Could Meredith, New Hampshire, be the town that inspired Riverdale? The lakeside town lays claim to a favorite fictional son with an Archie statue.
By Joe Bills
Apr 23 2019
Shown at left is the clay model for Meredith’s Archie statue, sculpted by Valery Mahuchy, a native of Belarus who now lives in Bethlehem, New Hampshire.Photo Credit : Michael Seamans
The exact location of the fictional town of Riverdale may never be determined, but its most famous resident, Archie Andrews, has nonetheless come home. Last summer, as part of Meredith, New Hampshire’s 250th anniversary celebration, a statue of the comic book star was installed on a bench in Community Park—right across the street from the former studio of the man who helped create Archie, artist Bob Montana.
When a young Montana was hired by MLJ Comics in 1941, one of his first assignments resulted in a four-page story that was published in Pep Comics No. 22. The plot revolved around a high schooler named Archie and his friends Jughead and Betty (Veronica, Betty’s frenemy, would come along later). A number of Archie shorts followed. When it became clear that Archie was popular enough to warrant a full comic book of his own, Montana rented a cottage on Meredith’s Lake Waukewan and got to work.
By 1946, the Riverdale gang was so popular that MLJ changed its name to Archie Comics. The following year, Montana—who was by then a full-time resident of Meredith—launched a syndicated Archie comic strip that would eventually appear in more than 700 newspapers.
Although other writers and artists worked on various Archie properties, Montana is most often credited with shaping the characters. Many believe that Archie’s pals were patterned after kids that Montana knew in high school in Haverhill, Massachusetts. What is certain is that Montana’s strips were often stocked with landmarks and characters from the Meredith area.
For more than 75 years, Archie and his Riverdale pals have reflected something essential back to their audience. Now, a life-size bronze rendition of Montana’s creation sits and seemingly contemplates it all, with a welcoming smile and plenty of bench space for visiting Bettys to sit on one side and Veronicas on the other.