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Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

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Venture about 15 miles southwest of Manchester—the Granite State’s largest city—on Route 101, and you’ll happen upon the village of Amherst, New Hampshire. Originally chartered in 1728, the Common anchors this small hamlet, inviting visitors to explore the historic architecture and landmarks that spread out from its town green.

Welcome to Amherst, New Hamsphire

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Most folks might choose to visit Amherst in one of the milder months, but the January freeze was in full effect—temperatures having dipped down to single digits—on the day I headed there to meet my tour guide, Alyson Horrocks. A resident of the village, Alyson chronicles the beauty of this and other classic New England towns on Instagram and in her blog, New England Living.

Amherst Common and Church

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Armed with the knowledge of a local combined with historical tidbits plucked from the pages of Walking Tours of Amherst Village, a publication offered by the Historical Society of Amherst, Alyson guided me around the heart of the town, beginning with its sizeable common in the part of the village known as the “The Plain.”

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Amherst Common Path

Town commons established in the 18th century, or village greens as they’re more commonly known today, were thought to have been used for militia training, the grazing of livestock, and, at times, public punishment. Encircled by a fence in 1866, Amherst’s Common was dedicated as a park in 1868 and remains so today, retaining many of the icons that grace town centers throughout New England’s countryside.

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

The Whipping Post

Monuments scattered about a green offer a narrative of a town’s past—like that cube of granite with the hook poking out of its top that’s alleged to have been a whipping post. But equally telling is what’s not there. In this case, the ubiquitous gazebo is noticeably absent. According to the historical society, residents resisted erecting such a structure in an attempt to avoid the “Victorianization” that was occurring in neighboring towns.

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Third County Courthouse

Our tour started at the Third County Courthouse–now the town hall–and Old Burying Ground set on the east side of the Common. The first markers dating back to 1735 were fieldstones, but those were difficult to find under the fresh fall of snow.

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Graves with headstones and footstones

Spirit faces peer out from the older slabs, and sharp-eyed observers may notice that many graves are bordered by both a headstone and footstone. According to the religious beliefs of the time, these plots were designed to mimic the head and footboard of a bed, because they were seen as temporary resting spots until the resurrection of Christ.

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Second Meetinghouse

Just as the Common anchors the village, the Second Meetinghouse moors the Common. At the time of its construction in 1774, it was actually set on the Common. The town sold the Meetinghouse to the First Congregational Church and Society in 1832, retaining ownership of the clock tower and rights to conduct meetings on site. The building was moved to the other side of Church Street in 1836 and remains a congregational church today.

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Soldiers’ Monument

Brenda Darroch

The Soldiers’ Monument stands on a slice of land that separates Church Street from Middle Street. Erected in 1871 to honor the twenty-five soldiers from Amherst who lost their lives in the Civil War, this bronze monument depicts a Union infantryman, his head bowed in contemplation.

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Congregational Chapel

Originally built as a vestry for the First Congregational Church and Society in 1858, the Chapel Museum is one of two museums maintained by the Historical Society today.

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Right next door on the corner of School Street and Middle Street, the Brick School served as a public school from 1854 until 1967.

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Hillsborough Bank Building

Swoop down School Street, and you’ll find the Hillsborough Bank Building, whose claim to nefarious fame was issuing more notes and loans than its meager reserves could cover. The result: suspension of payments, a flurry of lawsuits, and a bundle of worthless bank notes—a mere three years after the bank’s incorporation.

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Mike’s Auto Service

Turn the corner and your eye will be caught by the cherry red gas pumps at Mike’s Auto Service. The fully-operational Jenney pumps, which predate the 1940s but were restored in 1994, are fairly new in historic Amherst terms, but they tug at the nostalgic heartstrings nonetheless.

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Amherst Library

Turning back toward Main Street, we passed the town library, pausing to admire its copper canopy adorned with green swirls of glass.

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Moulton’s Market

Having toured the Common, the villages landmarks, and many of the side streets, we were ready to pop into Moulton’s Market—a small grocery store and deli—for a bite to eat. Now a bustling gathering place for locals, the market sits on the site of “Cushing’s Folly,” a three-story brick building that housed a variety of businesses from its inception in 1809 until being razed by fire in 1948.

After warming up in Moulton’s, we were less eager to subject ourselves to the frigid temps and chose to curtail our sightseeing tour. To appreciate the historic offerings of Amherst, New Hampshire, in their entirety, plan to spend a full day walking around the village.

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Alyson Horrocks

Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks

Want more? View photos of historic Amherst, New Hampshire in spring!

Comments
  • My husband and I will be moving back east for his job. We have two kids (3 and 1) and 3 dogs. We are looking for a nice place to live. We currently live in a small town in Southern California. My husband will be traveling for work but also working out of Boston. I know that I definitely don’t want to live in the hustle and bustle of the city and my husband doesn’t mind a commute. I have been looking everywhere for some reviews or comments about a great, safe place to move and raise our kids. I have fallen in love with Amherst (NH) through pictures and the few things I have found to read. Does anyone else have any insights? Suggestions? Other places they might recommend? I would really love to know more about Amherst though. It will be a big move for us and I want to know as much as we can before we make a journey out to look at places and houses. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  • Amherst will always be my home. Lived there for 40 years and loved it so much and after 8 years of living in Florida, I still consider Amherst to be the best place to live. Wonderful quaint town and great people.

    Reply
  • Catherine, are you sure you aren’t thinking of Amherst, Massachusetts? I grew up in Amherst, NH and went to school for a couple years at UMass in Amherst, MA (near Mt Holyoke College). They are often confused . . . and it would explain why the landmarks don’t look familiar :-)

    Reply
  • Sheryl

    Amherst Village at Halloween is the greatest. My kids look forward to it every year.

    Reply
  • Roxanne

    This is my home town, I was raised here and attended all the schools in your photos and frequented each location in your article; it’s where I grew up! Started at the Clark School in 1958, then went to the Brick School (the little red museum was the building we called “The Annex” and we held music classes over there. Each week we made trips to the library from there. We had to march across the common to have ‘hot lunch’ in the Town Hall building. My career at Yankee Publishing spanned nearly 17 years from 1973 to 1989. While on vacation a few years ago I met up with Jud Hale in Gilford at one of the local eateries. . Best memories of my life are from those years at Yankee…

    Reply
  • CatherineB

    I really enjoyed this lovely piece–and the pictures really bring it alive. I attended Mount Holyoke for college and spent some hours in the Amherst library, but never really saw the town and these landmarks. Your photos and observations help me to “see” what I probably passed by. Thank you!

    Reply
  • I was fortunate and proud to be born and raised in this wonderful town! It will forever be one on the BEST small New England Towns!

    Reply
  • Thank you very much for a wonderful write up and beautiful pictures of Amherst. I’m a native to New Hampshire, born and raised in Nashua, and I would visit Amherst during my childhood years and always enjoying the area and wanting to one day live in this town. Well, the “one day” finally materialized about 15 years ago and I have not regretted one moment of my decision, except that I am still not liking the cold and frigid winter months. Again, Thank you!!!

    Reply
  • Next time I hope to visit Amherst, New Hampshire in warmer weather, Vicki.

    Reply
  • Amherst is such an amazing Villiage and your host, Alyson, is even more amazing! Great photos!!

    Reply
  • What beautiful photographs! I was lucky enough to be in Amherst last year during the big snowstorm. I love to visit the area in any season…truly a beautiful oasis.

    Reply

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