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Littleton, New Hampshire – Main Street

Main Streets 2017: New Hampshire

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winter chris hubble nothern light side view 2010
winter chris hubble main street sidewalk view 2010
7 28 16Littleton7 winter chris hubble nothern light side view 2010 winter chris hubble main street sidewalk view 2010

There’s nothing big-box or cookie-cutter about Littleton’s Main Street. This is the real thing.

This genuine old-school New England downtown in northwestern New Hampshire is close to the White Mountains, where skiing, hiking and mountain biking are big attractions. So Littleton does get visitors — but if you walk along Main Street, you’ll mostly be mingling with townspeople. And you won’t lack for interesting local shops, inviting eateries and uncommon attractions to explore.

Main Street has the world’s longest candy counter, in Chutters (at 112 feet, it’s been in the Guinness Book of World Records). It has a sculpture of Pollyanna, the unsinkably optimistic orphan girl who first came to life in a 1913 novel by local author Eleanor H. Porter, then was portrayed onscreen by Hayley Mills in a popular 1960 Disney film.

And speaking of movies, right on a Main Street corner are the Jax Jr. Cinemas, a two-screen venue that’s one of America’s last surviving fine downtown moviehouses. A theater has been showing films here since 1920; the site hosted the 1941 world premiere of “The Great Lie,” a film by Bette Davis, who summered nearby.

Main Street looks nicely old-fashioned, but there’s a strong present-day vibrancy to it. Thanks largely to the work of local volunteers with Littleton Main Street, Inc., the street’s vacancy rate is close to zero, and Littleton has been honored with a Great American Main Street Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Among the shopping opportunities here, you can help kids learn through play at the Little Village Toy & Book Shop, raise your own level of play with an instrument from Northern Lights Music, pick up quilting supplies at One Stitch, Two Stitch, and be amazed at New Hampshire’s wide-ranging creativity on display in the League of NH Craftsmen.

To refuel, grab warm fresh scones and cookies at the French Sisters Bakery. The Littleton Diner is a local institution that won Yankee Magazine’s Best Pancake Award — and in northern New England, you know that means something.

Finally, stop in as the day wanes for a beverage at the Littleton Grist Mill. The 1798-vintage mill has been restored and is home to the Schilling Beer Company, purveyors of European-inspired lagers and ales. They’re brewed right here — on Main Street, of course.

All photos courtesy of Littleton Area Chamber of Commerce

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Portsmouth, New Hampshire – Congress Street

Main Streets 2016: New Hampshire

To gaze down Congress Street from Market Square is to peer directly into American history. The distinctive Colonial, Georgian and Federal style buildings here and throughout Portsmouth are the very image of an old-time, waterside New England city.

The imposing brick and stone downtown edifices no longer serve the port and shipbuilding businesses that made Portsmouth one of the earliest and wealthiest cities in colonial America. Instead, today they house much of the retail, professional and artistic enterprise that has transformed Portsmouth into a thriving commercial hub on New Hampshire’s seacoast.

Although a fairly small city, Portsmouth draws tourists and residents from near and far for work, entertainment and culture. Market Square Day, for example, is a celebration of food, bands, artisans and entertainment right downtown — and Market Square, at the top of Congress Street, is the natural jumping-off point for any visit to Portsmouth.

Historic North Church, built in 1855 to replace the original 1712 meeting house, dominates the square. The Portsmouth Athenaeum, occupying a distinctive red-brick and white-columned building on a corner of Market Square, is a “nonprofit membership library” and museum that was incorporated in 1817. It’s a place to borrow a book, see an art show or research your family’s genealogy.

Walking along Congress, you might be drawn into Diversions Puzzles & Games, a place to rediscover the classic board games you remember. If you get hungry, stop in to Jumpin’ Jays Fish Cafe, a casual seafood eatery that’s a favorite among locals, then relax over coffee and dessert at Popovers on the Square, a casual café back on Market Square.

Along with the restaurants, cafes and locally owned stores on or around Congress are some of the many attractions and points of history that make the city what it is. This mixture of historic and contemporary inspired the National Trust for Historic Preservation to recognize Portsmouth in 2008 as one of its “Dozen Distinctive Destinations.”

A few blocks from Congress Street, don’t miss the Strawberry Banke Museum, located in the waterfront neighborhood that dates to 1695. This is where Portsmouth began. The district is a salty, scenic treasure that was saved from urban renewal several decades ago, and the museum depicts the heritage of this quintessential New England port community.

Market Square Day photo courtesy of Pro Portsmouth

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