New Hampshire Magazine January 2005
Some Places We Visited, or Wanted to:
If youre ever in walpole, look up these great folks.
Alysons Orchard, Wentworth Road, (603) 756-9800; www.alysonsorchard.com
Along with apples, they offer something for every season: pears, grapes, plums, peaches, and more. They also do special events.
Hooper Golf Club, Prospect Hill Road
A nine-hole, semi-private club.
Contra dances, Walpole Unitarian Church, (802) 257-0182; www.monadnockfolk.org/
Green Mountain Railroad, Bellows Falls, Vt.; (802) 463-3069; www.rails-vt.com
Walpole Antique and Flea Market, Route 12. Operated by Joseph and Sonia Sawyer, (603) 756-4314; Tim and Elaine Swift, (603) 756-0936. Runs every Sat. from May until Columbus Day.
Murrays Restaurant, Westminster Street. Open for breakfast and lunch.
Ray Boas Bookseller (603) 756-9900; www.rayboasbookseller.com. Specialties include: decorative arts and antique reference, business and financial histories, biographies, and non-fiction.
Bellows House Bakery, North Walpole; (800) 358-6302. Free tours and samples,
MondayThursday, 9 a.m.11 a.m. and 1 p.m.3 p.m.
L.A. Burdick Chocolate, Main Street, Walpole, (603) 756-9058
Lunch: Mon.Sat.; Dinner: Tues.Sat.; Brunch: Sundays, 10 a.m.3 p.m.
Ruggles & Hunt, Westminster Street, (603) 756-9607; www.rugglesandhunt.com. Open 11 a.m.6 p.m MondaySaturday. Jewelry, linens, clothing, stationery, lighting, furniture, fabrics, hardware, garden accessories.
Inn at Valley Farms B&B and Cottages, Jackie and Dane Bader, (603) 756-2855
The Walpole Chair Shop, John Ryan III
Old Drewsville Road; (603) 756-9081
Barbara Tarantino, watercolorist,
Studio, 9 Prospect Hill, (603) 756-0947;
Spheris Gallery, 59 The Square, Cynthia Reeves, Bellows Falls, Vt. (802) 463-2220
Great River Arts Inst., Bellows Falls, Vt.
(802) 463-3330; greatriverarts.org
Fanny Mason Cheese, Boggy Meadow Farm, Walpole, (877) 541-3953;
You can visit the farm to see cheese-making in progress.
Walpole Inn, 297 Main Street
(603) 756-3320; www.walpoleinn.com
Walpole Historical Society has a gift shop open Wednesdays and Saturdays, 2 p.m.4 p.m., May through September, (www.walpolenh.org/whs)
Welcome to Walpole
[Michael Erhlehardt , new chef de cuisine of Burdicks Caf, displays a board of artisanal cheeses. Burdicks gets all of its cheeses from nearby Connecticut River Valley farms. The restaurant is an outgrowth of Larry and Paula Burdicks chocolate business, which started in Walpole and has established a national reputation for excellent product and service.]
Photos by Susan Sauer
From the road, Walpole looks just like many small towns of the Connecticut River Valley: sleepy, charming, more prone to erosion and rust than to wear and tear. But the appearance is deceiving. Like a butterfly in a meadow, Walpole may look like just another country blossom, but this town has wings to fly above its rural roots. And in recent years this village, surrounded by centuries-old family farms, has been sipping some pretty sophisticated nectar.
Take Burdicks Cafe
Like Walpole itself, Burdicks would be easy to drive past. But the fleet of cars out front, many with out-of-state license plates, provides a clue. Inside the classic downtown storefront that once housed the village grocery store is a comfy bistro decorated in neutral tones that capture the abundant light. Stylish young servers deliver graciously such delicacies as crispy duck confit salad, a salmon terrine or sauted sea scallops. For dessert? How about one of the linzer tortes or chocolate mousse, or simply a bag of L.A. Burdicks trademark chocolate mice for the road?
Filmmaker Ken Burns set up his Florentine Films studios in Walpole in the early 1990s (he lives nearby in a 180-year-old farmhouse), and soon a heroic community (his term) of artists and literary types found residences there. Larry and Paula Burdick came around the same time as Burns, starting their gourmet chocolate company that soon developed a national following among aficionados. Although the town had a few cafs and inns, it was apparent to Burns that a fine restaurant was needed. A few years ago, he partnered with the Burdicks to expand their small caf into the new larger location, and the heroic community of Walpole had a restaurant to satisfy its taste for excellent adventures.
Some Other Walpolians
Woodworker John Ryan III is an escapee from the era of high-flying, high-tech companies. He says he saw the writing on the wall in the late ’Äô80s and started a new chapter in his life. His Walpole Chair Company produces Shaker boxes, chairs and tables, all products of his hands (and maybe a bit of help from his wife and young son).
He has crafted products for celebrities like Christopher Reeve (who wanted a dining set that allowed his wheelchair to join his guests at the table). He exhibits at the League of N.H. Craftsmen Fair and was recently lauded by Early American Life Magazine as one of the countrys top 200 craftsmen, but many neighbors think of him simply as a local handyman. So if someone brings in a broken chair, he fixes it.
Ray and Cathy Boas have only lived in town two years, but they feel their roots taking hold in their 1806 Georgian Colonial home on the town common. They operate a small antiquarian bookshop there, though most of their business comes from the Internet. They fell in love with the home at first sight, recalls Ray, and their love affair with the town began the day they moved in. It just happened to be Walpoles 250th anniversary party. Right outside our front door, there was dinner for 800 under a tent on the common, says Ray. It was so delightful. Now, he says, the sound of band concerts and children at play on the common keeps him young.
Walpole Architecture and History
The first architectural style in Walpole was early fort. 1753 was a dangerous time and settlers crowded in rough huts behind a stockade fence at Fort No. 3. Then the forts commander, Colonel Benjamin Bellows, began to build houses on the land near the fort for himself, his family and his friends. Many of the houses were built in the symmetrical Georgian-style, four rooms up and four down, with an attic and often a clerestory. There were Capes and saltboxes in town, too.
Federal-style details like Palladian windows were popular additions to the early houses, but the real architectural rage, starting around 1800, was Greek Revival. The newly created democracy in this country was reminding people of the classical traditions of ancient Greece. The temple look, with columned porticos, pediments and wide cornices, became the look in Walpole, and remains so to this day. The Academy on Main Street once a school, now the historical societys museum is considered a prime example of Greek Revival.
Formed in 1930, the historical society zealously protects the past and generously shares it. On display at the museum are intricate beaded purses and petticoats, old paintings, clocks and furniture, bibles and other books printed in town. And a display of petticoats and undergarments is titled Victorias Old Secrets. Upstairs theres a Civil War uniform belonging to a Colonel Howland in perfect condition under glass, as well as cannonballs, swords and rifles. While doing inventory recently, Town Historian Virginia Putnam and her volunteers stumbled upon a dried up and mummified piece of wedding cake, origin unknown, and a long metal box with real hardtack stuck inside it.
When asked to come up with the history of Walpole in 20 words or less, Putnam replies, Ive never been able to speak with just 20 words in my life. As the wife of a native and a resident herself since 1951, her musings on town history spin out a beautiful web of interconnnected stories.
Prominent family names like Bellows, Graves and Sparhawk attach to well-known events and lesser-known tidbits and brushes with fame. James Michener started his novel Hawaii in a house overlooking the common. Earlier, Louisa May Alcott lived there and wrote Under the Lilacs. This residence, a beautiful Federal-style Colonial, still stands, and a look inside reveals 1812 wallpaper, original to the house. With great care and expense the paper has been removed, cleaned and restored.
But great history merits some reverence, notes the current owner Vicki Gohl, who also operates the downtown gift shop, Ruggles and Hunt, Purveyors of Staple and Fancy Goods. Gohl came to town as a researcher for Ken Burns. She discovered the name for her store in an old document that turned up in her historical digging.
And great history is everywhere in Walpole, blending in with contemporary life. On Main Street, the Walpole library has a thick wooden door with black hand-forged handles and screws, and a wooden screen door just like a stately summer home. Just inside are rows of hooks for children and their parents to hang their coats, and comfortable wing chairs to settle in with the great selection of books.
Heading out of the village toward the more commercial area of North Walpole is the historic Walpole cemetery. The most famous person buried in that graveyard is John Kilborne, who is called the towns first civilized inhabitant. He came and settled in 1747 in a cabin down in a field on Rte 12. There is a marker down there commemorating a battle that they had with the Indians in 1755. Putnam notes, adding with uncharacteristic brevity, To make a long story short, the settlers won.
North Walpole is a vibrant community in its own right, but distinct enough to merit another story another day. Still, no trip to Walpole would be complete without a visit to Bellows House Bakery on old North Main Street for a tour and free samples of their award-winning cookies.
Other Walpole Attractions
Nestled in a nook of the lengthy Connecticut River, Walpole offers some unique and delightful recreation with easily accessible places to golf, swim, bike, dance and kayak. Access to the Connecticut River can be had at multiple set-in points up and down the west side of Walpole. Small signs on Route 12 indicate where to turn and park at the two public access spots managed by N.H. Fish and Game. Ambitious paddlers might choose to start farther up north (way up), in North Haverhill at Hemlock Petes (www.hpcanoes.bizland.com), where you can even participate in a dinner tour of the Connecticut via kayaks. Bicyclists may enjoy the challenge of hilly roads past charming dairy farms, orchards and historic homes. Walpole streets lack traffic and invite leaf peeping.
A ride up Wentworth Road from the town square rewards with views of several dairies, the Alpaca Dance Farm (756-9692, www.alpacadance.com), where herds of strange and magnificent Suri and Huacaya alpacas roam. There is a gift shop selling clothing and fabrics products made from alpaca fiber.
Also out that way is Alysons Orchards, owned and operated by Susan Jasse and her husband Bob for the 15 years since the couple migrated from Massachusetts. A quick spin around the property reveals accommodations for more than 50 people, a reception facility and wedding sites (several) that overlook the valley and beyond into Vermont. Theres a pond-side sauna designed by artist Eric Aho, a couple of swimming holes within an easy stroll, and a wicker swing in which to sit and contemplate the lovely landscape, the curious history, the delightful shops and cafs, and the heroic community of Walpole.
2005, New Hampshire Magazine, A Division of McLean Communication
150 Dow St., Manchester, NH 03101 (603) 624-1442, email@example.com
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