Real estateWe looked at a lot of towns and real estate in the western portion of the state. Generally speaking the areas west of the 3 corridor and south of I-89 are somewhat less expensive than the areas around the bigger cities and in the southeast part of the state. With the exception of Keene, that area of the state is made up of scattered small towns.
Milford - $99,900, 2.13 ac on Maple Street. This lot is in Milford but reportedly has Wilton water (and sewer?). It is near the border. The area it is in is near a factory and is not overly attractive, though not overly ugly. It is on a hill which overlooks the factory and the river. The high prices is presumably because of it's proximity to Nashua (drive time roughly 30 minutes).
Hillsborough - $8000 ~ $25000, .25 - 1 ac lots in Emerald Lake Development. These lots are numerous and listed at inexpensive sale prices. They are in a community with an association, private dirt roads, a private water system, and lake access (with some facilities). The lots are smallish and the houses are a mix ranging from reasonably nice but not large to rather trashy (in our opinion anyway). I suspect the people are perfectly nice and you could have an inexpensive home there but it's not the kind of place I would choose to live.
Hillsborough ~$40,000+, 2+ acre lots on Mary Rowe. These lots are near but outside the Emerald Lake District on paved public roads. The surrounding houses are much nicer (several brand new colonials) and the lots are substantially bigger.
Hillsborough ~ $40,000+, 2± acre lots on Sawmill. These lots are heavily wooded and (according to MLS) back up to a river (stream, whatever). The neighborhood has a slightly rural feeling to it (lot sizes in the 2-5 acre range I'd guess) but it is near town.
Tilton - $65,000, 5-7 acre lots on Calef Hill. These lots are just a few minutes from town on a nice street with primarily nice newer houses. These are the kind of lots that an upper middle class family with a larger (2200-2500 sq. ft.) house would be very comfortable on. They are near a middle school and relatively close to shopping (I'd say 10 minutes or so from Wal-Mart, outlet mall, fast food, etc.).
We didn't have time to look at houses in the western part of the state. We also essentially didn't do any actually 'shopping' in Concord. Other lots are available in other towns and that information is readily available from the MLS. General information about the areas is below.
Commerce and RestaurantsConcord is the capital city of New Hampshire (population 41,000) and is home to pretty much every kind of store and restaurant you would need or want. The downtown area has small boutique type shops and restaurants and there are department stores, malls, etc. Concord has high speed Internet access and cell phone service.
Tilton is a small town (3,500 people) but has remarkably good shopping and eating for a town its size. It is home to the outlet mall which features 50 manufacturers outlet stores with all kinds of goods. There is also a super Wal-Mart, Staples, Shaw's (grocery store), an Applebees, KFC, Wendy's, McDonald's, Burger King, the Tilton Diner, Subway, and several other things I've probably forgotten by now. There is also a 'downtown' area in Tilton that has some smaller shops but it's not as large as Keene's or certainly Concord's. I don't know if there is high speed Internet access in Tilton but my T-Mobile cell phone works there.
Hillsborough is a town of 5100 people in a somewhat less accessible area of western New Hampshire. There aren't many things there now but there is a shopping center under construction which, I believe, will feature a grocery store (probably a chain). There's a McDonalds there but otherwise it's all local eating establishments. There is a Ford dealership there and there is a Sylvania plant of some sort there (probably the big employer in the area). I saw a Verizon Wireless store in Hillsborough but my T-Mobile phone did not work there.
Henniker is a small town and there's really not much there. It's closer to Concord than Hillsborough so if you like small town life (no chain stores, etc.), that's probably a nice place for you to go.
Hopkinton is close to 89 and is a very cute looking town. I don't recall there being much there in the way of shopping or eating but the town itself has nice homes and is attractive.
Franklin is west of Tilton and is decidedly more run down. There are gas stations and what not but I didn't find any major stores or restaurants.
Weare and Goffstown are closer to Manchester (see drive times at the end of this page) and, I believe, are growing as a result of their proximity. Unfortunately we didn't get to see either one of them in the light so I'm not exactly sure what's there.
101 (and 101A) between Manchester and/or Nashua and Keene features many smaller towns (Milford, Wilton, Dublin, Peterborough, Marlboro, etc.). None of them are very big. Once you get a ways away from Nashua and/or Manchester the level of commercial creature comforts decreases considerably. Cell service (at least T-mobile) on that route is spotty to non-existent west of Milford (or so) all the way until fairly close to Keene.
ChurchesThere are plenty of Churches around western New Hampshire. Every town has at least one and larger towns may have several. We didn't actually visit (i.e. get out of the car and/or actually go to a service) any except one in Peterborough.
Monadnock Congregational Church was recommended to us by Thom Simmons after we described generally what we normally look for in a church. It is in Peterborough with is roughly half way (time wise) between Nashua and Keene on Highway 101. We visited there on Sunday, November 9, for their 10:00 coffee and 10:30 service. We drove that morning from Nashua and arrived right around 10:00. Having driven by the day before we thought the church was fairly large (I estimated maybe between 200 and 300). However, the whole building the church is in is not occupied solely by the church. Part of it that looked like classrooms is actually other businesses (a hair salon, for example).
The parking in the front is deceivingly small. Most of the people park in the back of the building and there's a back door there. I would estimate the main sanctuary seats as many as 200 and I'm guessing there might have been 125 to 150 there that morning. We began by going downstairs where they have coffee and socialize prior to the service. We were warmly greeted and the people there introduced themselves and then to the others around them.
There demographics were a bit spotty. It didn't look like there were many 20's singles and couples there or many late 40's to late 50's people. There seemed to be a split mostly between 30's-40's couples with children (and, hence, their young through teenage children), and roughly retirement plus people.
The service began with music which was a combination of songs from a hymnal and a couple of contemporary choruses. The singing was only accompanied by a piano (one song later in the service they traded the piano for a guitar). There was a small choir and one soloist who was quite good. There was also a drama near the beginning of the service. It was well done and one of the actors in particular was quite funny.
The church is going through the 40 Days of Purpose series put together by Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in southern California (a somewhat larger church ;). A couple of people in the church mentioned that the church has been going through 'a time of transition' which we deduced (from other comments) meant growth. There was some implication that the growth was caused partly by doing the 40 Days of Purpose series but I didn't press for statistics (it'd be a small sample anyhow). The message was delivered by Pastor Tim Jantos who did a fine job. It was well presented, good material, and nothing stuck out that would raise any big red flags for either of us.
The church had what I would call a small church feel. I suspect the people there might consider it a larger church feel but it seemed as though everyone knew each other and would be happy to accept more people into their group.
Based on our two church attending experiences, we believe it'd be possible for us to find an environment to fit into in New Hampshire but it will not be what we're used to. I didn't get enough of a feel from this experience (or our time at Grace Fellowship in Nashua) to know if the people there in New Hampshire would be open to significant 'outside' influence in their churches. For those of us desiring a strong arts program, we may have a more difficult time finding the right fit.
OtherDrive times for some of the towns in Western NH are listed on the statewide page. The roads in the western portion of NH are mostly good but mostly 2-lane. Navigating with a good map was not particularly difficult as most of the 2-lane roads do have some sort of signs indicating what they are (as opposed to some streets in towns which are not marked well).
We visited a lot of towns, some of which were simply drive-by's. Probably the best I can do is just summarize the 'look and feel' of each one here.
Concord is a short drive (15 minutes or so) north of Manchester on I-93 which is a toll road between Manchester and Concord. At the south end of town, I-89 splits off and goes northwest. I-93 continue through town and to point north. The town is larger (over 40,000 people) and, as a result, has most any creature comfort a person could need. The downtown area has shops and is near the capital. We ate in Concord a couple of times at fast food restaurants and a Chinese Buffet. We didn't spend a lot of time there but it seems as though that would be a nice town to live in, particularly if you wanted to be near the government center of New Hampshire for some reason.
Tilton is a small town right on I-93 about 20 minutes north of Concord. It is in the lakes region tourist area and, as a result, is home to the outlet mall. As mentioned elsewhere, it is also home to a seemingly disproportionate amount of creature comfort for its size (Wal-Mart, every kind of fast food imaginable, etc.). The new commercial 'area' (Wal-Mart, etc.) is right at exit 20 and the town of Tilton itself is a bit west of there. The 'town' has its own feel which is more similar to the other small towns in western New Hampshire. Housing is somewhat less expensive than in Manchester (or certainly Nashua) but there are some places that are less expensive yet. We drove around Tilton on a couple of occasions and it seemed like the kind of place we could enjoy living, though it's on the small side for our taste.
Franklin is the next town west of Tilton and is not nearly as nice. The main street is older and many of the homes are not well kept at all. Housing prices are somewhat less expensive than Tilton though it's not that far away (maybe 10 minutes). We drove around a couple neighborhoods and they seemed 'spotty' where some houses would be nicer but mixed in with very unkept places.
We only drove through Hopkinton briefly but out impression was that it was a very nice, probably somewhat upscale town. We didn't check real estate prices but my observation of the housing there would lead me to believe it would be a little more expensive than Tilton, maybe even closer to Concord though somewhat more remote. If I recall correctly, there may have been a McDonald's there but mostly it seemed like a quiet residential town with well kept nicer homes.
We only saw Henniker in the dark (unfortunately). The town is south of highway 202 a bit and is home to a college (whose name I can't recall now). There is a river that runs through town and a few shops but no significant commercial area. There's not even a McDonalds that we could find, though there is a nice new gas station / convenience store right at the highway, along with what appeared to be a newer shopping center of some sort with (I think) a hardware store. We weren't able to really figure out the atmosphere but it didn't seem like the typical college town to me.
We spent a little bit of time in Hillsborough mainly because of the attractive land prices there. The highway has been moved within the last year or so and, as a result, our map was incorrect. The highway is two lane all the way to I-89, however, it is wide and nice and the traffic moved right along. What I believe to be the main exit spits you out right at the McDonalds. There is a brand new shopping center under construction which I think will probably feature a supermarket of some sort.
The look and feel of the town seems like a 'mix' to me, but I didn't find any decidedly upper middle class area. The closest I found would be near (but not in) the Emerald Lake development on Mary Rowe and surrounding roads. There were several brand new homes there, some of which are for sale and there are lots available for under $50,000. There's nothing right around there, though, in the way of shopping. It's probably a 10 minute drive from there to the McDonalds. Overall, we felt that Hillsborough could be a consideration at that price if it were closer to better shopping and other amenities.
Weare and Goffstown
Unfortunately, we didn't get a good look at Weare or Goffstown while we were there as it was dark the only time we drove through. We weren't taking notes at the time but based on my recollection, they were both normal (average?) western New Hampshire towns, though somewhat closer (time wise) to Manchester than those listed above. If we hadn't toured Keene and the Lebanon area, we may have gone back for a second look, but we simply didn't have time.
Milford and Wilton
Milford and Wilton are both west of Nashua on 101A/101. Neither one of them stuck out as particularly nice though their proximity to Nashua would be a plus, particularly for Milford. They did seem to have more creature comforts than some of the smaller towns to the north (Henniker, or Hopkinton, for example), but I didn't see any 'big' chain stores in either town. Because of their proximity to Nashua, property is a bit more expensive there than we thought it should be.
Peterborough, Dublin and other towns on 101 between Keene and Manchester
There are a number of other small towns between Keene and Manchester and I won't list them all by name. A couple that stuck out as nicer were Peterborough and Dublin which are near an area with several lakes and some nice hills (you couldn't get away with calling them mountains in California). Generally speaking, though, they are typical New England small towns and don't have the kinds of larger town features a place like Keene or Nashua would have. If you enjoy small town living and want something nicer and within commuting distance of Nashua or Manchester, the towns between Wilton and Keene might be of interest. The closer to Keene, the more time it would take to commute (of course), but Keene, itself, is only about 1 hour 15 minutes in good weather from Manchester so if that commute time is acceptable, I could recommend looking there also (Keene has its own page here).
Copyright 2003 Varrin Swearingen - to reproduce in any way (in whole or in part), please contact the author at: varrin at varrin dot com.