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An example of great preservation in historic Newburyport, MA

Downtown Newburyport, MA (photo by Eric H.)

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New England offers a remarkable concentration of

preservation in its communities. Unlike other parts of the country where you have to travel miles and miles of strip malls and faceless condos, New England has an innate respect for history including its Colonial homes, buildings, town commons, churches, and farms.

Although New England has seen its share of cookie cutter
enterprises threatening our blessed landscape, there's still enough old-time character to make the six state region unique and unforgettable. Picture yourself in Stonington Borough, CT, where the old sea captains homes are right up on the front sidewalk and the local bakery, toy and news shops are housed in old, well-maintained buildings shaded by trees near the sea. Imagine being in Weston VT where the whole town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's a great place to admire the old homes, tour the local shops including the famed Vermont Country Store, and walk the small but beauitful town common. Newly revitalized Providence RI has not forgotten its past as Benefit St. that has perhaps the largest concentration of Colonial homes in the United States. Deerfield, MA, might challenge that claim, however, as this classic New England town has a mile of Main St. homes -- around 80 originally built in the 18th and 19th century. Most prominent are the Deerfield Inn, a charming-looking 184 inn, and the leafy Deerfield Academy, a renowned coeducational boarding school  In Old Lyme, CT, sea captains lived in many of the homes of tree-lined Main St. -- most of those homes are still standing today. Coastal Newburyport, MA, is a wonderfully restored town with brick sidewalks and buildings that now house interesting little shops and wonderful restaurants. High St. offers some incredible and plentiful examples of Federalist architecture. Rockland, Maine, is a true historical gem of a coastal town, steeped in the industries of shipbuilding, lime processing, granite quarrying, and commercial fishing and lobstering. Main Street has been gloriously revitalized and features restaurants, and the presence of the 1923 Strand Theater movie house. The Maine Lighthouse Museum focuses on American lighthouses andthe United States Coast Guard's role in maritime safety, while the Farnsworth Art Museum features a renowned collection of works from many of America's greatest artists including the work of three generations of the Wyeth family! The otherwise urban small city of Dover, NH, features the William Damm Garrison 1675 House (New Hampshire's oldest intact Garrison house) located at the Woodman Institute on 182 Central Ave.  Nearby Portsmouth, NH, has the 10-acre Strawberry Banke, an outdoor museum of sorts, where you can tour 42 buildings dating back to 1695. Wow!

Some more well-preserved charming New England cities and towns:

Old Whethersfield, CT -- Located off the manic Silas Deane Highway outside of congested Hartford, Old Whetersfield, founded in 1634, feels like a million miles away from the hundreds of thousands of people that live in this region. Named by "Old House Magazine" as one of the nation's best "old house" neighborhoods, Old Whethersfield has 50 houses predating the Revolutionary War, 100 going back before the Civil War and an additional 150 homes before the turn of the 19th century! These aren't your basic, old run downs homes; most have been extremely well-preserved. Add a leafy look to the village, a classic village green, and a nice downtown Main Street with antique stores, galleries, a tavern and cafe, and you have a perfect, little village that reminds you that you are officially in New England.

Bristol, RI  has a downtown listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Beautifully-tree-shaded and with lots of great dining options and small town stores, you'll find a remarkable historical concentration of "commercial enterprises, civic buildings, churches, mills, sailors' shacks and slave-traders' mansions," as stated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Also check out north of town at Colt State Park where you'll find Coggeshall Farm where you'll learn about traditional agricultural practices in a series of historic buildings. South of town is the  45-room English-style manor, Blithewold, considered New England's finest garden estate. 

Grafton, VT -- The ultimate Vermont village, Grafton probably doesn't look all that dfferent from what it looked like in the 1800s. Thanks to local residents and the Windham Foundation, Grafton has been lovingly maintained and restored with some of the prettiest old buildings and homes you will ever see.  The centerpiecce of Grafton is the Old Tavern Hotel at Grafton, an 1801 stagecoach inn with a wonderful front porch and an overall classic Vermont inn look.

North Easton Village, MA - As part of Easton, North Easton Village was settled in 1694, incorporated in 1725 and later became famous for the Ames Shovel Company. The Company provided shovels for the Union Pacific Railroad which opened the west! Oliver Ames was perhaps the best-known of the family -- he was the Massachusetts governor from 1887-1890. But it was famed architect H.H. Richardson who gave North Easton Village Its "look," with late 19th century beautiful Romanesque-style buildings like the Ames Free Library (currently being renovated), Oaks Ames Memorial Hall (for meetings), The Old Colony Railway Station (current home of the Easton Historical Society) and the Ames Gate Lodge (I think it is still owned by the Ames Family). Beautiful churches complement the area including the Gothic revival style of the Ames built Unity Church.

We realize that sometimes looking at a bunch of old buildings is not every one's cup of tea, so please note that North Easton has other features that should please most visitors. The Children's Museum of Easton, features three floors of educational, cultural, and social learning, primarily for children 1-8 (including more than 100 exhibits and programs). The Museum is located in the former old Easton fire station, has a fun yellow-colored exterior, and offers entertaining areas like an art room, theater stage, doctor's office, wood shop, a fire pole to climb, an outdoor learning center, a fishing boat, and more. The Children's Museum in Easton might not have the flash of some of the more refined, high-profile urban museums of this genre, but it seems to keep kids' attention and interest just as well! To validate the greatness of this wonderful attraction, the Museum was recently selected as a Nickelodeon's Parents' Pick for Best Kids Museum in Boston and Providence!

There's also a scenic pond right behind the Museum down on Sullivan St. It's a nice place to reflect, or take a stroll.

Many recreational activities take place at Borderland State Park, Frothingham Park, and the sheep pasture. All feature open land to walk or run around, especially Borderland which features "walking and horseback riding on woodland trails, fishing and canoeing in the ponds, or, in winter, ice-skating and sledding," according to the Borderland Web Site. Borderland also features an "English-style stone mansion created in the 1900's by artist and suffragist Blanche Ames and her husband, with 20 rooms surrounded by open meadows." It's really a gem of a state park and is well-aligned with the theme of North Easton as an outdoor example of historical preservation.

The Main Street downtown area might be limited in regards to shopping and dining, but does feature the Main Street Cafe (122 Main St.), a pleasant old-fashioned small, "hometown" restaurant. Primarily a breakfast and lunch place, we especially enjoy the homemade muffins and pancakes, as well as the lamb specials and fresh turkey sandwiches. They also offer some tasty ice cream in big portions!

The downtown also features nice residential side streets with historic homes. We recommend walking or driving Center, Seaver, Park Lincoln and Jenny Lind Streets to see the grand architecture. Also on Center St. is Pires and Sons Hardware Store. It is very old, looks like it is falling apart and has in business for a very long time. We wish there were more hardware stores like this, the old-fashioned neighborhood type. Back on Main St., there's also an insurance agency and barber shop with old signs and friendly-looking people inside that looks like a scene out of the Andy Griffith Show. Just walking by these businesses makes you feel like you've gone back to another era.

North Easton is also home to Stonehill College, a fine denominational learning institution, that not only provides educational and cultural opportunities but also is aligned with North Easton's natural beauty with its beautiful ponds and wooded trails. The esteemed Princetown Review named Stonehill in its 2009 publication, The Best Northeastern Colleges 2009 as one of the best colleges to attend in the northeast.

A less cultural but perhaps more appetizing North Easton destination to round out your visit is Hilliards Confections, a big house featuring "homemade chocolates, truffles, turtles, bark, toffee and brittles, fudge, non-pariels, nuts, and caramel apples."

What a perfect way to end (or perhaps start) a historic and fun day in this underrated, unique community, which, by the way, was featured as number 48 on Money Magazine's list of Best Places to Live!!

Littleton, NH -- Littleton, NH, a historic mill town beautifully situated at the edge of the White Mountains near Vermont, could have been just another dying New England industrial community but, fortunately, has employed a vision to make the most of its modest, rural location.

The downtown is surely one of New Hampshire's best examples attracting businesses that have ultimately attracted visitors and pleased residents looking for a full service town center. With a movie theater, toy and book store, Chutters candy shop, a classic in town diner aptly called the Littleton Diner, a furniture store, a post office filled with character, a 100-year old Opera House, the historic Thayer's Inn and restaurants popping up all over the place, Littleton is more than a stop along the way. It's, on one hand, picturesque with its typical New England big, white churches and mountain views, and on the other, a town with a downtown that has nearly all of its storefronts filled -- unusual in this tough economy. There's also a new walking bridge that provides residents and visitors a scenic downtown river walk. Coming from the green, but often regressing suburbs of Boston, we thought, "Why can't we have a downtown like this?"

Littleton, in fact, has done such a great job with its town center that in 2003, The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center recognized Littleton for its outstanding achievement in the revitalization of a downtown!

Essex, CT - A former shipbuilding town dating back to the 1600s, Essex looks refined and perfectly manicured today, but that polish doesn't take anything away from its authentic small town look and feel. With the old, sprawling Griswold Inn (one of the oldest continuously operated inns in the country) as one of its "anchors," Essex has a timeless quality that hasn't pandered to modern chains and cookie-cutter architecture. What's more, there are 14 miles of sidewalks that allow you to stroll through this relaxing, picturesque community. Essex, CT, has all the small town bells and whistles required to make it a special vacation destination: a tree-lined downtown with specialty shops and restaurants, big old historic homes up near the sidewalk,, and a pleasing park with gazebos and picnic benches leading to wonderful, relaxing views of the Connecticut River.

Route 6A Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Route 6A maintains the integrity of the "real" Cape Cod with its big, old captain's homes and tree-shaded drives juxtaposed with pleasing, gentle Cape Cod ocean views. Also known as the Old King's Highway, you'll find charming bed and breakfasts inns and restaurants along the way in this 34-mile stretch of road that includes quaint Cape Cod towns like Bourne, Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, Brewster and Orleans. When the fall foliage arrives, it's an unexpected treat as we often think of northern New England as the best New England autumn destination.

New England preservation not only exists in the well-known areas, but also the small communities that we call home. There's the citizens of Walpole, MA, that saved Adams Farm from becoming a golf course or a housing development. Today, the 365 acres -- run by the Friends of Adams Farm, a group of area residents -- provides a true respite from the stresses of modern day life. It's a great place for fall foliage leaf peeping, hiking, picnics, cross country trail walking,, non motorized bike trail riding, nature photography, bird watching, cross country skiing, snow shoeing and sledding. The Friends of Adams Farm recently raised over $100K to create a beautiful red barn and pavillion. Not only is it a rural visual delight, but also a wonderful place to have a picnic -- the open fields, distant farms and woods create a dining atmosphere better than any restaurant!

The list of New England preservation goes on and on. We recommend reading our original New England travel articles, that frequently mention our commitment to preservation in New England. We hope you enjoy our one-of-a-kind-region and all the historical integrity that fills many of our towns and cities.

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