Small Villages and Town Centers in the Heart of New Hampshire
Small villages and historic centers are part of the New Hampshire lore – and are a unique slice of the NH landscape. There are several historic centers and towns just a short drive from Concord, and one right in the city itself.
Hillsborough Center is a slice of American history almost three hundred years old. The road from modern Hillsborough winds past old farms and stone walls. Today what is the commercial center of Hillsborough was formerly known as Hillsborough Bridge.
In the Center, thirteen colonial-era homes and two churches frame a common. There is an old schoolhouse, a lost animal pound, the Center Club and a cemetery.
The schoolhouse holds desks and chairs from 100 years ago. The pound was a lost and found for a cow or sheep missing from the flock. Many of the first colonists are buried in the old cemetery, and the graves tell stories of days past.
Bradford Center still clings to its Meetinghouse built in 1838 in what was then the town center. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.
Old Bradford Center is a typical 19th century town center with a green common and old cemetery. The Meetinghouse tower has a belfry that holds the original 1838 bell. Both the interior and exterior have barely changed in more than 150 years. Just outside of the Center, the Bement Covered Bridge is on Center Road spanning the Warner River. A long truss bridge, it was built in 1854, and it is one of a small number of surviving 19th-century covered wooden bridges.
Just a short drive from Concord is the charming village of Hopkinton, settled in 1736 by folk from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, who renamed it "New Hopkinton." It is made up of a stately line of classic homes, churches, the town hall, a burial ground and even a country store. The 1789 Congregational Church still boasts a Revere bell. The NH legislature met in Hopkinton on and off between 1798 and 1807. Today, the local Historical Society details the past of this clapboard museum.
Up route 103 is Contoocook Village, and early mill town on the river that once produced lumber and textiles. The Contoocook covered railroad bridge is the oldest covered bridge of its kind still standing in the US. Built in 1889 for the Concord and Claremont railroad, the bridge served rail traffic until 1960. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Rowell’s covered Bridge is outside of the village, using burr type construction with solid timber arches fitted end to end and bolted to the side timbers. Rowell's Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Since 1915, Hopkinton has hosted the Hopkinton State Fair over the Labor Day weekend.
Suncook is a lovely corner off the beaten path, split between Pembroke and Allenstown. Water power meant mills, and the town flourished. The village of Suncook is near the falls of the Suncook River and also the Merrimack River. Suncook was once home to the Suncook Valley Railroad, a short line of railroad where 19th-century factory buildings frame around the village and most of the village center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Penacook, is part of Concord, but has its own rich story and character. Originally called Fisherville, Penacook makes up Concord's northern border with Boscawen. The name Penacook is from Pennacook a Native American tribe that lived here before colonization.
Today, Penacook sits on the Contoocook River not far from the Merrimack River. The town has a charming collection of 19th century buildings that today, offer cafes, eateries and shops. It has historic churches and a Civil War monument as well. The Penacook Historical Society runs the 18th century Rolfe Homestead, including the oldest surviving house in Penacook Village and a double English barn. They also manage the house across the street, built in 1834. This 14-room farmhouse remained in the Rolfe family into the early 1990s, and has many original features intact. The soaring spire of the United Methodist Church of Penacook is seen as a local landmark.