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Historic Hancock, New Hampshire | A Gem in the Monadnock Region

The village of Hancock, New Hampshire, is certainly resplendent in autumn, and spring and summer show off the lush green of the common, and the full canopy of the many mature trees.  A fresh coating of snow gives the place a Currier & Ives vibe in winter. But here in early November, though the leaves have nearly all fallen and the light is changing, this little town (population 1,650 or so) in the southwest corner of the Granite State is still a postcard in the making.

Scenes from the town common: the monument to those who served begins with the French & Indian Wars (1754-1763).

Photo/Art by Deb Despres
Scenes from the town common: the monument to those who served begins with the French & Indian Wars (1754-1763).

 

Norway Pond on a breezy day; the Hancock Inn, Historical Society and Post Office are all set on Main Street.

Photo/Art by Deb Despres
Norway Pond on a breezy day; the Hancock Inn, Historical Society and Post Office are all set on Main Street.

The town charter was granted on Nov. 5, 1779 and though it was named after that John Hancock of Declaration of Independence fame, dear John showed little interest in the emerging village despite having been among the original proprietors of its land. As William W. Hayward wrote in The History of Hancock, New Hampshire, 1764-1889: “…it was but natural that our fathers expected he (Mr. Hancock) would bestow upon the new town that had honored itself by adopting his name a substantial present. In this they were disappointed; and after soliciting him and his heirs, year after year in vain, they made an attempt to change the name of the town to York.”

Well, that didn’t fly.  Hancock it remains today.

Almost every building along Main Street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 1820 meetinghouse is home to an authentic Revere & Son’s bell, which chimes on the hour, day and night.  (What does it take to keep the bell chiming? Find the answer in “Caretaker of the Clock” by Howard Mansfield, published in Yankee’s Jan/Feb 2012 issue.)

The meetinghouse on a moody day, complete with birds in the belfry -- they don't mind the hourly chiming.

Photo/Art by Deb Despres
The meetinghouse on a moody day, complete with birds in the belfry — they don’t mind the hourly chiming.

Continuing up the road, Main Street Cheese is a rather new enterprise in the village—an honor-system shop. Follow the signs to the entrance alongside the red barn to find your way to the cheese room.  Make your selection from the fridge and leave your payment. Then, who can resist a stroll out back to visit the kids?

The entrance to the cheese shop; the cheese-making contributors, and the delicious product.

Photo/Art by Deb Despres
The entrance to the cheese shop; the cheese-making contributors, and the delicious product.

At the Hancock Inn (c. 1789—the state’s oldest continuously operating inn) proprietors Jarvis and Marcia Coffin provide a warm welcome, whether you’ve just popped in for dinner, or have a room reserved for the weekend.  Tavern fare or fine dining—the options are many. Choose from one of the most enticing servings of fish-n-chips this side of the Atlantic, to lamb, duck, sea scallops, and irresistible homemade desserts.  Notice the many local connections to the menu: apples from nearby Norway Hill Orchard, cheese from the neighborhood shop, and beef and lamb from area farms.

The historic Hancock Inn continues its centuries-old tradition of offering good food and fine lodging.

Photo/Art by Deb Despres
Photo/Art by Deb Despres
The historic Hancock Inn continues its centuries-old tradition of offering good food and fine lodging.

Though steeped in history, the Hancock Inn’s amenities are modern and comfortable.  Yet, the authentic charm of its heritage remains. Circa. 1825 wall murals were discovered during renovations in the early 1900s, credited to Rufus Porter, a traveling artist and journalist. Book the “Rufus Porter Room” and see them up close for yourself.

Rounding out the gems along Main Street is Fiddleheads Café. Come here to enjoy hearty entrée’s, hefty deli sandwiches and hot pressed panini’s, or soups, salads, ice cream, wonderful baked goods, and coffee anyway you like. Don’t feel like cooking when you get home? Bring a small cooler with you, and select your night’s dinner from the freezer case knowing it’s full of homemade goodness.  And, let’s not forget the ever so convenient Hancock Cash Market.  Clearly, it’s impossible to go hungry on Main Street.

Ready for some outdoor adventures? Visit the The Harris Center for Conservation Education, for hiking and snowshoeing trails. The East Side trails range from .5 to 1.5 miles or so and make for a pleasant excursion. The West Side trails can be over 4 miles, with enough climbing to assure you’ve earned dessert back at the Inn. The Center also organizes talks, classes, and various nature walks on site and throughout the region.  Check their online calendar for a complete listing of current offerings.

The Harris Center for Conservation Education offers views before you even hit the trail.

Photo/Art by Deb Despres
The Harris Center for Conservation Education offers views before you even hit the trail.

Before heading out of town, make a stop at Sarah’s Hat Boxes.  Their gorgeous showroom is housed within a modest brick building on Forest Road and features boxes of all sizes, made from recycled materials, and covered in beautiful fabrics. What better gift idea for those folks who seemingly have everything than a colorful, quality, made in New Hampshire box for storing their treasures?  Boxes can hold knitting supplies, photographs, scarves, belts, keepsake cards and letters, crafting materials, or hats, of course…and so much more.

Just a few of the many, many beautiful boxes at Sarah's Hat Boxes.

Photo/Art by Deb Despres
Just a few of the many, many beautiful boxes at Sarah’s Hat Boxes.

A stay in Hancock places you in the heart of the Monadnock Region and all it has to offer—a postcard perfect place to start and end your days.

Please Note: This information 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.

Debbie Despres

Author:

Debbie Despres

Biography:

Debbie Despres is an associate editor for the magazine. Deb is the primary fact checker for Yankee Magazine and also contributes content to each issue. A member of YPI’s corporate staff since 2000, Deb joined Yankee’s editorial team in 2011. A native of New Hampshire, with a work history that includes several years in the travel industry, she enjoys discovering new destinations, and the myriad of road trip opportunities unique to New England.
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3 Responses to Historic Hancock, New Hampshire | A Gem in the Monadnock Region

  1. Susan Gill November 15, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

    Hancock, New Hampshire is a lovely place to visit not only for its location in the Monadnock region but particularly for the Hancock Inn. I stayed there a couple of years ago, and I cannot say enough wonderful things about it. The rooms were charming and the food was amazing. It is the ultimate place to retreat into another time.

  2. Amy Markus November 16, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    Why no mention of the library in Hancock? Beautiful old brick building sits right in the heart of downtown. It’s the hub of the town, acting as library and community center. Come back and take a look around!

  3. Suzanne Decker Fenimore November 16, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

    My mother, grandmother, and two aunts and uncles all lived in Hancock for years. I spent many happy vacations there as a teenager and young woman. Now a college friend lives there, and one of my nieces lived there for a few years. It’s a lovely town with friendly people.

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