Even though I previously, and unjustly, relegated New Hampshire to the status of “drive-through” state, it doesn’t mean that I never stopped in its midst. I brake for historical markers, and I’m pretty certain that New Hampshire has more markers than all of the other New England states combined—and not just to dead white men like Mr. Webster below. All sorts of events, institutions and individuals are memorialized by green road-side Bicentennial markers: combined with the historical societies which seem to be located in nearly every New Hampshire town, they are a testament to a state that takes its history seriously. This earnest presentation is refreshing, frankly, especially when contrasted with Salem’s more cynical commercialization of just one aspect of its more varied past: history for history’s sake rather than for profit. Driving northwesterly across the state to the Lakes Region, I wanted to stop at each and every historical society, but I was pressed for time: I did stop at many markers.
Many people are drawn to New Hampshire for its mountains and lakes, but these attractions are secondary to me: if you’ve spent any time at all on this blog you will have noticed my preference for the built landscape! So even though I had a prominent lakes/mountain destination last weekend, I became much more fixated on a town nestled between the two: Tamworth, established in 1766. Tamworth has everything: a picture-perfect town center, a pedigreed summer theater (the Barnstormers), a museum dedicated to life and work of two country doctors (The Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm) a presidential (Grover Cleveland) summer house, a babbling brook (the Swift River), a farm-to-table restaurant and grocer (The Lyceum), a general store (the Other Store), an amazing foundational edifice named Ordination Rock, a shiny-new distillery (Tamworth Distilling), and an inn (Highland House) built by a Salem sea captain! I’d love to have a summer house here (if I can convince my husband that it is possible to live more than a half-mile from the ocean and still be happy, a big if).
Sights & happenings of Tamworth: the Library, Barnstormers Theater, Remick Museum +Buildings+”Inhabitants”, Tamworth Lyceum, Sunday concert, Tamworth Distilling & Mercantile.
Given its heritage, of course Tamworth also has a historical society, recently re-christened (as you can see below) the Tamworth History Center. We found it open and bustling, with volunteers within eager to tell us about the town and the Center, which features revolving exhibits in its two ground-floor rooms: currently the early history of the Barnstormers is on, along with a very comprehensive genealogical exhibition on one of Tamworth’s prominent families. There is a dual preservation/presentation mission at present: focused continually on the town’s heritage as well as on the ongoing restoration of the Center’s c. 1830 headquarters. I enjoyed the exhibits immensely, but became a bit distracted by the untouched-for-decades attractions of the house’s central hallway! When restoration is complete, the house will not feature the traditional period rooms; instead it will serve as a forum, or center, for “the many stories that have made Tamworth unique, from 1766 onwards”. I want to hear more.
Inside the evolving Tamworth History Center above; another visual presentation of Tamworth’s past—and present.
August 18th, 2017 at 9:31 pm
I always enjoy your posts about Salem and Salem history, but imagine my surprise to be up in Tamworth, NH and see your post today about this lovely small town where I have spent summers all my life! My great grandmother, Charlotte Crowninshield Browne, who spent most of her life in Salem at 40 Summer St., bought our house up here in 1915 as a present to my grandfather, Theodore Crowninshield Browne, who had just graduated from Harvard that June. Of course, I was pleased to read such an enthusiastic description of Tamworth’s many attractions, and immediately had to send off your post to family and friends up here. One responded that the only thing he thought you missed was the wonderful Farmer’s Markets held here every Saturday. Although I know you are not as interested in mountains and lakes, Mount Chocorua and Chocorua Lake are major attractions in Tamworth. Chocorua village is part of the town of Tamworth. After I forwarded it, your Tamworth post was immediately put on the Chocorua Lake Facebook page! I first met you a few years ago through my cousin, Becky Putnam, at a lecture in Salem about historic wallpaper. Thank you so much for making a rainy day much more exciting, and I do hope you can visit Tamworth again very soon.
Best, Kathy Greenough
August 19th, 2017 at 6:50 am
I Kathy–of course I remember you, and as you can see I LOVE Tamworth. As much as I adore Salem, it is so very busy that we’re craving a summer retreat, so I always have my eyes open wherever I go but now it will be difficult to get Tamworth out of my mind! I did miss the Farmer’s Market! I’m bringing my husband back in September so I’ll check it out then. Happy late summer!
August 26th, 2017 at 10:00 am
Hi Donna – I have just gotten back from a week in Tamworth, and more than anything I like the quiet up there. I live right in a very busy part of Boston with three construction projects going on within a block of my apartment! Let me know if you do end up buying a house in Tamworth – it is a wonderful town with very warm and kind people! On Thursday night I went to a wonderful performance at the Barnstormers Theater of “Driving Miss Daisy” — the Barnstormers is just one of a surprising number of cultural activities locally .
August 19th, 2017 at 4:08 pm
After reading your description of Tamworth, I must put the town on my itinerary. My daughter’s family just bought a house on Lake Winnipesaukee in Meredith. Tamworth is within 20 miles or so on the way up (or is it down?)
New Hampshire is a lovely state. I have often noticed historical markers and small museums in “them thar hills.” And let us not forget those interesting cemeteries. I have also noticed that many of the towns have the same place names as those in our area of Massachusetts – Salem, New Ipswich, New Boston, Andover, Wakefield and the like. Not surprising since so many of our forefathers ventured north as the available land in Essex County diminished in the 18th century.
Great piece and photos…
July 6th, 2018 at 1:34 pm
[…] to this blog post “Destination Tamworth” where there are more photos and […]
August 3rd, 2018 at 4:13 pm
Re: Tamworth area history, as explained in an interesting 2014 Susan Cheever piece in the Times, ee cummings’s father was killed in a freak car accident in the area, an event that apparently marked the poet for life: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/29/magazine/how-to-solve-an-88-year-old-literary-mystery.html