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Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

Venture about 15 miles southwest of Manchester—the Granite State’s largest city—on Route 101, and you’ll happen upon the village of Amherst, New Hampshire. Originally chartered in 1728, the Common anchors this small hamlet, inviting visitors to explore the historic architecture and landmarks that spread out from its town green.

Welcome to Amherst, New HamsphireMost folks might choose to visit Amherst in one of the milder months, but the January freeze was in full effect—temperatures having dipped down to single digits—on the day I headed there to meet my tour guide, Alyson Horrocks. A resident of the village, Alyson chronicles the beauty of this and other classic New England towns on Instagram and in her blog, New England Living.

Amherst Common and ChurchArmed with the knowledge of a local combined with historical tidbits plucked from the pages of Walking Tours of Amherst Village, a publication offered by the Historical Society of Amherst, Alyson guided me around the heart of the town, beginning with its sizeable common in the part of the village known as the “The Plain.”

Amherst Common Path

Town commons established in the 18th century, or village greens as they’re more commonly known today, were thought to have been used for militia training, the grazing of livestock, and, at times, public punishment. Encircled by a fence in 1866, Amherst’s Common was dedicated as a park in 1868 and remains so today, retaining many of the icons that grace town centers throughout New England’s countryside.

whipping post

Monuments scattered about a green offer a narrative of a town’s past—like that cube of granite with the hook poking out of its top that’s alleged to have been a whipping post. But equally telling is what’s not there. In this case, the ubiquitous gazebo is noticeably absent. According to the historical society, residents resisted erecting such a structure in an attempt to avoid the “Victorianization” that was occurring in neighboring towns.

Third County Courthouse

Our tour started at the Third County Courthouse–now the town hall–and Old Burying Ground set on the east side of the Common. The first markers dating back to 1735 were fieldstones, but those were difficult to find under the fresh fall of snow.

Graves with headstones and footstones

Spirit faces peer out from the older slabs, and sharp-eyed observers may notice that many graves are bordered by both a headstone and footstone. According to the religious beliefs of the time, these plots were designed to mimic the head and footboard of a bed, because they were seen as temporary resting spots until the resurrection of Christ.

Second Meetinghouse

Just as the Common anchors the village, the Second Meetinghouse moors the Common. At the time of its construction in 1774, it was actually set on the Common. The town sold the Meetinghouse to the First Congregational Church and Society in 1832, retaining ownership of the clock tower and rights to conduct meetings on site. The building was moved to the other side of Church Street in 1836 and remains a congregational church today.

Soldiers' Monument
Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch

The Soldiers’ Monument stands on a slice of land that separates Church Street from Middle Street. Erected in 1871 to honor the twenty-five soldiers from Amherst who lost their lives in the Civil War, this bronze monument depicts a Union infantryman, his head bowed in contemplation.

Congregational Chapel

Originally built as a vestry for the First Congregational Church and Society in 1858, the Chapel Museum is one of two museums maintained by the Historical Society today.

Brick School

Right next door on the corner of School Street and Middle Street, the Brick School served as a public school from 1854 until 1967.

Hillsborough Bank Building

Swoop down School Street, and you’ll find the Hillsborough Bank Building, whose claim to nefarious fame was issuing more notes and loans than its meager reserves could cover. The result: suspension of payments, a flurry of lawsuits, and a bundle of worthless bank notes—a mere three years after the bank’s incorporation.

Mike's Auto Service

Turn the corner and your eye will be caught by the cherry red gas pumps at Mike’s Auto Service. The fully-operational Jenney pumps, which predate the 1940s but were restored in 1994, are fairly new in historic Amherst terms, but they tug at the nostalgic heartstrings nonetheless.

Amherst Library

Turning back toward Main Street, we passed the town library, pausing to admire its copper canopy adorned with green swirls of glass.

Moulton's Market

Having toured the Common, the villages landmarks, and many of the side streets, we were ready to pop into Moulton’s Market—a small grocery store and deli—for a bite to eat. Now a bustling gathering place for locals, the market sits on the site of “Cushing’s Folly,” a three-story brick building that housed a variety of businesses from its inception in 1809 until being razed by fire in 1948.

After warming up in Moulton’s, we were less eager to subject ourselves to the frigid temps and chose to curtail our sightseeing tour. To appreciate the historic offerings of Amherst, New Hampshire, in their entirety, plan to spend a full day walking around the village.

Want more? View photos of historic Amherst, New Hampshire in spring!

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Brenda Darroch

Author:

Brenda Darroch

Biography:

Digital Editor Brenda Darroch creates and manages content for YankeeMagazine.com, YankeeFoliage.com, e-newsletters, and Yankee's search and social media initiatives. Follow Brenda Darroch on !
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13 Responses to Historic Amherst, New Hampshire

  1. Vicki Bigelow January 31, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    What beautiful photographs! I was lucky enough to be in Amherst last year during the big snowstorm. I love to visit the area in any season…truly a beautiful oasis.

    • Brenda Darroch January 31, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

      Next time I hope to visit Amherst, New Hampshire in warmer weather, Vicki.

  2. Emily Leyland January 31, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    Amherst is such an amazing Villiage and your host, Alyson, is even more amazing! Great photos!!

    • Brenda Darroch January 31, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

      Alyson was a wonderful guide, Emily. She’s so much fun!

  3. Jeff Hall January 31, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

    You may also enjoy these museum quality images of Amherst and other beautiful NH towns on my website:

    http://jefpix.smugmug.com/JeffsBest/Architecture

    Jeff Hall Photography

  4. Jeff Hall January 31, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    Here’s my gallery dedicated solely to Amherst architecture:

    http://jefpix.smugmug.com/Architecture/Amherst-Area-Buildings

    Jeff Hall Photography

    • Brenda Darroch January 31, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

      Those are lovely, Jeff!

  5. David Bardsley January 31, 2014 at 11:18 pm #

    Thank you very much for a wonderful write up and beautiful pictures of Amherst. I’m a native to New Hampshire, born and raised in Nashua, and I would visit Amherst during my childhood years and always enjoying the area and wanting to one day live in this town. Well, the “one day” finally materialized about 15 years ago and I have not regretted one moment of my decision, except that I am still not liking the cold and frigid winter months. Again, Thank you!!!

    • Corey February 1, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

      I was fortunate and proud to be born and raised in this wonderful town! It will forever be one on the BEST small New England Towns!

  6. CatherineB February 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

    I really enjoyed this lovely piece–and the pictures really bring it alive. I attended Mount Holyoke for college and spent some hours in the Amherst library, but never really saw the town and these landmarks. Your photos and observations help me to “see” what I probably passed by. Thank you!

  7. Don Leon February 11, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    Would love to see pics of Halloween festivities. Thanks!

    • Sheryl July 5, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

      Amherst Village at Halloween is the greatest. My kids look forward to it every year.

  8. Roxanne Smith May 17, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    This is my home town, I was raised here and attended all the schools in your photos and frequented each location in your article; it’s where I grew up! Started at the Clark School in 1958, then went to the Brick School (the little red museum was the building we called “The Annex” and we held music classes over there. Each week we made trips to the library from there. We had to march across the common to have ‘hot lunch’ in the Town Hall building. My career at Yankee Publishing spanned nearly 17 years from 1973 to 1989. While on vacation a few years ago I met up with Jud Hale in Gilford at one of the local eateries. . Best memories of my life are from those years at Yankee…

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