collection on the rear lawn.
            The Museum specializes in Maine’s role in American art with pieces ranging from the 18th to the 20th century.  There is also a separate building across the street called the Wyeth Center which houses man paintings from the Wyeth family of artists who were all realist painters during the 20th century.  If you want to see some nice sculptures while still being outside you can walk around the rear lawn and see some nice pieces.  I do not know much about art but I was able to appreciate what I saw so it should not deter any visitor from checking them out.
The original Knox County Courthouse c.1875
            A spot that might not be for everyone but is something that interested me is the Knox County Courthouse.  I enjoyed it because there is a very modern building attached to an older looking building.  The older building, the original Knox County Courthouse, was finished in March 1875 by W.H. Glover and Company at a shade under $62,000.  The new building is an addition to the Courthouse which was completed in 1979.  It is something to see the drastic differences in architectural styles in a hundred years.  The original Courthouse building has more of a personality while the new addition is much more to the point with little creativity to it.  Much like with art I do not know much about architecture but this striking difference is something that was quite apparent to me.
            The fabulous Main Street is one part small-town with many local establishments and shops adorning the one-way street.  Then it also has a sort of Broadway vibe due to some nice flashing neon signs for places like the Strand Theater.  There was one particular sign on the corner of Main and Elm Street for a restaurant that had the word ‘EAT’ spelled out diagonally twice, a total of five letters which lit up.  It ended up being a piece of art created by Robert Indiana attached to the Farnsworth Museum which I only found out while researching this article.  I saw it many times during my trip and it always gave off the Broadway vibe as I watched each letter light up one by one.  Things like that added to the brilliance of Rockland’s Main Street.
Rockland Breakwater, about halfway out.
            Any trip to Rockland must include the ocean, it is virtually impossible to journey here and not spend at least some time along the shore.  For those who might not want to do too much exploring there is the Rockland Harbor Park on Main Street.  Here there is a spectacular view of the harbor.  On this day there were still many small boats on the water as people held on to their summer fun even into October.  There is a nice harbor walk trail leading along the water around the harbor and out to a pier that you can walk out onto the water.
            At the entrance to the Harbor Park there is a really nice Fishermen’s Memorial.  It has a small anchor atop a large concrete slab with the year ‘1854’ behind it representing the year that Rockland was incorporated as a town.  Little things like this memorial reminded me that fisherman still risk their lives each and everyday that they go to work.
            The final spot I visited was the highlight of my trip to Rockland.  The Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse is a definite must see for any visitor.  The only thing that might hold some people back is the fact that the breakwater is just short of a mile in length.  For me it was a no-brainer that I would take a walk out to the lighthouse since the beam of light from the lighthouse continuously ran across the walls of the Wataview Cottage where I stayed right across the harbor.
Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse
            The walk out to the lighthouse is not that difficult, the breakwater is fairly level.  There were many people on the same path; some even brought their dogs with them.  Once I made it out to the light station I was excited to find out that I would be allowed to climb up into the lighthouse so I could see Rockland and Owl’s Head from forty-feet high.  It was too windy on this day to go outside at the top but the view was still out of this world.  I thought that coming from Cape Cod I might have been the furthest traveler at the lighthouse but I was surprised to talk to a couple from Quebec and another from Minnesota!
            The breakwater was built between 1881 and 1899 to protect the harbor and the lighthouse was built in 1902.  Despite it being a fairly sound location I was able to see old photos where the breakwater has been totally submerged under rising water.  I was glad it was a sunny day.  When the Coast Guard announced that they were going to tear down the lighthouse there was massive public outcry.  First the nearby Samoset Resort took over the responsibility for the lighthouse’s upkeep and then the Rockland City Council took over the same duties.  Today the lighthouse is safe from the wrecking ball.
            Rockland is a small town but it can also be referred to as a tourist destination, a waterfront town, an artsy community, and for a few thousand people it is home.  I highly recommend taking in the Farnsworth Art Museum, walk, shopping, and eating on Main Street.  Then you can get some sun and exercise walking out to visit the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse.  Have fun and happy traveling!

For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading!

DirectionsFarnsworth Art Museum:  Take Rt. 1 into Rockland, turn left at Main Street.  Take 4th left onto Museum Street.  Museum is on left, parking on right.
            Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse:  Take Rt. 1 into Rockland, turn left at Main Street, follow it 1.4 miles.  Turn right at Waldo Ave., turn right at Samoset Rd., follow it to the end.  

            Rockland, ME - Official Site
            Rockland Main

Monday, November 22, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 86: Camden, Maine

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 86:  Camden, Maine
October 2, 2010

            Called the ‘Jewel of the Maine Coast’ Camden is simply spectacular.  It has pretty much everything a person could want in a small town.  There is the ocean, mountains only a short distance from the shore, and the amazing Elm Street portion of Rt. 1 which is filled with small shops and restaurants.  Despite doing my research before hitting Camden I was still blown away by what I saw.
Laite Memorial Beach
            Camden is a popular summer destination for visitors similar to Nantucket.  I first decided to head to the beach and I chose a spot with an amazing view, Laite Beach.  What makes this spot special is the fact that it is a sandy beach; these are not all that common along Maine’s rocky coast.  The view is amazing from the parking area as it is a good thirty feet above the beach.  I had hoped to be able to catch a view of Curtis Island Lighthouse but unfortunately from Laite Beach it is impossible to see since it resides on the other side of the small island and is obscured by trees.      
            Curtis Island is to the right as you stand at Laite Beach while to the left is an incredible view of the homes along the water on Wayfarer Drive along with the Camden Hills which loom over the entire town.  Seeing them reminded me of what was to come later in my trip.
Camden Opera House
            After leaving the beautiful beach I ventured down to Elm Street, the main drag of Camden.  I parked in a lot alongside the Post Office which was very close to a spot I wanted to check out.  The Camden Opera House is something unexpected in a small, summer tourist town.  It is the sort of place more likely to be found in a place like Boston or New York City.
            When it was built in 1894 this brick building was the tallest in Knox County.  I found that surprising considering that it is only three stories tall.  On opening night, June 6, 1894 the Camden Opera House featured a performance of William Vincent Wallace’s Maritana by the Boston Opera Company.
            As I had seen in other towns like Brockton, and Newport and Manchester, New Hampshire there were some really nice hundred-plus year old brick buildings known as ‘blocks.’  The stretch of Elm Street where I parked and walked was quintessential small town U.S.A.  Even on a Thursday in early-October the streets were packed with cars and people.  I believe that most folks that visit Camden will partake in this amazing stretch of shops and restaurants but I must recommend it anyway.
Norumbega Inn
            A short drive up the road from Elm Street is the Norumbega Inn, known as Maine’s ‘Castle by the Sea.’  It is named for an alleged wondrous 16th century city which resided on the banks of the Penobscot River.  The stories of this city were supposedly told by European explorers after they returned home.  The castle itself was built in 1886 for Joseph Sterns who used money he had amassed by inventing a duplex telegraphy system in the 1860’s.  The design was the brainchild of famed New York City architect Arthur Bates Jennings.  The home became a Bed & Breakfast in 1984.
            It is hard to miss this lavish mansion as it sits down a very slight hill from the High Street section of Rt. 1.  I parked in a little gravel area and was able to take a nice walk on the grounds.  Behind a few bushes I found a really nice engraving of the word Norumbega intertwined with vines and surrounded on one side by ‘18’ and the other by ’86.’  The building is an incredible piece of 19th century architecture and the grounds are wide open.  With many rooms facing the nearby Sherman Cove it is a hugely popular place to stay for visitors.
View of Camden from Mt. Battie
            My final stop during my time in Camden was one I will not soon forget.  The 5,700 acre Camden Hills State Park is only a mile away from Norumbega on the Belfast Road stretch of Rt. 1 and it is simply spectacular.  The only way to truly appreciate what Camden Hills is all about is to take a drive, or hike if you’re daring, up Mount Battie.  There is an auto road that winds its way up to the summit and that is the way I chose to go.
            Mt. Battie is a small mountain, standing only 780 feet tall; the neighboring Mount Megunticook is the tallest mainland mountain on the Atlantic coast standing 1,385 feet tall.  The relatively small size of Mt. Battie meant that I was still able to clearly make out homes and buildings in the surrounding area below; this made for a series of amazing photos.
            The panoramic view at the summit allowed me to see from Owl’s Head to the south all the way up to Acadia National Park to the north.  From here I was also finally able to catch a glimpse of the elusive Curtis Island Lighthouse which I had failed to see at Laite Beach.  I was astounded by how many people were cluttered around the summit taking photos, there were more arriving every second. 
World War I memorial tower atop Mt. Battie
            Another surprise for me at the top of Mt. Battie was a stone tower which looks like Scargo Tower in Dennis; it is a World War I memorial and holds the best views this side of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia.  I was in awe of the view I got of Camden from the top of the tower.  It was something out of a painting.  I did not want to move or even breathe for fear of losing the moment.
            I spent a good part of my day walking back and forth from point to point checking out every square inch of scenery, making sure that I would always remember it.  Mt. Battie is only a small part of the enormous Camden Hills State Park but for me that small part made the biggest impression.  I cannot stress enough how incredible the views are from Mt. Battie, get there early and spend some time enjoying all of it.  Then after you can catch lunch and do a little shopping on Elm Street and if an overnight stay is needed you can rest your head at the Norumbega Inn.  Have fun and happy traveling!

For a short video featuring the amazing Camden Hills State Park click here:  You Tube – Mt. Battie

For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading!

My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available through Schiffer Publishing!

DirectionsCamden Hills State Park:  From the south or north take Rt. 1, at this point called Belfast Road, into Camden.  Follow signs for the park which is #280.  There is another parking lot directly across the street from the entrance.
            Norumbega Inn:  From the south or north take Rt. 1, at this point called High Street, into Camden.  Inn is #63
            Laite Memorial Beach:  From the south or north take Rt. 1 into Camden.  Once on the Elm Street stretch of Rt. 1 turn south onto Bayview Street.  Beach entrance is ½ mile down on left.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 85: Thomaston, Maine

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 85:  Thomaston, Maine
October 2, 2010

            The tiny old seaport of Thomaston amazed me with its quaint, peaceful feeling.  However it was the ‘Museum in the Streets,’ an absolutely brilliant idea, that made this trip stand out for me.  The ‘Museum’ consists of thirty panels strategically located in front of, or across the street from, important and historical sites in the town.  These panels made the entire town appear to me to be more of a scavenger hunt; it was such a fun experience.  
Replica of Gen. Knox's Montpelier.
            Located in the area around the St. George River, the land on which Thomaston stands was originally a trading post established in 1630.  The most famous name associated with Thomaston is that of General Henry Knox.  Knox was a Revolutionary War hero who played a pivotal role in the ‘Siege of Boston’ in 1775-76 by bringing captured cannons to Boston from Fort Ticonderoga along the shore of Lake Champlain.  He brought them by sled a distance of over 200 miles.
            Knox became a close friend of George Washington when he was a General and Washington made him the United States’ first Secretary of War once he was named the first President.  There are two separate forts named for him, one near Louisville, Kentucky and another located in Prospect, Maine.
The only remaining building from the original Montpelier estate.
Knox retired to Thomaston in 1795 to his estate called Montpelier.  That original mansion was torn down in 1871 after it had decayed and Knox’s oldest grandson had no desire to repair it.  The only building remaining from the original Montpelier estate is a small brick building which was used as the train station for the Knox and Lincoln Railroad.  That building currently houses the Thomaston Historical Society.
The current Montpelier Museum is a reconstruction located on a hill at the corner of Rt. 1 and Rt. 131.  It is a magnificent building at an equally magnificent location.  There is a parking area off to the right of the white building; I parked in front of it where there is a small turnoff.  The building looked to me a lot like the White House with the golden eagle above the front door.  It had that sort of regal air to it the way it stands above everything else around it.
Watts Hall
The only surviving building from the original Montpelier is one of the stops on the ‘Museum in the Streets.’  In actuality this building, despite being an original piece of history, is not as eye-catching as the replica of Montpelier.  If I had not been specifically looking for it I would not have known that the small brick building, built in 1795, had any sort of significance but for the oval sign on the façade which alerts you to the fact that this is more than just a run of the mill train station.
The ‘Museum in the Streets’ plaques are scattered all over the little town of Thomaston but the main cluster of them can be found along Main Street and Knox Street.  One historic site I checked out was Watts Hall on Main Street.  The building was erected and donated to the people of Thomaston by Captain Samuel Watts in 1890.  The interesting part of the story is the fact that in 1915 there was a tremendous fire in the stable located behind the building which caused the entire block to burn to the ground.  The current Watts Hall was rebuilt by Watts’ daughter Mary Jane in memory of her father.  The building is used for town meetings and the large auditorium on the second floor is used by several theater groups.
St. Baptist Episcopal on left, Thomaston Baptist on right.
Another spot on Main Street with an interesting story is the location of two churches.  The Thomaston Baptist Church and the St. John Baptist Episcopal Church have been good neighbors ever since they were first built in 1816.  The two institutions have come to symbolize the love and respect between all religions in the small town.  In fact when the Baptist church’s steeple burned down in the 1990’s the money to rebuild it was raised by all of the other religious groups in town.  This lesson of love and respect between religions was not lost on me during this time in the world.
The ‘Museum in the Streets’ comes to an end along the banks of the St. George River where there are four plaques arranged around a large wooden cross on a green.  The cross was erected in commemoration of Captain George Waymouth’s landing there on June 12, 1605.  One of the plaques I found most intriguing was the one which featured information about an old wooden toll bridge which once spanned the river to the west.  There is a normal paved bridge there now but the story is that north of where that bridge stands was an original Indian trading post established by the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony in 1623.
Cross commemorating George Waymouth's landing.
Thomaston was also known as the town which built more ocean-going vessels than any other town in the entire country.  That fact surprised me when taking a drive around this little town.  It is amazing how much history, such as the building of all of those ships, happened in such a small place. 
There are a total of thirty plaques making up the ‘Museum in the Streets,’ many of those facing the place described on the plaque.  It is a fun way to learn about the history of a great little town, I never imagined during my trip to Maine that I’d been taking part in a sort of scavenger hunt, it was a lot of fun.  I highly recommend any visitor to the area take in the replica of General Knox’s Montpelier estate, breathe the salty air of the St. George River, and take some time to find all thirty of the plaques of the ‘Museum in the Streets.’  Have fun and happy traveling!

For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading!
DirectionsMontpelier Museum:  Take Rt. 1 into Thomaston, turn onto Rt. 131/High St.  Museum is on the left, parking is on left just beyond it.
            St. George River:  Take Rt. 1 into Thomaston, turn right at Knox Street which is next right after Watts Hall.  Follow it to the end.  There is a parking area which is where the final plaques and wooden cross are located.
            Watts Hall:  Take Rt. 1 into Thomaston.  Watts Hall is 110 Main Street/Rt. 1.  This is where a cluster of Museum plaques are located as well.

            General Knox
                Thomaston Historical

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 84: Owl's Head, Maine

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 84:  Owl’s Head, Maine
October 2, 2010

            Throughout the majority of my trips I have taken I have always felt that there was never enough time to see all that I wanted to see.  Getting a chance to spend six days in Maine I thought would be a perfect way to correct that.  Now, after finishing up my trip to Maine I have found out that even six days was not enough to see what I had wanted to see.  That being said, my time in Maine was among the most fun that I have had in my life. 
The living room at Wataview
I owe a huge debt of thanks to my friend Steve Davis who allowed me to stay at his ‘Wataview’ home on Cottage Avenue in Owl’s Head.  This house has an amazing view of Rockland Harbor and the Breakwater Lighthouse.  What a thrill it was for me to be able to sit out on the enclosed porch after dark and simply enjoy the sight of the lighthouse lantern as it spun rhythmically across the water and into the windows.  It is available for rent up until the beginning of October and the website is included at the end of the article.
Owl’s Head is a small town in the mid-coast region of Maine.  It was first explored in 1605 by Samuel de Champlain and was called Bedabedec Point by the Abenaki tribe of Native Americans.  The name means ‘Cape of the Winds.’  The town got its name from mariners who thought the shape of the rock ridge where Owl’s Head Light currently stands looked like an owl.  Though it has over 400 years of history the town was not incorporated until 1921.
Birch Point Beach State Park
 I found Owl’s Head to be in many ways an absolutely perfect snapshot of what I always had thought Maine would look like to me.  After waking up to a beautiful sunrise over the harbor the first place I ventured out to was Birch Point Beach State Park.  This area is one that would qualify as ‘classic Maine’ with its outcropping of rocks lined with straight-as-towers pine trees stretching out into the cool Atlantic waters.
The road to the beach was closed so I needed to walk to get to the water.  This was a welcomed addition to my trip as it gave me a chance to take in the rapidly changing leaves whose colors were made even brighter by the strong morning sun.  The beach was magnificent as I hit it at low tide and was able to walk out on some of the dry rocks and get a great view of the Mussel Ridge Channel Islands which sit about a mile off shore.  This area ended up being the best possible starting point for my time in Maine and it only got better from here.
Entrance to the Transportation Museum
The next spot I visited was the Owl’s Head Transportation Museum located on Museum Street.  The drive from Birch Point to the museum was so amazing that I almost did not want it to end.  Everything shone from the sun, every home, every tree, it was all too perfect.  The Transportation Museum has an unbelievable collection of items, it is a day trip all in itself.  There are originals and replicas of aircraft dating all the way back to 1804.  The thirteen-inch unmanned glider built by the ‘Father of Aviation,’ Sir George Cayley, is replicated here.  It is amazing to see where aviation began to where it is today.
Owl's Head Harbor
The Museum also has an impressive collection of antique cars as well including a three-wheeled open air vehicle built by Karl Benz in 1885.  It looks incredibly out of place even among vehicles from thirty years later but there are many features to it which are still used in cars today.  I found the vehicles from the 19th and very early 20th century to be the most interesting mostly because of the history and how these awkward looking vehicles actually changed the world.
After leaving the Transportation Museum I headed to Owl’s Head State Park located on the northeast corner of the wide peninsula.  It is here that the spectacular Owl’s Head Lighthouse resides.  This area contains the rocky cliff that gave Owl’s Head its name, although it is impossible to see from where the lighthouse is situated.
Owl's Head Lighthouse
From the parking lot it is a short walk to the lighthouse itself.  The walk contains some more incredible views of the rocky cliffs and a gray sandy beach located near the parking lot.  Once you get to where the Coast Guard Station and Owl’s Head Lighthouse are the cliffs get much higher and the views include all of the surrounding area.
I found it odd yet thrilling that a lighthouse was built in such a spot.  Built in 1852 the lighthouse itself is only thirteen-feet tall yet it can be seen for miles because the light is 100 feet above sea level thanks to the gigantic cliffs.  The stairway which leads up to where the lighthouse sits made for some fantastic photo opportunities, and the view from the top was the perfect capper to my day in Owl’s Head.  The walk and the stairs should not deter anybody from paying this marvelous site a visit.
Although it is a small town population wise, and a new town as far as being officially recognized, Owl’s Head is filled with amazing places to see.  The Owl’s Head Transportation Museum is a day trip itself and is a must see.  I highly recommend paying a visit to Owl’s Head Lighthouse for the incredible views.  For a taste of what I believe is ‘classic Maine’ there is Birch Point Beach State Park.  If you see all of those places then I also recommend simply pointing your vehicle in any direction and taking a slow drive through the streets of this awesome little town.  Have fun and happy traveling!

*For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading!

DirectionsBirch Point Beach State Park:  Take Rt. 1 into Rockland, turn right at Rt. 73, follow it 4 miles, turn left at Dublin Rd., turn right at Ballyhac Rd.  Follow it to signs for park, there is some parking if gate is closed.
            Owl’s Head Transportation Museum:  Take Rt. 1 into Rockland, turn right at Rt. 73, follow it almost 3 miles, turn left at Museum St., there is a sign for the museum at entrance.
            Owl’s Head Lighthouse:  Take Rt. 1 into Rockland, turn right at Rt. 73, follow it almost 2 miles, turn left at N. Shore Drive.  Turn left at Main St. near Post Office, turn left at Lighthouse Rd. follow it to parking lot.  

                Mussel Ridge Historical Society
            Owl's Head Official Town Site

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 83: Manchester, New Hampshire

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 83:  Manchester, New Hampshire
September 21, 2010

            Consistently ranking as one of the best places to live in the United States I had very high expectations for Manchester even before I arrived.  After leaving I can say that it lives up to every word of its reputation.  It is every bit a city with tall buildings and busy streets yet it never seemed as imposing to me as places like New York and Boston can be at times.
Weston Tower
            My time in Manchester began with a tower and ended with a tower, the Weston Tower and Smyth Towers respectively.  Weston Tower, on Oak Hill Drive, was built in 1896-97 during the 50th anniversary of the city.  It was built in honor of James Adams Weston who was four times mayor of Manchester during the 1860’s and 70’s.  It is a magnificent granite structure standing sixty-six feet tall with the observatory being an astounding 360 feet above sea level thanks to the hill it stands on.  On this day that I visited the road up to the tower was closed and so I had to walk, but it is not far.  When it is open the observation deck is a great place to see some of the great sights of New Hampshire.
            Smyth Tower is located on the grounds on the Manchester VA Medical Center which makes it stand out even more.  This tower, another which looks like Scargo Tower in Dennis, was built in 1888 as a hideaway for then New Hampshire Governor Fredrick Smyth.  I found it an interesting mix with the tower sitting on a small grassy plateau seemingly untouched from when it was originally built; this is in stark contrast to the walls of steel and glass of the hospital no more than fifty feet away.  These towers were the bookends of my time in Manchester but there was so much more to see in one of the best cities to live in.
            For beautiful scenery there is Stark Park on River Road.  The park itself is very wide open and it is easy to navigate thanks to winding gravel roads which make it possible to find your own piece of shade in which to relax.  There were many cars spaced out all over the park with people lying back in their seats.  I took a walk around this park and realized it is much more like a neighborhood than just a park.
Stark Park
            In the center of the lush green grass is a huge statue of the man the park is named for: General John Stark.  Stark was a Revolutionary War hero and was known as the ‘Hero of Bennington’ for his service at the Battle of Bennington in 1777.  Stark was born is what is today known as Derry, New Hampshire and moved at age eight to modern-day Manchester.  His grave, as well as that of three generations of Starks, is located in the back of the park surrounded by an iron fence.  These graves show you that General Stark was a real person and not just some name engraved on a statue.
            The soul of Manchester can be felt while walking Elm Street and taking a stroll out onto the Notre Dame Bridge.  I enjoyed Elm Street because while it was in many ways the typical city street with high rise buildings and hotels it was pretty much the only street that looked that way to me.  Much like I mentioned about Newport, New Hampshire and a few other towns I have seen there were many brick buildings with names located up near the roof level.
            There are some odd things about cities that I find fascinating.  One such thing is when there are old advertisements on the sides of the brick buildings that seemed to just be ignored.  This was the case on the Dunlap Building and I have seen it before in Taunton where there was an awesome old Coca-Cola ad on the side of a building.
View from the Notre Dame Bridge
            The Notre Dame Bridge which spans over the Merrimack River as it runs through Manchester gives an amazing view of the city with the water and foliage providing a perfect backdrop.  While this walk might not be for everyone I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see this side of Manchester.  The spots that caught my eye the most were the Jefferson Mill to the north with its green peaked roof, clock tower, and ‘Jefferson’ in cursive on the façade.  Also catching my attention to the south was the building at 900 Elm Street which stood out not only because it was one of the tallest buildings but it had two different colored walls, a deep red and a clear color, plus a green roof similar to the Jefferson Mill.
Entrance to the Red Arrow Diner.
            I will admit that as great as my trip to Manchester was I had been saving the best for last.  The Red Arrow Diner is known nationwide for its amazing food as well as the line of celebrities that have filled its walls.  First opened in 1922 the current incarnation of the Diner is owned by Carol Sheehan who took it over in 1987.  It was voted one of the ten best diners in the country and the list of celebrities that have eaten here include Adam Sandler, Paul Newman, Al Gore, and Guy Fieri.  The seats where famous people have eaten are marked by small red plaques which make each visit special in its own right.  
            Their chili is award winning and I tend to agree with the consensus after having some myself.  The walls are filled with unique memorabilia and photos.  It is the consummate diner experience down to the last detail.  It is obvious why people make it a regular stop in their lives.  There is a lot of Red Arrow merchandise as well which means even if you live far away such as I do you can always have that smiling coffee mug logo wherever you are.
            Manchester is consistently rated as one of the best cities to live in the United States and after visiting it is easy to see why.  With beautiful stone towers, lush green parks, beautiful river scenery, a bustling but not overpowering city life, and of course an amazing diner, Manchester is easily a place where I can see myself going back to again and again.  Have fun and happy traveling!

     My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at,, and, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!

DirectionsStark Park:  From I-93 north take Exit 9S for Rt. 28, after 1.7 miles turn right at Webster St.  Turn right at Elm St., take 2nd left onto Monroe St., turn right at River Rd.  Follow it .5 miles to entrance on left.
            Red Arrow Diner:  From I-93 north take Exit 8 onto Wellington Rd., continue onto Bridge St., follow it 1.4 miles, turn left at Kosiuszko St.  Turn left at Lowell St.  Parking is on either side of road.
            Weston Tower:  From I-93 headed north take Exit 8 onto Wellington Rd.  Take first right onto Rt. 28A, turn left at Stockholm St., turn right at Oak Hill Drive.  Tower Hill Rd. is on left, if gate is closed it is a short walk to tower.

ReferencesRed Arrow Diner
             Friends of Stark Park

Thursday, November 4, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 82: Concord, New Hampshire

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 82:  Concord, New Hampshire
September 21, 2010

            Although it is one of the smallest capitals people-wise in the United States, Concord has an amazing amount of history.  A beautiful city at the end of a beautiful drive down from Central New Hampshire, Concord gives you a chance to be in a city, a state capital none the less, but also retain the feel of a family friendly town.
            It was originally inhabited by the Abenaki tribe of Native Americans and later became known as Rumford upon being settled by colonists between 1725 and 1727.  The name Concord came about in 1765 after a border dispute between Rumford and its neighboring Bow.  The name Concord means harmony and thus the name was meant to reflect the new harmony, or concord between the two towns.
New Hampshire State House
So much of the modern history of Concord has to do with the United States government.  It is easy to get lost in the wonder of the history of Concord as soon as you step foot in front of the State House on North Main Street.  With its golden dome and well kept green lawn heading toward its granite steps the New Hampshire State House is as beautiful as it is historical. 
The State House is the oldest state capitol in the country where the legislators still meet in the original chambers.  The first sessions of the General Court took place here in 1819.  After parking on North Main Street I entered the grounds of the State House through a magnificent granite archway that made me truly feel as though as I passing from the present to the past.  It was an awe-inspiring time to get to stand so close to a spot with such a significant meaning to it.  It has always been known as the ‘people’s house’ and therefore there are no gates around the ground, which also means there is no excuse not to take some time to pay the State House a visit.
Concord also offered me my first opportunity to visit the resting place of a former United States President.  Born in 1804 in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, a small town thirty-six miles south of Concord, Franklin Pierce is as of today the only President born in New Hampshire.  Pierce was the 14th President of the United States, serving from 1853 to 1857.  He also fought as a brigadier general in the Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1848.  He was seen as very personable and therefore made a great deal of friends, however his record as president was less than stellar and is widely forgotten.
The grave of Franklin Pierce.
I first paid a visit to Pierce’s final resting place at the Old North Cemetery on North State Street.  The grave itself is in a small enclosure surrounded by an iron fence.  I was honored to be standing before the grave of a former U.S. President, no matter what his political achievements may have been.  However, I was also amazed at what little fanfare there was to this simple plot.  If I had not gone there specifically to look for Franklin Pierce’s grave I might have passed right by it.  The unspectacular headstone seemed to be fitting of what I have read about Pierce’s life and accomplishments.
The connection to Franklin Pierce continued at the Pierce Manse on Horseshoe Pond Lane.  The term ‘manse’ means ‘a house lived it by its owner,’ it was bestowed upon the house in 1969 as a nod to Pierce’s longtime friend, author Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Hawthorne’s Salem, Massachusetts home was known as ‘The Old Manse.’
The Franklin Pierce Manse
Much like his grave the only place in New Hampshire ever lived in by Franklin Pierce and his family is very unassuming.  I had expected a gigantic mansion but the Manse is much more modest for a President.  Sticking with that theme the Manse was actually saved from being demolished in 1971 by a group called the ‘Pierce Brigade.’  Imagine that?  A home lived in by a former President actually was going to be demolished?  I guess as someone who loves and respects history I find that almost unimaginable.  The home was moved from its original location on Montgomery Street to its current location in 1971 once the land it sits on was acquired.  It is open by appointment year round.         
After leaving the life of Franklin Pierce behind I found a beautiful park which held another smaller, probably less significant piece of history.  White Park, located on White Street is a great place for families to gather for picnics and other outdoor activities but it is the pristine baseball field with unbelievable brick dugouts that caught my eye.
Site of the Sunset Beaseball League at White Park.
I did not know it beforehand but the baseball field, now known as Red Eastman Field, was much more than meets the eye.  It turns out that this field was and still is the home of the Sunset League.  The Sunset League is the country’s oldest evening amateur baseball league formed in 1909.  The original teams’ names were the White Parks, Old Timers, Haymakers, and Sluggers.  This field was a training ground for some future Major Leaguers including Red Rolfe who collected nearly 1,400 hits during ten seasons with the New York Yankees from 1931-42.  After finding this information out I had to stop and really take in the beauty of the field, imagining what it was like when the ‘after supper’ games first began over a hundred years ago.
Finally on my trip to Concord I stopped at the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium.  This was a spot I really wanted to see because of the connection the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion has to my childhood.  I remembered learning about the citizen astronauts, especially Mrs. McAuliffe who was a teacher, when I was in second grade in 1986.  We watched the launch live and saw the unbelievable tragedy as it unfolded.
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
Seeing this beautiful dedication to Mrs. McAuliffe and to a lesser extent the Challenger crew was a sort of cathartic experience for me.  I really liked the model Mercury-Redstone rocket ship just outside of the building; it stands ninety-two feet tall and was like something out of the 1960’s.  Even if you are not familiar with the Challenger events this planetarium is a must see for science and space lovers.  I really think that if you are not a fan of either you will be by the time you leave.   
Concord, New Hampshire is a state capitol with a small town feel.  It is every bit as historic and filled with everything a city has to offer but it is much less imposing than larger capital cities might be.  Take the time to tour the State House, even just the grounds.  Visit the grave and home of a former president, check out a beautiful historic baseball field, and definitely pay homage to Astronaut Christa McAuliffe at the planetarium named in her honor.  Have fun and happy traveling!

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DirectionsNew Hampshire State House:  From I-93 headed north take Exit 15W for Rt. 202.  Merge onto Rt. 202, turn left after a half mile to stay on Rt. 202, State House is half mile away on right.
            Franklin Pierce Manse:  From I-93 headed north take Exit 15W for Rt. 202.  Turn right at N. Main St., Pierce Manse will be straight ahead at end of the road.
            Christa McAuliffe Planetarium:  From I-93 headed north take Exit 15E for I-393.  Take Exit 1, turn left at Ft. Eddy Rd.  Continue onto College Dr., turn right at Institute Drive.

References:  Pierce
                McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
            Concord, NH - Official Site
            New Hampshire Historical Society