Michael Crichton once said that a man unaware of his history is like a leaf who doesn’t realize he belongs to a tree. Discover the branches of your past by visiting the most important historical sites in New Hampshire. From living history museums to military installations, the Granite State has no shortage of fascinating heritage to share with modern residents. From the colonial endurance of surviving our wicked wilderness to the development of our incredibly rich contemporary culture, endless educational wonders await curious minds.
The Harrisville Historic District is an exceptionally preserved mill village, and one of the best opportunities in the state to glimpse our industrial past. Covering 200 acres, with a total of 135 buildings, Historic Harrisville is among the most well preserved areas of the country. Once a bustling hub of ironwork, grist and flour milling, and fabric manufacturing, a trip to Harrisville transports you to another time. Much of the area dates to between 1820 and 1870, a time when the entire economy of New England underwent enormous social and economic change.
Portsmouth’s Jackson House is the oldest surviving wood framed house in the state, built on 25 acres in 1664. A visit to Jackson House not only exposes the earliest iteration of American architecture, but also stylistic variations from other past decades as the Jackson family built multiple additions.
A U.S. Naval Research vessel, the USS Albacore was used to test experimental maritime technology. Now, the Albacore is on dry land and open to the public. Take a self-guided tour and listen to recordings of former crew members detailing life on board, a stunning glimpse at life undersea. Although the submarine force of the United States Navy accounts for just 2 percent of enlisted members, it has historically provided exceptionally victorious service, as well as some of the highest casualty rates. Because of these factors, research boats like the Albacore have played a critical role in increasing the safety protocols for our brave servicemen. A trip to the USS Albacore is a perfect way to teach both children and adults about our naval and maritime history.
Home to the largest Shaker Dwelling House ever constructed, this Enfield site is not to be missed. An incredibly rich history of Shaker culture is presented through art, furniture, and lifestyle, as well as craft demonstrations and concerts. Get lost in history and spend a day wandering the village and learning about our local social and religious heritage.
Portsmouth is home to a world-renowned living history museum known as Strawbery Banke. With its earliest building dating to 1695, Strawbery Banke boasts 39 impeccably-restored structures that preserve the historic Puddle Dock neighborhood. Renowned gardens representing 400 years of varied horticultural technique, as well as traditional boat builders performing demonstrations, allow the visitor to feel completely immersed in colonial-era New Hampshire.
Another great site for exploring the daily life of a New Hampshire past is the Lockhaven Schoolhouse Museum in Enfield. A one-room schoolhouse built in the 1850s, Lockhaven preserves our early educational history. The Lockhaven Schoolhouse Museum is a particular point of pride given New Hampshire’s early participation in widespread education.
In 1791, New Hampshire gave a parcel of land to the United States Military. This peninsula on New Castle Island had housed the colonial Fort William and Mary, as well as a lighthouse, both critical to the wellbeing of the colonists. The military repaired the fort and expanded on its original footprint, renovations that were completed in 1808 and which resulted in Fort Constitution. Today, the base has become something of a park, and is open year-round to the public for recreation. The ruins of Fort Constitution are viewable, and provide a wonderful starting point to teach children about our rich, revolutionary history.
The Town Hall of Sandown, New Hampshire, is one of the best-preserved meeting houses in the state, and perhaps the country. In an embrace of New Hampshire’s self-governing spirit, Sandown has conducted its most important business in the house, and the history inside the structure is almost palpable. Here, divided men debated whether or not to agree to the proposed United States Constitution. Votes were cast for President George Washington, and municipal ordinance was developed into the complex system that stands today. Truly a hub of its community, the meeting house served as town church on Sundays, and hosted local groups and the town government in between. Visit Sandown’s Old Meeting House for a special glimpse into the pieces of New Hampshire past that forever remain the same: Self-government, community, and self-sufficiency.
The Zimmerman House holds the honor of being the only structure in New Hampshire designed by world renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and being the only one in all of New England to remain open to the public. Built in 1950 for the Zimmerman family, Wright designed all aspects of the house including the interior and decor. The house is generally closed for the winter season and accessible only through tours organized by the Currier Museum of Art.
In the basement of a Dartmouth College library, a priceless piece of art history sits unassumingly. A 24-panel mural, called “The Epic of American Civilization,” depicts the settling of the Americas, their development, and the impact of war on their societies. Painted by social realist painter Jose Clemente Oroszco in the 1930s, the mural was designated a National Historical Landmark in 2013, and is a point of extreme pride for both Dartmouth College and the State of New Hampshire.
Cornish was once home to one of the most famous American sculptors of all time, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Public monuments, relief sculptures, even American coins were created by Saint-Gaudens in his home studio. Tour his former house, his artist’s studio, and the impressive English-style gardens located on the grounds.
Visit the childhood home of America’s 14th president, Franklin Pierce, built in 1804. The home not only offers insight into the early life of our former Commander in Chief, but is an impeccable preservation of early 19th century life in New Hampshire.
This 40-room mansion in Portsmouth was once home to New Hampshire’s first royal governor, Benning Wentworth. On the shores of Little Harbor, this mansion became the epicenter of social and political life in New Hampshire, as Wentworth also worked out of the home. To add intrigue, the mansion was later sold to J Templemen Coolidge III, trustee of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Thanks to Coolidge’s involvement, the house was transformed into an artistic oasis, and played host to such creative giants as John Singer Sargent and Edmund Tarbell. Adding to the special nature of the mansion is its singularity: The Wentworth-Coolidge House is the only standing home of a royal governor of any of the original colonies.
As the first mountain climbing train in the world, Mount Washington’s Cog Railway is a special piece of railroad history right in our own backyard. The track was completed in 1869, and provided a path for “Old Peppersass,” the original train. Take a three-hour tour on the cog railway, 6,288 feet straight up the side of Mount Washington, and learn about this important piece of transportation history. The railway itself is a National Historic Engineering Landmark, and often considered one of the best stops in the White Mountains.
Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm is a unique way to explore all aspects of our predecessor’s lives—social, medical, agricultural, culinary, and domestic. As the only country doctor museum in all of New England, Remick is a stellar, all-encompassing way to teach children and adults about our collective heritage. Hands on learning is made a delight on this 200-year-old village farmstead. With events year-round, including Maple Sugaring, an Ice Harvest Winter Carnival, and Nights at the Museum, it is easy to find something the whole family can enjoy.