Fun with Highways: New Hampshire

We continue our series this season with a visit to the Granite State. New Hampshire typifies what we think of as “northern New England.”, with a mixture of old factory towns and mills, forested mountainous wilderness and rocky coastline.

[Photo from dougtone on flickr.]

We begin on this rather oddly named bit of highway south of Nashua called the “Circumferential Highway.” It’s not really circumferential of anything, except maybe an argument. But it does connect us to a major highway, the Everett Turnpike, as we head north through the state. I actually have visited Nashua. It was (gasp!) 20 years ago when a college friend invited me to tag along with him to go up to New Hampshire and volunteer for a presidential candidate I had barely heard of named Bill Clinton. The main thing I remember about walking around the town was that it was very cold. And it also looked a bit more gritty and rundown than the some of the more recent images I have seen.

Traveling north on the Everett Turnpike we come to the state’s largest city, Manchester. The turnpike merges with I-293 and heads north along the river, passing by downtown and the old mill buildings of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company. This was a huge enterprise in its day, and apparently had the largest cotton textile plant in the world in the late 19th century. The company went under in the 1930s, but the buildings remain. You can see the rather narrow I-293/Everett Turnpike along the river just in front of the red brick mill buildings. Many have found new uses for contemporary industries as well as residential and commercial development.

[Image from Wikimedia Commons.]

Manchester is also home to the Currier Museum of Art. It’s plaza includes the sculpture Origins by Mark di Suvero.

[Photo by madame urushiol on flickr.]

It seems like variations on his “weird red thing” (aka Joie de Vivre) from Zuccotti Park are everywhere. After our Iowa article last week, a reader on DailyKos recommended a sculpture garden in Des Moines that also contains a di Suvero piece. I wonder how many more we might encounter as this series continues. The Currier also manages the Zimmerman House, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece in the northern part of the city.

[Photo by mmwm on flickr.]

New England was apparently quite a hotbed of modern architecture in the middle of the 20th century, and many of the designs make Frank Lloyd Wright’s look conservative by comparison.

An avid highway enthusiast who goes by the name “FreewayJim” on YouTube has a fun time-lapsed and annotated view of the drive north on the Everett Turnpike and I-293 through Manchester as I-293 merges back into I-93 towards Concord. It turns out this is his hometown, so he brings a bit of knowledge about what has changed, and especially what has not changed on these roads.

I-93 continues north from Concord and winds its way gracefully into the White Mountains region. Here we see the rugged northern New England wilderness, another defining feature of the state. Cosigned with US 3, I-93 continues north into Franconia Notch State Park, where it narrows to just one lane in each direction, a rarity for an interstate highway.

The park includes among other things the former site of the Old Man in the Mountain. This natural feature on Cannon Mountain symbolized the state. It is part of the state highway shields. It is on the state’s commemorative quarter. It is on the state’s license plates. And it came crashing down off the cliffs one night in 2003. It sounds like there was a great sense of loss for the state when this happened. A memorial is currently being built at the base of the mountain, which will feature large granite elements representing both the formation itself and the state’s identity.

One can leave I-93 here and head eastwards on NH 112, the Kancamagus Highway through the White Mountains. In addition to having a great name, the roadway provides scenic vistas of the mountains and forests (especially dramatic in the autumn) as well as rocky rivers and covered bridges.

[Click images to enlarge.]

It seems like New Hampshire has quite a few covered bridges. I was actually in this area once as a kid (even more than 20 years ago). It was quite beautiful, but even in summer the water in the river was cold.

Highway 112 ends at the town of Conway, which I knew sounded familiar for some reason. It is in fact because of the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire’s shelter in the town. I think I crossed paths with them once via Weekend Cat Blogging. In any case, they have some nice cats available for adoption if you are in northern New England.

UPDATE: Speaking of cats, we would be remiss if we did not head north from Conway on Highway 16 to Mount Washington. This summit has famously high winds and all around terrible weather, but it is quite an experience to visit (on that same childhood trip I was picked up off the ground by a gust of wind). Plus, they have an official observatory cat, Marty. He is one in a long line of Mount Washington cats, about whom you read more here. Marty’s predecessor, Nin, was there for quite a while and posted this article in 2007 when Nin retired.

Returning to Manchester, one can head westward or eastward on NH 101. To the west, the highway is a local road that winds its way to the town of Keene. I only learned about Keene through these great photo an abandoned factory. It seems to not fared as well as its larger counterparts in Manchester and Nashua, but the ruins are quite beautiful as a photographic subject, especially with the snow.

[Photo by Lorianne DiSabato on flickr.]

East of Manchester, 101 is a large highway heading towards the coast. It passes by Exeter, a town with a prep school that many of my college acquaintances attended. But more interestingly, the academy includes this modernist library designed by Louis I. Kahn:

[Photo by Pablo Sanchez via Wikimedia Commons. (Click to enlarge.)]

101 eventually hits the coast at highway 1A, just north of Seabrook. Although the beaches along this shore are quite scenic, I know them mostly from the history surrounding the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station. In 1977, the Clamshell Alliance staged what we would now refer to as an “occupy protest” on the construction site of the plant. Nonetheless, at least one reactor of the plant was built. If I didn’t know what it was or the dangers surrounding nuclear energy, I would actually think of it visually as a positive contribution to the landscape, contrasting with the low horizon, dunes, wetlands and ocean, as in this photo from along 1A:

And I think this sunset is a perfect way to conclude this short trip to New Hampshire.