Now, for some balconies

As construction continues on the renovation of the former Fosters Daily Democrat building downtown, fresh details appear. Here we can see actual balconies added to some of the units. They stand in contrast to the recessed balconies in the adjacent units or the flat wall further on.

 

Adding two floors to what had been the back of the former newspaper building, much of it windowless concrete block around the printing press, offered several challenges. The first was to open up the existing building to entry from busy Henry Law Avenue and the park and river just beyond. The other was to avoid creating a monotonous expanse while keeping to the tradition brick appearance of the downtown. The design tries to look like a series of independent neighboring buildings, as often happened in New England.

Ten things to do in Dover

The city where I live is basically a family-friendly kind of place. We don’t have much of what tourists might expect as a big-time destination. Still, there are times when my wife and I are having breakfast or lunch or an early repast downtown when we realize people travel halfway across the country for a taste of this – tranquil New England.

Here are ten things to see and do if you visit the seventh-oldest permanent settlement in the U.S.

  1. Cocheco Falls. Whether the flow’s near flood stage or merely a trickle, I can spend hours watching the river cascade to the tide right in the center of downtown. The stream exits through an impressive arch in the mill. In season, you can dine or enjoy cocktails a deck beside the water. I think that’s pretty impressive.
  2. The historic textiles mills. In the 19th century, Dover was famed for its calico, and two of its big riverside mills have survived. Today they serve as incubators for new enterprises, including some adventurous cuisine, plus displays, boutiques, artists’ studios and galleries, apartments, a function hall, and even a church or two, should you choose to explore. Of special note are Noggin’s toy store, with its special events, Lickees and Chewies candies and ice cream chamber and gathering space, and the Smuttynose brewpub. Need I say more?
  3. The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire and its Adventure Playground. Nestled amid the old mills, this small but imaginative and active museum attracts nearly 100,000 visitors a year for good reason. It’s gained a loyal following from all over the country.,
  4. Woodman Museum. Just up the street, this old-fashioned and unabashedly eclectic “cabinet of curiosities” collection reflects the range of Dover history, natural history, and arts. The centerpiece is its 1675 William Damm garrison house, now under protective cover. The rough-hewn structure survived the 1684 massacre when Indians attacked the frontier settlement in retaliation for atrocities committed by Major Walderne (or Waldron). Its most popular attraction, though, is the two-headed snake, now badly deteriorating, or maybe the four-legged chicken. And then there are the dolls.
  5. Garrison Hill observation tower. Tucked away on a small hill just north of downtown, this green metal lookout has fantastic views of the classic downtown and the forests and mountains around us. Supposedly you can see the Atlantic, but for me, that scene always blends into the eastern horizon. The short hike from our house, up through a small forest, always impresses our guests.
  6. Strolling. It’s a pedestrian-friendly town. Around the downtown, the old neighborhoods, with their blend of architectural styles and history, are fun to wander. Add to that the community trail, with one leg following an old railroad line through backyards and over the river, where there’s an impressively redesigned bridge, and another leg leading up to Watkins Falls through scenes that could easily be in the White Mountains further north. Can’t complain about getting exercise when it’s like this.
  7. Pub crawl. I’ve already mentioned Smuttynose, named for a variety of mottle-faced seals that lend their moniker to one of the Isles of Shoals, but with Dover’s large proportion of University of New Hampshire students also living in town, our small city does have a lively bar scene. Key stops to hit are the Brickhouse and Cara Irish Pub, for live music, and Sonny’s, for a Brooklyn kind of buzz. Fury’s Publick House, Thompson Tavern, the Farm (with a lovely deck overlooking the river), 603 (named for our telephone area code), and Thirsty Moose Taphouse (for sports fans or a wide array of draughts on tap). Chapel and Main also brews its own, while presenting some fine cuisine. The Garrison City Beerworks, a sampling house for brews they’ll happily can for you to take home, is open on a more limited afternoon schedule, and it’s often crowded, meaning you can easily join in on some animated conversations.
  8. Dining. Food is always part of travel, and I just mentioned some fine dining options. Now let’s add Dos Amigos, for good inexpensive Mexican; Kaophums, for amazing Thai; and Embers and Blue Latitudes, both on the upscale side, all in a close orb around downtown. For breakfast or lunch, Two Home Cooks is awesome.
  9. Tendercrop Farm. Until recently, this was Tuttles, America’s oldest family-owned farm and locally known as Tuttle’s Red Barn, a prompt for the title of this blog. In addition to the store in the barn, the farm has expanded into something of a destination, with animal exhibits, picnic areas, trails, and special events. The fresh corn on the cob and eggs are the focus of our regular visits.
  10. Red’s Shoe Barn. It’s not really a barn, but the exterior is painted bright red – another local prompt for the name of this blog. The place has more footwear options than all the stores at the mall put together and is a back-to-school tradition for many families in much of New England. It’s just around the corner from our place.

Since this list aims at year-’round options, I’ve neglected special events like the Labor Day weekend Greek Festival (opa!) coming up or the big Apple Harvest Day the first Saturday in October or all the things happening at the University of New Hampshire one town over.

What’s something special to do where you live?

 

Fourth Street upgrade

The transformation of Dover’s core reaches further than the downtown alone. This former warehouse or factory on Fourth Street, on a site bordering the railroad tracks and the river, is undergoing an upgrade.

 

Here’s how it looked just a few years ago.

 

And how it’s looking now.

 

The biggest surprise is the addition of these six housing units nestled up against the river, sharing the parking lot.

Lazy summer river

The Cocheco River just a few blocks from downtown Dover looks more like a rural scene. I’m surprised this stretch isn’t more active with kayakers and canoeists, but that could change with a new development just downstream.

 

The community trail follows the river for several miles.

More from the Isles of Shoals

White Island, left, and Seavey Island, right. The lighthouse is one of at least four that can be seen from the Isles of Shoals in the daytime. More can be detected at night. Waves crash over the islands in fierce storms.

It’s hard to think that such a small cluster of islands and rock ledges could hold so much attraction, but just look. It’s not just historic Appledore and Star islands that fascinate. Here are some more shots from our day trip.

The entire neighborhood on Smuttynose, the third largest island in the Isles of Shoals. Smuttnose also lends its name to the harbor seals that populate its shores and to a brewery onshore. The Capt. Samuel Haley House, right, is featured on some of the ale labels. The murders of two women in 1873 has inspired poetry, a novel, a movie, and a song. But stories of notorious pirate Blackbeard’s honeymoon there remain unconfirmed.

 

Lunging Island is privately owned.

Does anyone else envy the summer guests on Star Island?

The historic Oceanic Hotel is now part of a conference center run by a consortium of Unitarian-Univeralists and the United Church of Christ. Its week-long programs are a popular family destination. Cape Ann, Massachusetts, sits on the horizon.

The second largest island in the Isles of Shoals, Star is the only one with commercial boat service to the mainland. The state line between New Hampshire and Maine runs through the small harbor.

Here’s an idea of the hotel’s isolation. You say you want to get away from everything? Apart from your fellow guests, this is just about perfect. But forget about going in winter. That ocean can get wild. 

 

Closer up. In the 1600 and 1700s, the Isles of Shoals became a major summertime fishing camp, where cod were dried for European markets. They garnered four times the price of Norwegian cod. The chapel remains from that era.

Guests and supplies get to the island on the Thomas Leighton ferry, which plies the waters from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It can be a jolly experience, if the ocean’s on the calm side.

Regular service. This one’s returning to Portsmouth. Appledore Island rises to the left, while Star Island is just to the left of the ferryboat.

 

It can be a popular ride. Some people go out as a day trip.