Saturday, November 19, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 127: Amesbury, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

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.
Lake Gardner
            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.
Macy-Colby House
            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! 

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!

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.

            Lowell's Boat

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 126: Kittery, Maine

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 126:  Kittery, Maine
October 5, 2011

Fort McClary
            Although it is probably known more for its outlet shops Kittery has a strong historical significance as well.  The oldest town in Maine was originally settled in the 1620’s and became a town in 1647.  Ironically when most towns in the Colonies were being named for towns in England Kittery was actually named for a house.  It was named for the Manor of Kittery Court in Devon, England.  That home still stands to this day.  Of course I am not one to tell visitors to pass up the Kittery Outlets.  Still, after paying a visit to the acres of shops spread on both sides of Rt. 1 there are many other interesting things to see.
The view from inside the Block House.
            I started off my time in Kittery with an amazing old fort.  Fort McClary sits on the northern shore of Portsmouth Harbor.  There is a panoramic view of Portsmouth Lighthouse, Fort Constitution, and Whaleback Lighthouse along with many boats in the harbor during the warmer seasons.  The first fortifications on the site dated back to the late 17th century and were erected by wealthy landowner Sir William Pepperell.  The fort itself was built in 1808.  It fell into severe disrepair in the early 20th century.  The state of Maine purchased the fort and the land in 1924.  The badly damaged buildings were torn down.  The surviving buildings including the Block House were repaired in the 1980’s.
            Unlike many of the forts I have visited I was actually able to go inside one of the main buildings.  The Block House, a white hexagonal building built in between 1844-46, was wide open.  It now serves as a museum.  The view from up inside the Block House is incredible.  The vantage point must be more than fifty feet above the water level if I had to guess.  I took my time and enjoyed the views before leaving one fort behind, there was another one that I needed to visit later. 
Rice Public Library
            In between forts I took in some of the other sites that Kittery had to offer.  Although I don’t frequent them I am fascinated by how many public libraries are housed in amazing looking buildings.  That is the case with the Rice Library on Wentworth Street.  The library building looks much like ones I have seen in Easton and Fairhaven, Massachusetts.  The Rice Library has some of the same styles as many other Henry Hobson Richardson buildings despite not being created by the famed 19th century architect.
            I was particularly excited about my visit to Fort Foster.  Located on Gerrish Island in Kittery this historic site has more than just a fort.  During my trip to Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s Fort Constitution I had noticed another lighthouse located across the harbor.  That was Whaleback Lighthouse and I knew I needed to pay it a visit during a future trip. 
Whaleback Lighthouse on the left at Fort Foster.
            On this day the gates to Fort Foster were closed so I had to park outside and walk in.  Also it had been a beautifully sunny day but dark clouds had rolled in and it began to rain heavily.  I had been planning my Kittery trip for months so a little rain, or a lot of rain, was not going to stop me.  Plus the skies were still mostly blue which made me believe that a rainbow would be possible once the rains stopped.
            People were fleeing the rain while I walked out.  The fort was built in the 1870’s making it the last ‘old’ fort built in the area.  As the rain was still falling I made my way out onto a very long pier.  It was here that I got the closest view of Whaleback Lighthouse.  The fifty-foot tall structure was built in 1872.  The Whaleback name refers to a jagged stretch of rocks, a continuation of Gerrish Island completely underwater at high tide.  Though it is often considered a New Hampshire lighthouse it is located about 1,500 feet into Maine’s waters.
The rainbow which came out while at Fort Foster.
            There is also a unique house situated on some rocks near the lighthouse as well but I was unable to find any information about its significance.  It was while I was standing out on the pier that the rain let up and the sun came back out.  Sure enough a rainbow began to form.  I was able to see the entirety of the rainbow from where I stood.  For a short time there was even a second rainbow which formed.  It made my walk out there in the rain worth it.
            I had an awesome time in Kittery.  The pair of old forts were just what I was interested in seeing.  I highly recommend checking them out even if you decide to spend most of your time shopping at the Kittery Outlets.  The oldest town in Maine has so much to offer and I am so glad I got to see it.  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!

Directions:  Fort McClary:  Take I-95 N through New Hampshire into Maine.  Take Exit 2 to merge onto Rt. 236 S.  At the rotary take the 3rd exit to stay on Rt. 236.  Follow it 1.1 miles, continue onto Whipple Rd., continue onto Pepperrell Rd.  Follow it .5 miles, the fort is on the right.
            Fort Foster:  Take I-95 N through New Hampshire into Maine.  Take Exit 2 to merge onto Rt. 236 S.  At the rotary take the 3rd exit to stay on Rt. 236.  Follow it 1.1 miles, continue onto Whipple Rd., continue onto Pepperrell Rd.  Follow it 1.5 miles, continue onto Tenney Hill Road.  Continue onto Brave Boat Harbor Rd., follow it .2 miles, turn right onto Gerrish Island Rd.  Turn right onto Pocahontas Rd., follow it 1.1 miles, keep right at the fork in the road.  The fort and lighthouse are straight ahead.

            North American Forts - Fort Foster