Article Summary: Historic Sites In New Hampshire
Historic Sites In New Hampshire. More Than Just Parks has 15 incredible must-see sites for you to visit.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I’m going to give you my list of the Top 15 Historic Sites In New Hampshire that you’ll want to see.
To be clear, this list includes national park sites (as in sites managed by the National Park Service) as opposed to national parks.
One book that you might want to pick up before making your trip to the Granite State is: Explorer’s Guide New Hampshire (Explorer’s Complete) by Christina Tree.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Top Historic Sites In New Hampshire
15. Canterbury Shaker Village
New Hampshire is known for its stunning natural landscapes, its history as a center of the American Revolution, granite production, and its vibrant arts and culture scene. From the rugged coastline to the soaring White Mountains, this northeastern state is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
At More Than Just Parks, we’re exciting to share our list of the Top 15 Historic Sites In New Hampshire with you. And we’re kicking off our list at #15 with the Canterbury Shaker Village.
It’s a historic site dating back to the 1790s and is considered to be the most authentic of all the Shaker communities in America.
Some of the things to see and do at the Canterbury Shaker Village include:
- Tours of the Village: Visitors can take guided tours of the village, which includes restored Shaker buildings and workshops, as well as extensive gardens and farmlands.
- Exhibits on Shaker life: Visitors can learn about the daily life and practices of the Shaker community through exhibits, artifacts, and multimedia displays.
- Workshops and demonstrations: The village offers a variety of workshops and demonstrations, showcasing traditional Shaker crafts, such as basket weaving, broom making, and furniture building.
- Music and dance: Visitors can experience the traditional Shaker music and dance, including the famous “Shaker Dance,” which is still performed today.
- Farm tours: The village is set on a working farm, and visitors can take tours to learn about the agricultural practices and techniques used by the Shaker community.
- Gift shop: The village has a gift shop that offers a variety of traditional Shaker-made items, such as baskets, brooms, and other crafts.
14. Star Island
If you love gorgeous scenery and breathtaking vistas then you’ll enjoy our next site. At #14 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In New Hampshire is Star Island.
Star Island is a historic site located on the border of Maine and New Hampshire. It officially became part of Rye in 1876 and is open to visitors during the day.
The best way to get to the island is by boat, and visitors can take a self-guided tour or a group tour to learn more about the island’s history.
Things To See & Do
Some of the things to see and do on Star Island include:
- Tours of the historic Oceanic Hotel: Visitors can tour the historic Oceanic Hotel, which was built in the late 19th century and is one of the oldest and most historic buildings on the island.
- Hiking and nature walks: Star Island is surrounded by beautiful landscapes, including rugged cliffs, lush forests, and sandy beaches, making it a great place for hiking and nature walks.
- Swimming and beachcombing: The island’s many beaches offer excellent opportunities for swimming and beachcombing, as well as exploring the rock formations and tidal pools.
- Birdwatching: Star Island is home to a variety of bird species, including seabirds, shorebirds, and migratory birds, making it a great place for birdwatching.
- Programs and events: The island hosts a variety of programs and events, including educational workshops, retreats, and spiritual gatherings.
13. Daniel Webster Birthplace State Historic Site
Our next site celebrates the life and legacy of one of America’s most gifted politicians.
At #13 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In New Hampshire is the Daniel Webster Birthplace State Historic Site.
Daniel Webster (1782-1852) was a prominent American statesman and lawyer who played a significant role in shaping the early United States. He was born in New Hampshire and graduated from Dartmouth College before studying law and practicing in Boston.
Webster was a member of the United States House of Representatives and Senate, serving multiple terms in both chambers. He was also Secretary of State under Presidents William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, and Millard Fillmore.
One of Webster’s most notable achievements was his defense of the Union during the debate over nullification in the early 1830s. He argued forcefully against the idea that individual states had the right to nullify federal laws, stating that the Constitution established a federal government with the power to make and enforce laws for the entire country.
Webster also played a key role in negotiating several important treaties, including the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which settled a border dispute between the United States and Canada. He was known for his eloquence as a public speaker and his ability to persuade others with his arguments.
In addition to his political career, Webster was also a noted lawyer and orator, and his speeches and writings continue to be studied and admired to this day.
The Daniel Webster Birthplace State Historic Site
The Daniel Webster Birthplace State Historic Site was established in 1971 by the state of New Hampshire to honor Webster’s legacy. The site includes the original farmhouse where Webster was born, a barn, and a visitor center with exhibits and artifacts related to his life and career.
The farmhouse, which dates back to the late 1700s, has been restored to its original condition and features period furnishings and decor. The barn houses a collection of antique tools and farming equipment.
Visitors to the site can take guided tours of the farmhouse and barn, watch a short film about Webster’s life, and explore the visitor center’s exhibits. The exhibits cover Webster’s family history, his education, his legal and political careers, and his contributions to American history.
The Daniel Webster Birthplace State Historic Site is open to the public from May to October and offers a unique opportunity to learn about the life of one of America’s most influential figures.
12. Fells Historic Estate and Gardens
In preparing our lists of historic sites, we strive to provide something for everyone. It you enjoy colonial homes with beautiful gardens then our next site is for you.
At #12 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In New Hampshire is the Fells Historic Estate and Gardens.
It’s a historic site located in Newbury, New Hampshire. It is a 22-room Colonial Revival mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens and woodlands.
The property was originally the summer home of John Milton Hay, a journalist, diplomat, and private secretary to President Abraham Lincoln.
The Fells mansion was designed by Boston architect, Henry Forbes Bigelow, and completed in 1891.
Tour The Mansion And Then Go For A Hike Afterwards
The mansion’s design features grand reception rooms, cozy sitting areas, and a large porch overlooking the gardens and Lake Sunapee. The interior of the mansion has been beautifully preserved and features original furnishings, artwork, and decorations.
The Fells Historic Estate and Gardens is situated on 1,000 acres of land, which includes a network of hiking trails, a 40-acre nature preserve, and several formal and informal gardens. The gardens are designed in a variety of styles, including a rose garden, rock garden, water garden, and a Japanese garden.
Visitors to the Fells can take guided tours of the mansion, explore the gardens on their own, or participate in one of the many educational programs offered throughout the year. The estate hosts a variety of events, including concerts, lectures, and art exhibits.
In addition to its historical and cultural significance, the Fells is also an important ecological site. The estate’s woodland and wetland habitats support a diverse range of plant and animal species, and the property is actively managed for conservation purposes.
The Fells Historic Estate and Gardens is open to the public from May to October, and offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore the beauty, history, and natural diversity of New Hampshire’s Lake Sunapee region.
11. Castle in the Clouds
New Hampshire is home to a number of fabulous estates and historic mansions. Our next site is a case in point. At #11 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In New Hampshire is the wonderfully named Castle In The Clouds.
The Castle in the Clouds is located in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. It is a 16-room mansion that was built in 1913 by Thomas Gustave Plant, a wealthy industrialist and philanthropist.
The mansion is situated on top of a mountain and offers breathtaking views of Lake Winnipesaukee and the surrounding countryside.
If You Love Beautiful Homes & Scenic Vistas Then It’s A Must-See
The Castle in the Clouds estate covers over 5,500 acres of land, including miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, and scenic vistas. Visitors can explore the grounds on their own, take a guided tour of the mansion, or participate in one of the many educational programs offered throughout the year.
The mansion’s interior is beautifully preserved and features period furnishings, artwork, and decorations. The castle’s architecture combines elements of Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, and Neo-Gothic styles, and features stunning details such as hand-carved woodwork, stained-glass windows, and intricate stonework.
The estate’s gardens are equally impressive, with over 28 acres of landscaped grounds that include a rock garden, a formal garden, and a wildflower meadow. Visitors can also explore the estate’s many outdoor attractions, such as the Falls of Song waterfall, Shannon Pond, and the Brook Walk Trail.
Castle in the Clouds also offers a variety of dining options, including a cafe and a fine-dining restaurant that serves gourmet cuisine in a beautiful setting overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee.
The estate hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including concerts, art exhibits, and special tours. Visitors can also participate in educational programs that cover topics such as local history, wildlife, and ecology.
Castle in the Clouds is open to the public from May to October and provides visitors with a unique opportunity to explore the history, culture, and natural beauty of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region.
Top 10 Historic Sites In New Hampshire
10. Appalachian National Scenic Trail
We’re on to our Top 10 Historic Sites In New Hampshire. And at #10 we have one of the most famous hiking trails in the world. It’s the Appalachian Trail.
The Appalachian Trail is a long-distance hiking trail in the eastern United States, stretching over 2,180 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
The trail passes through 14 states and is known for its scenic beauty, passing through wooded areas, pastoral landscapes, and wilderness regions.
The trail was first conceived in 1921 and built by private citizens, completed in 1937. It is now managed by a partnership of agencies, including the National Park Service, US Forest Service, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, as well as state agencies and thousands of volunteers.
The trail is open to hikers, backpacking, and camping along the way and is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
9. The Enfield Shaker Village
Our next site is nestled in a lush valley between Shaker Mountain and Mascoma Lake in New Hampshire. It’s a special place that has been cherished for over two hundred years–first by the Enfield Shakers, who came to call their village “Chosen Vale,” and later by Museum staff, donors, members, and visitors from around the world.
At #9 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In New Hampshire is the Enfield Shaker Village.
Enfield Shaker Village was a religious community of the Shaker sect, founded in 1793. It was the ninth of 18 Shaker communities established in the United States.
At its peak in the mid-19th century, the community was home to three “families” of Shakers, where Brothers, Sisters, and children lived, worked, and worshiped.
The community practiced equality of the sexes and races, celibacy, pacifism, and communal ownership of property.
They strived to create a “heaven on earth” by building over 100 buildings, including the Great Stone Dwelling, which is the largest Shaker edifice, farming over 3,000 acres of land, educating children in model schools, and following the “Shaker Way” of worship.
The Enfield Shaker Village offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the history and lifestyle of the Shaker community that once lived there.
Things To See & Do
The Great Stone Dwelling is a six-story building, it was originally a dormitory for the Shaker Brothers. Other buildings that are open to the public include the original meetinghouse, the museum, the laundry, the barn, and the shop.
Visitors can also explore the village’s beautiful gardens and orchards, which were an important part of the Shaker’s self-sufficient lifestyle.
Additionally, visitors can participate in tours and workshops that give insight into the Shakers’ beliefs and way of life, such as their celibacy, pacifism, and communal living.
Visitors can also learn about the Shaker’s innovations in technology and design, such as their furniture and textiles.
The village also offers seasonally guided tours, special events, and educational programs, which provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the Shakers and their influence on American culture.
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8. Robert Frost Homestead
From a Shaker Village to the home of a literary legend. At #8 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In New Hamphire is the Robert Frost Farm Historic Site.
Robert Frost (1874-1963) was an American poet known for his depictions of rural life and nature. He was born in San Francisco, California, but spent most of his adult life in New England.
Frost was a four-time Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry, and his work was celebrated for its simplicity, clarity, and directness. He wrote many poems that focused on the natural world, exploring themes such as the cycle of life, the passage of time, and the beauty of the changing seasons.
Some of Frost’s most famous poems include “The Road Not Taken,” “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” and “Birches.” These works are often studied in schools and universities around the world for their use of language and imagery.
Frost was also a teacher, and he taught at several universities, including Amherst College and Dartmouth College. He was known for his conversational teaching style and his ability to inspire and challenge his students.
Frost’s poetry continues to be widely read and appreciated today for its insight into the human experience and its celebration of the natural world. He is widely regarded as one of the most important American poets of the 20th century.
The Robert Frost Historic Site
The Robert Frost Farm Historic Site is a National Historic Landmark that was home to American poet Robert Frost and his family from 1900 to 1911.
Visitors to the park can take tours of the house, view displays of Frost’s writings, and walk along a nature/poetry trail. The park offers seasonal programs such as poetry readings and educational programs, which are open to the public at no charge, and run from May through October.
The park is supported by the Division of Natural and Cultural Resources, Bureau of Historic Sites, and the Trustees of the Frost Farm.
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7. Epic Of American Civilization
If you’re someone who enjoys art then our next site is especially for you. It’s a mural that is a series of 24 panels covering nearly 3,200 square feet of wall space. At #7 we have the Epic of American Civilization.
The Epic of American Civilization is a mural painted by José Clemente Orozco between 1932 and 1934. It is considered one of Dartmouth College’s greatest artistic resources and is located in the Orozco Room in Baker Library. The mural is a series of 24 panels that cover nearly 3,200 square feet of wall space.
The mural depicts the history of America from a different perspective than the traditional narrative of British colonization and westward expansion. Instead, it tells a story rooted in Mesoamerican civilizations and the devastation caused by the Spanish Conquest.
Orozco presents America’s epic as a cyclical process of destruction and creation, rather than a linear tale of democratic expansion and progress.
It is considered one of Orozco’s finest creations and one of Dartmouth’s most treasured works. The mural was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2013 and is open to the public to visit and view.
6. Harrisville Historic District
Our next site is a trip back in time to a day and age when textile villages dominated the landscape. In fact, it’s one of the few textile villages that has largely survived in its original form.
At #6 on our list of the Best Historic Sites In New Hampshire is Harrisville Historic District.
Historic Harrisville, New Hampshire is a small mill town that developed in the early 19th century. The textile industry had been the main source of livelihood for the town for 150 years, with the Cheshire Mills operating there from 1852 to 1970.
When the mill went bankrupt in 1970, the community joined with preservationists to form Historic Harrisville, Inc., to not only maintain and renovate the old mill buildings and related properties, but to do so in a way that provided opportunities for people to continue living and working in Harrisville.
In 1977, the Department of Interior designated Harrisville a National Historic Landmark.
Today, the former mills, boarding houses, worker’s cottages, owner’s houses, store, and other buildings owned by Historic Harrisville are home to various small businesses, manufacturers, and residents.
They also provide space for artists, writers, a daycare center, textile retail store, post office, designers, and affordable housing.
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The Top 5 Historic Sites In New Hampshire
5. USS Albacore
From textile mills to an experimental submarine that was designed to be faster, quieter, and more maneuverable than previous submarine designs, our next site is for our naval enthusiasts.
We’re on to the Top 5 Historic Sites In New Hampshire and at #5 is the USS Albacore.
The USS Albacore was built by the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, and launched on August 1, 1953. It was named after a type of tuna fish and was the first submarine to be designed with a teardrop-shaped hull, which significantly reduced drag and improved speed and maneuverability.
The Albacore was also equipped with new technology, such as a snorkel system that allowed the submarine to operate at periscope depth while running its diesel engines, and a high-speed hydraulic system that allowed for more precise control of the submarine’s diving planes.
During its 25-year service, the Albacore was used for a variety of research and development purposes, including testing new weapons systems and sonar equipment. It also served as a training vessel for submarine crews.
In 1984, the Albacore was decommissioned and eventually turned into a museum. It was moved to its current location in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where it is open to the public as the USS Albacore Museum and Park.
Visitors to the museum can explore the Albacore’s interior, including its torpedo room, control room, and living quarters. The museum also features exhibits on submarine history and technology, as well as displays on the Albacore’s contributions to submarine design and development.
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4. Cog Railway
From a submarine to a train, New Hampshire has it going on! Our next site is a historic railway that takes passengers to the summit of the highest peak in the Northeast.
Welcome to Mount Washington Cog Railway.
It is the first mountain-climbing cog railway in the world and has an average grade of 25%, with some sections approaching nearly 38%.
The railway primarily uses biodiesel locomotives that are custom designed, built, and maintained on site. In addition, the railway also operates a pair of coal-fired steam engines in the warmer months, which are both over a century old.
It’s located in the White Mountains region of northern New Hampshire, with the Marshfield Base Station situated 6 miles east of Route 302 on the western face of Mount Washington.
The drive to the base station is also beautiful, offering scenic views of the Presidential Range and the opportunity to spot wildlife such as moose and bear.
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3. The Strawbery Banke Museum
We’re down to our final three historic sites. At #3 is an outdoor history museum located in the South End historic district of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It’s the Strawbery Banke Museum.
It’s situated in one of the oldest neighborhoods in New Hampshire settled by Europeans and is the oldest remaining neighborhood in the city of Portsmouth.
The museum preserves and interprets the history and architecture of the area, showcasing the lives of the people who lived there from the 17th century to the present day.
Visitors can explore the restored buildings, gardens and artifacts, and learn about the history of the area through interactive exhibits and guided tours.
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2. Franklin Pierce Homestead
It’s the final two historic sites and, in the runner-up spot at #2, is a site which is the childhood home of the 14th President of the United States, Franklin Pierce. It’s the Franklin Pierce Homestead.
The house, built by Pierce’s father in 1804, is a two-story frame building with a hipped roof and is a fine example of New Hampshire village architecture.
It reflects the gracious and affluent living of the 19th century, and features a ballroom that extends the entire length of the second floor, which was used for entertaining guests.
The Homestead is open for tours, both private and for large groups, and the collection includes items on loan from the Hillsborough Historical Society and the New Hampshire Historical Society.
The Homestead can be reached at (603) 478-3165 for more information and is also a Blue Star Museum, a program of the National Endowment of the Arts.
CHECK OUT: 10 BEST Civil War Sites In America
1. Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park
As the #1 Historic Site In New Hampshire, More Than Just Parks has chosen Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park.
Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park in Cornish, New Hampshire, preserves the home, gardens, and studios of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, one of America’s foremost sculptors.
An Immigrant Who Rose To Greatness
Saint-Gaudens is the story of an immigrant who rose to greatness. He was born to an Irish shoemaker and his wife shortly before their relocation to New York in 1848.
Saint-Gaudens began his artistic career as a cameo cutter. In 1867, his father sent him to Paris to study with the academic sculptor François Jouffroy. He then moved back and forth between Europe and America taking jobs sculpting busts and cameos.
By the 1880s, he had graduated to public monuments.
Saint-Gaudens Purchases A Home In America
In 1885, Saint Gaudens bought a farm in Cornish, New Hampshire. He settled permanently in the United States. His residence served as both his home and his studio. It was also a place where artists could gather.
He renamed his property Aspet in honor of the French village where his father was born.
Self Described Choice Spirits
During the summer months, a select group of artists, musicians, and actors came to Cornish. They came seeking inspiration from the New Hampshire countryside and interaction with one another. They also came to learn from Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
The art produced by the self-described “choice spirits” of Cornish helped define New England as a landscape of history and myth for all equally select group of patrons. (Source: Smithsonian American Art Museum)
Visitors Can Take Self-Guided Tours
Visitors can take self-guided tours of the grounds and galleries on their own. All of the artwork has interpretive labels. There are also exterior wayside exhibits located throughout the park and on the nature trails.
Visitors can tour the house. There are three rooms open to the public on the first floor where you can see the actual furnishings which belonged to the Saint-Gaudens Family.
Barn Complex At Saint-Gaudens Farm
Another point of interest are the farm buildings. These include a 2.5-story barn with associated shed additions, forming a U-shaped complex that opens towards the farmhouse. There is also a garage which was added in 1949.
Pond At Saint-Gaudens Farm
The beautiful pond at Saint-Gaudens was added in 1970. It’s another popular attraction for visitors to the complex.
Hiking Trails At Saint-Gaudens
Saint-Gaudens is a place for both art lovers and nature lovers. Over 100 acres of the park is forested with several nature trails winding through this woodland area. Interpretive wayside panels about the area’s natural history, are located along the trails.
The Ravine trail (.25 miles) begins at the Ravine studio. It ends at the Temple. The beginning and end of the trail consists of a steep slope, while the majority of the trail is flat and follows the Blow-Me-Up Brook.
The Blow-Me-Down & Sycamore Trails
The Blow-Me-Down Trail (2 miles round trip) begins at the lower field past the temple. Visitors can follow this trail all the way to the Blow-Me-Down Mill at the lower end of the park. A boardwalk near the trail’s lower end takes visitors to the shallow end of the mill pond.
The Sycamore Trail (.25 miles), a spur off of the Blow-Me-Down Trail, leads to an area frequented by beavers on the Blow-Me-Down Brook. (Source: National Park Service)
List Of Historic Sites In New Hampshire
- Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park
- Franklin Pierce Homestead
- The Strawbery Banke Museum
- Mount Washington Cog Railway
- USS Albacore
- Harrisville Historic District
- Epic Of American Civilization
- Robert Frost Homestead
- The Enfield Shaker Village
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail
- Castle in the Clouds
- Fells Historic Estate and Gardens
- Daniel Webster Birthplace State Historic Site
- Star Island
- Canterbury Shaker Village
Why Trust Us About Historic Sites In New Hampshire?
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, U.S. Forest Service, and more for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
And, in 2018, our father – having spent a lifetime teaching history – joined us so that he could help us to tell the stories behind these amazing places.
Meet The Parks Brothers
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Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
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