By Eileen Terrill
Managing Editor, Yankee Magazine
One of my favorite fall jaunts in the Monadnock region is a weekend excursion to Old Number Six Book Depot in Henniker (603-428-3334). With 160,000 volumes, it maintains the biggest stock of any used bookstore in New Hampshire. But half the fun is getting there — up over the gentle flank of a local landmark called Bear Hill, gorgeous at any time of year.
Here’s how to get there:
On Route 202, head north to the town of Hillsborough. At the traffic light (across from McDonald’s), turn right onto West Main St. Follow the road east/northeast a couple of miles into downtown Hillsborough.
At the traffic light in the center of town, turn right onto Route 149 (Bridge St., a narrow, old riverside part of town) and set your odometer to zero. Go just .01 mile and cross the bridge over the Contoocook. After Bear Hill Apartments, take your first left, onto West Mill St., which will shortly become Bear Hill Road.
Follow the river through farmland. At 1.4 miles, look right to see Bear Hill, a neat little peak covered in evergreens and lush foliage. Now you’re crossing into the town of Henniker. At 1.9 miles, the paved road becomes dirt, and you’ll begin to see old stone walls and woods. Intermittently, you’ll also glimpse spectacular views to the left across the valley and Fox State Forest toward layer after layer of hills and mountains.
At 3.6 miles, you’ll come to a stop sign; follow through on the paved road. Continue through the farmland, with views on your left across a small valley and on your right to lovely hills. Now the next couple of miles will take you through rolling meadows on both sides of the road, and a pond on your right, up and down hills.
At 6.0 miles, turn left up a rise (onto Depot Hill Road, but there’s no sign). You’ll pass an old cemetery on your left. In a half-mile on your left you’ll come to #166, where a big green spruce graces the front lawn of a white early-19th-century farmhouse with attached two-story barn. You’ve arrived at Old Number Six.
Let the browsing begin! Inside the barn is a labyrinth of narrow aisles and homemade shelving, stuffed floor to ceiling with every category of the written word imaginable — you could spend days wandering and sampling its wares. Yet this trove is supremely, amazingly, organized. So if your time is limited and you’ve got a wish list in hand, look for the category signs and lose yourself in the stacks.
Downstairs you’ll find well-considered collections of sports (histories, biographies, resources) and publishing and journalism titles, in addition to a vast number of mystery and fiction titles, among many other sections. But tempting as it is to stay put in these snug nooks, do not miss the second-floor collections.
Tread carefully up the narrow staircase, crowded with volumes waiting to be filed. At the top, look up: An entire world of books rises before you, with categories including international relations and policy, wealth and poverty, notable Americans and American families, immigration and ethnicity, Judaica and the Holocaust, world histories organized by time period and geography, military histories organized by theater of war, travel literature organized by region and state, early American history, and the best African American history section I’ve ever seen in any country bookstore in New England, new or used. And those are just the highlights — you’ll have to visit in person to discover your own favorite hideaway here. Henniker is a college town, and the Depot is clearly the beneficiary of all those hungry minds.
Speaking of appetites, I usually head downtown to Daniel’s Restaurant & Pub for refueling after book shopping. To get there, continue along Depot Hill Road, past the old railroad station on your right, and down the slope. Swing around the town green and over the river — about a half-mile all told. Daniel’s is at 48 Main St. (603-428-7621;), in a circa-1840s building. The pub — serving a broad menu of soups and salads, sandwiches and burgers, pasta, seafood, and dinner entrees — is on the basement level. Tables nestle against the foundation’s old, soft bricks on one side, and on the other, against a bank of windows framed in warm, blond wood, looking out over the ever-changing Contoocook.