A sense of history pervades Concord, the capital of New Hampshire since the early 19th century. At the heart of this city on the Merrimack River, the New Hampshire State House is a fitting symbol of its characteristic blend of history and charm. Gazing on the structure’s neoclassical styling and golden dome, visitors immerse themselves in an air of majesty. One of the best historic sites in Concord, this is the oldest state capitol where legislators convene in their original chambers, and guests are invited to observe in the galleries.
Two major libraries also draw history buffs to this quaint city of 43,000. Directly opposite the capitol on Park Street is the New Hampshire State Library, whose mission includes serving the needs of state government and the state’s residents. One block down Park Street to the west is the library of the New Hampshire Historical Society, founded in 1823. The non-profit society also operates a museum, which is one of the top attractions in Concord. One fascinating exhibit is a Concord Coach, the stagecoach produced in the city prior to the growth of the railroads.
One of the must-see historic sites in Concord is the Pierce Manse. Franklin Pierce, the 14th U.S. President, lived in this Greek Revival home from 1842 until 1848. An all-volunteer group calling themselves the Pierce Brigade saved the house from demolition in 1971. Today, docents guide visitors through the home, which contains period pieces and furnishings, some of which the Pierce family owned. Children enjoy donning a replica of the field jacket Pierce wore as a brigadier general during the Mexican-American War.
Concord practically bursts at the seams with noteworthy sites, many clustered together in the city’s core. Tourists interested in strolling through history can pick up maps at the chamber of commerce or one of the shops in the area. Among the more than 50 points of interest is the 150-year-old Eagle Hotel. One-time guests at this Concord landmark include aviator Charles Lindbergh and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Another significant structure is the Concord National Bank Building, constructed in 1808.
One of the top attractions in Concord is the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. A particularly interesting exhibit in this interactive science museum pays tribute to its two namesakes, astronauts and New Hampshire natives Christa McAuliffe and Alan Shepard. The museum’s Redstone Rocket Plaza displays a full-size replica of the rocket that launched Alan Shepard’s Mercury capsule into space. Visitors can also “feel” variations in the electromagnetic spectrum through NASA equipment.
Just outside town, the Canterbury Shaker Village presents an opportunity for travelers to step into another time and culture. Shakers are members of a conservative religious tradition that idealizes simplicity, hard work and celibacy. Artisans employ 19th-century techniques as they work with tin, turn wood or make brooms. During demonstrations, visitors may converse freely with the artisans. The village also offers workshops in a variety of crafts, such as woodworking, fiber arts and basketry.