Our visit to the Shire
by Christine Lopez and Seth Cohn 6/16/04
I guess we were both very excited & we woke up at 3 a.m. in January of
2004. We left Yonkers NY by 5 & were in Keene NH by 9 a.m. Being as it was
Sunday morning, the streets were all but empty. Keene has a very small but
quaint downtown square & we enjoyed walking around & then stopping into
a cafe for coffee & a game of chess. I even happened upon my totem animal,
a hawk, who was feeding down a side street from where we were walking.
As it turns out, Keene was having its bridal show this afternoon, so of
course, we had to check it out! It was cool because we got some ideas for our
wedding & we met some local people who are in my line of work.
The Carriage Barn was cute & comfortable. The owner was more than
willing to offer conversation as well as serve some delicious muffins.
Later that evening we met with some people from the Free State Project for
some food & my first real glimpse as to what I was getting myself into. My
impressions were very favorable & I began to feel a strong sense of
The next day we drove to Manchester, but not before taking a few pictures
of Keene during its "rush hour." It just doesn't get too awfully bad in a small
town, but it is a college town & on Monday @ 9 a.m., you're going to see
some cars moving around the square. We also stopped in Peterborough which I had
read was a very arts-minded community. Well, it seems more of an artsy-fartsy
community. It will probably be more of a nice place to come to to see a good
show & get some culture.
Before our next meeting with some more FSP friends at the hotel, we went
out to check out Manchester & Nashua. This is definitely the most populace
area of the state, but it doesn't take very long to be back into the forest.
So, it seems very possible that wherever I can find a job, it won't be
difficult to have a house in the country.
As soon as we got back to the hotel, our new friends were waiting for us.
We got to know each other for a little while before heading over to dinner at
Spatts restaurant. Wow & Yum! I'm so glad that we went off the diet for
this vacation! I had fried shrimp with a baked sweet potato & Seth had a
stuffed fish fillet that was nutty & delicious. Our new friends with the
FSP were warm & open and we had much more to talk about than just politics.
I asked about mud & black fly season & Don Gorman assured me that they
are short lived. As far as the snow & cold go, I'll probably need to just
bundle up & have fun, you know, make snowmen & maybe get involved in
some winter sports.
This was one of the best times I had on our trip. I really enjoyed the
company, conversation & food. We stayed long after our meals were done
& I truly felt like I was taking part in something important.
Then next day Don wanted to take us to Portsmouth for lunch &
adventure. Before leaving Manchester though, I went ahead & followed a
lead that Don's partner Marianne had given me for the Holiday Inn. They are the
main conference center in the Shire & even though they didn't have anything
available in management at this time, it was interesting to see what they had
available as far as meeting rooms & personality. It's going to be hard
leaving the Hilton Eugene. This is where all my friends are & I feel that
I've really grown up here...
Don wanted us to see the "seedy" part of town before our drive to the
coast. It wasn't very bad & if that's the worst it gets, I think we'll be
able to find a nice little place to start a family. From here I saw snow on the
beach for the first time & it was very cold without my hat & gloves on!
It's winter! Portsmouth is another artsy community that is made for tourists.
Don't get me wrong, I liked it well enough, but the housing is very expensive
& unless I find a really good job here, it will be expensive to live here.
So on we went to Dover & the best lobster ever at Newicks Restaurant.
It was juicy & tender & even came with a bib. Seth got a huge plate of
fried seafood & the scallops were phenomenal. Oh, we can't forget the huge
plate of steamer clams that still had the tails on them. Yum!
Having had my little adventure, I had a little nap in the backseat on the
way home. This gave Seth & Don some more time to talk politics & when I
woke up, all I could see were beautifully frosted trees. It's definitely a
winter wonderland here.
From Manchester we drove to Lebanon with a drive thru Concord. Here we had
an interesting experience on our way to dinner. We encountered a road stop
& when we had our turn the officer peeked in & asked if we were
American citizens. "That was weird." We both said. The funny thing was that we
had actually taken a wrong turn & were in Vermont & had to turn around
to get back to the Shire. From then on we had a nice night in with pizza and
The next day we had to head back to NY, but we had plenty of time, so we
stopped in a few other NH towns along the way. Since we were so close, we made
a quick stop in Hanover & took some pictures of Dartmouth college.
This day was the coldest we had experienced in our visit. It got UP to 13
degrees f. Although the air was brisk, the countryside we drove thru was
spectacular. The trees are all dotted with snow & frost & I had to take
many, many pictures.
You can see these pictures and more
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Impressions of NH and the FSP gathering
by Phil Boncer 8/12/04
Kristine and I have just returned from nearly two weeks in NH. We drove
almost 1300 miles around the state, which isn't bad for a 200 mile long state.
We stopped in towns all over to gather info on real estate, zoning, available
amenities, local attitudes, and general impressions. We were open about our
intent to move to NH, and about our plans to try to buy a decent property, and
have on it our home, a wholesale yarn-dyeing business in a barn or outbuilding
that may employ up to 10 persons and would require a UPS delivery/pick-up,
possibly a small one-classroom private school, and likely a second barn for
hobbies and collections and such. We came back with two grocery sacks full of
real estate booklets, newspapers, zoning and building regulations, employment
ad papers, relocation packets, and assorted other literature.
We flew into Boston, arriving on the morning of 21 Jun (Monday), and rented
a car. That day we drove through Portsmouth, Exeter, Salem, Nashua, and stayed
the night at Stepping Stones B&B in Wilton (recommended; it was excellent and
fairly inexpensive). Portsmouth is nice but quite expensive. Exeter is nice,
but fairly expensive and has very strict zoning; they were not encouraging.
Small towns nearby may offer some possibilities. Salem and Nashua were
unenticing and not scenic, but offered cheap real estate, likely reasonable
zoning, and easy access to Boston. Nashua seemed to have the best selection of
ethnic restaurants of any city we visited in the state. Milford and Wilton were
lovely, and reasonable in cost. Zoning would require variances for our plans,
but the town clerks sounded positive about getting them.
Tuesday we went to Peterborough, Harrisville, Keene, and small towns in
between. Mostly lovely, a bit depressed around Greenville. Peterborough zoning
prohibitive. Harrisville dodgy, but other solutions possible, such as rening
one of the local mill buildings for the yarn business. Keene is quite nice, and
might be a good spot. Smaller towns in the area looked like good options were
available. We stayed at the B&B in Wilton again.
Wednesday we headed north. Bedford looked like a good possibility.
Manchester is a real city, and bears looking into; probably in the outskirts to
affordably meet our needs/plans. Many neighborhoods had signs prohibiting
trucks on their street at night, sometimes at all. Concord similar but
smaller. We then detoured west through Bath, Lisbon, Sugar Hill, and Littleton.
All very nice. Real estate is very reasonable up here. Zoning would require
variances for our plans, but the town clerks here again sounded positive about
getting them. This is all "above the notches", so weather will be more severe
and shipping costs for the business higher.
Wednesday evening through Monday morning we spent at Roger's Campground in
Lancaster. The gathering was fabulous, and we met many fine people and made
several new friends. There was a fine and refreshing lack of obvious nutcases
(something I admit to having been a bit worried about); by and large it seemed
a group of people who could move in and make a difference without alienating
everyone we came across. It was great to meet in person so many of those I've
corresponded with online. I was quite impressed with the FSP leaders as well.
Amanda is I think doing a fine job, and did well with the many press persons in
attendance. It was nice to see Jason again; good to see him get to relax a bit,
lovely to meet Mary. The organizers did a great job keeping it all rolling.
Thanks to George and Dave and Tim and all others! The Saturday evening BBQ was
a bit weak for the money, but it seemed that there were more people than
expected. I might suggest having speakers and vendors in different rooms next
time, which would allow both to conduct their affairs with less interference.
The press presence was amazing, both local and national. Most of them
seemed to be fairly positively disposed, and to have a reasonable understanding
of the movement. Articles in the papers over the next couple of days were
pretty fair and reasonably positive.
We did attend the NHLA dinner on Friday evening. It was well organized and
well attended. The speakers were interesting and even the food was decent!
Thanks to Mr. Murphy and the Pratts, as well as the many others I'm sure had a
hand in it. A small pack of liberals protested with signs. Their favorite
slogan seems to be "Government is not the problem." Sorry guys, but you're
wrong. Government is in fact, if not the entire problem, usually a big part of
We also went on the trip to Grafton on Sunday. It looked quite promising
for the longer term, but will need time and work, especially on Bob's land,
which is still very raw. Grafton is the closest cheap real estate to
Lebanon/Hanover where Dartmouth College is locaed, and might make a very good
investment. On the way back we took a look at Lebanon/Hanover, since there may
be industries there I can work in. These looked nice but expensive and probably
overzoned. Haverhill looked possible.
On Monday we left the campground and headed first up to Berlin, which
looked pretty active. The main employer in the town is a paper mill that makes
their paper "from scratch" as the librarians told us. Real estate is very
cheap. It's likely too far north for us, however. We then came back south and
toured the Lakes region. Pretty, but both very expensive and a little tacky
but mainly touristy with ski condos everywhere. Unlikely to be what we want.
We stayed in a campground and got rained on very heavily.
Tuesday we continued our tour of the lakes region, through Conway and the
Wednesday we went to Rochester, which looks depressed and a bit rundown.
Reasonable real estate and workable zoning probably available. Somersworth was
cute. We drove the beach/coast road; very posh and expensive, crowded. Parts
were scenic, but no thanks. Dover might offer some possibilities. We stayed
the night in Dover with Dave Mincin. Thanks, Dave!
Thursday we went back for another look at Exeter and Portsmouth, having
learned much more about what to look for. Our initial impressions were
comfirmed. We stayed at a B&B in Portsmouth, and had a fantastic (but
expensive) meal at a French restaurant called Lindbergh's Crossing. I highly
recommend it if you have the inclination for fine dining, it was worth the
Friday we walked Portsmouth some more. It's sort of more upscale touristy;
more art and less outlet malls. Then we drove back to Boston and flew home.
New Hampshire is beautiful almost everywhere, and livable in most
places. Almost all of the west half of the state looked pretty good; most of
the east half seemed unsuitable for us for one reason or another.
As usual, the cities seem more politically liberal than the
Several towns were incorporated in the 1800's, from parts of
surrounding towns. I asked around at the FSP fest if anyone had looked to see
if this was still possible, to create our own free town somewhere rather than
disrupt an existing order, and was told by several that it was not. I have
since found out, however, that Sugar Hill was incorporated in 1962, and that
there are a few unincorporated areas still existing (albeit mostly way up
north). I think further investigation is warranted.
NH natives are very nice and were almost universally welcoming and
friendly. Most had heard of the Free State Project, although many had not. None
gave us bad reactions to the concept (except for the protestors at the NHLA
Kristine and I are going, whether or not the FSP officially succeeds.
Even if nothing there improves, it's a very good place, and a damn sight better
We can certainly make a difference, and I think we can actually succeed
in our goals, as long as we are willing to take a long-term, respectful,
gentle, and patient approach. I think most NH residents are open to our ideas,
and will help us achieve a real freedom, provided we don't act like a bull in a
china shop, and piss everyone off before they get to know us.
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Michael Edelstein's Visit to NH
In March 2004,
Edelstein (currently a Friend of the FSP) and his wife Janice took a
trip to visit NH. On his return, Michael shared his experiences through an
interview with FSP Member Services Director
Tim Condon: Who are you two?
Michael Edelstein: We are a libertarian couple who live in San
Francisco and Tiburon, CA.
Ludwig von Mises defined liberty as "freedom from government".
Well, in that case, we love liberty!
What are the dates and times you traveled to the Free State?
We traveled to NH by United Airlines red eye on Thursday night 18 March @
1150 PM. We stayed until Monday morning.
Are you married, do you have kids?
We're married. Janice has two lefty adult daughters. They're bright despite
their sheep-like political views.
What are your educational backgrounds?
Janice has some college and I have a Ph.D. in psychology.
What do the two of you do for a living?
I'm a clinical psychologist and author (www.ThreeMinuteTherapy.com).
Janice is a retired Tandem systems analyst.
Where did you fly out of?
SFO to ORD to MHT on UA. (-;
How did you get around New Hampshire once you got there?
What research did you do about NH before you took off for there?
I'm somewhat familiar with NH. I lived on the East Coast (Brooklyn, NY) for
most of my life before moving to San Francisco. I also joined the LPNH for a
few years in the 80s.
I spent two summers at Camp Birchbrook in the White Mountains when I was in
single digits. I visited NH during many autumns for weekends of spectacular
colors. For a few years, I was part of an alternate lifestyle group, "Family
Tree," which had gatherings in Goffstown. I had a friend whom I visited in
Deerfield. And my sister lived in Hanover for many years with her husband, a
Dartmouth physics professor.
How did you find out about the Free State Project?
Through my active involvement with the libertarian movement.
What did you think when you first heard about the movement?
It sounded much more practical and reasonable than previous similar
libertarian attempts at creating free regions. And the individuals involved
seemed visionary, grounded in reality, and smart.
How did you get names and phone numbers to contact Porcupines in NH?
I started emailing people I found on the FSP Message Board and on the LPNH website.
Who were the people who were given as contacts?
Many, including Cal Pratt, Eric Knight, Tony Lekas,
and Tim Condon. But most notably, Dave Mincin. I had the most
phone and email contact before our trip with Dave. He was a delight to plan
with and of tremendous assistance.
What was the weather like when you got to NH?
We hit the winter/spring thaw, so we didn't ice-over immediately as I
feared we might.
What were your overall impressions of the state?
Beautiful, serene, civilized.
In our travels, just about everyone we spoke with seemed helpful and
friendly. Only on rare occasions did we get poor directions or recommendations
from the native non-FSPers.
Nothing was particularly notable, with the exception of some bikers and
cyclists without helmets, and no sales tax at EMS.
Where did you travel in New Hampshire?
Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth, Dover, and environs.
Why those places?
Should I move, I wish to live in or near a city. Should Janice move, she
prefers a more rural environment. And we only had three full days, so we could
not venture far from Manchester Airport.
Thinking of buying a place there?
This is certainly one option.
Who were the people you met with in NH who are involved in the Free
About ten FSPers at Friday dinner including Amanda Phillips,
John and Rosalie Babiarz, Martin Ekendahl, Tony and
Alicia Lekas, Cal and Karen Pratt.
Also, about twenty FSPers at the Seacoast lunch meeting in Dover including
Michelle and Jim Dumas, George Reich, Chris Gronski,
Julie and Ron DeCarlo, and Gregg Goss
After lunch Don Gorman and Dave Mincin took us on a
spectacular tour of Southeastern NH.
Were you surprised by anything that you saw or experienced in NH?
Yes. It was much quicker to drive from one town to the next than I had
envisioned from judging by the map.
I did not expect such a wide choice of excellent ethnic restaurants (Thai,
Indian, Vietnamese, Mexican).
The twenty-person turnout at the initial meeting of the Seacoast Porcs was
a wonderful surprise larger than the attendance of some of our monthly
San Francisco LP meetings.
Has your opinion changed at all about the Free State Project or New
Hampshire in any way as a result of visiting?
The enthusiasm, excitement, and dedication of the new arrivals to the
project is a cause for optimism.
When are you joining the Free State Project, and if not, why not? When
are you moving to the Free State, and if not, why not?
I'm active with the FSP Northern California Local Group.
I wish to spend time in the dead winter and summer in NH before deciding.
If I survive, it's a good sign!
Do you expect to get a part-time place in New Hampshire?
Currently, no plans for this or any other living arrangement.
Where would you be most likely to buy a place in NH?
Closer to the South.
What part of NH did you like the best?
Just about all we saw, with the exception of downtown Manchester which did
not seem all that inviting. Nashua and the surrounding area was quite nice.
When are you going back again?
The June Porcupine Festival.
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When my wife Edwina, and I heard Walter Williams introduce the concept of
the Free State Project on a radio talk show a couple years ago, we immediately
knew we were in. We found the FSP website and put our names down.
Once New Hampshire was chosen last fall, we began researching this great,
little, fascinating place through books and websites. The more we learned, the
more we got excited. Finally last month I flew to Manchester, rented a car and
hit the road. In 6 days I covered over 1100 miles, during which I met a couple
dozen Porcupines already living there, and several of them took the time to
guide me around their community. Everyone of them was unusually bright,
committed to the project, and passionate about its agenda. I found Porcupines
to be full of hope, optimism, and had a contagious "we can do it" attitude
they truly believe this is a done deal! I can't wait to have thousands
of characters like them living within minutes from my front door! With everyone
enthusiastically working on the same issues, things will have to change and
improve We will bring back small, Constitutional government, and the
socialists among us will have to flee elsewhere, because parasites can't suck
on 'quills' very well... It will be fun watching them crawl south, or west...
Anywhere but the Free State.
Here are a few random observations that impressed me as I scouted New
Gas was 50 cents cheaper than in Nevada and 70 cents cheaper than in
I didn't see any graffiti anywhere! Did I miss something or does that
mean so called "gangs" can't thrive in New Hampshire?
Locals are great! Every single person I came in contact with as I
traveled was polite, pleasant, and they went out of their way to help or give
Cell phones are nearly useless in two thirds of the state! That seems
like an opportunity for one of us to fix that.
There are attractive little towns everywhere among the many creeks,
rivers, lakes, trees, hills, and mountains. The place is beautiful even
during mud season I can only imagine what Spring, Summer, and Fall will
be like. (I won't speculate about how nice Winter might be... yet)
Except for abnormally high housing costs in some central and southeast
townships, the rest of the state seemed reasonable, even more affordable than
Keene gets my vote for the most ideal community to live in It
has everything Edwina and I are looking for (except for the ocean;-) I think we
will end up there.
In conclusion we are not waiting until 2006 we want to join
the growing "we can do it" crowd, NOW... We'll be NH residents by mid summer!
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On my recent house-hunting trip to New Hampshire, I became firmly convinced
that the Free State Project is going to be successful there. The people I met
went out of their way to make me feel welcome and to be helpful in my move.
Before I even left for the trip, I had offers of tours, an offer to take
photos of prospective houses, offers to meet up with fellow porcupines. When I
got there, I had an offer for work, offers for a place to stay while visiting.
It was nearly overwhelming! The caliber of people who I've met from the Free
State Project is amazing. They've almost without exception been extremely
intelligent, dedicated individuals of high integrity. Cal and Karen Pratt made
me feel so welcome that they felt like family by the time I left. I'm so much
looking forward to living in a community of such individuals. I can't wait to
During my visit, I had the chance to meet with people involved in state
government: Bick Bicknell and Don Gorman, State Representatives, Ken Blevens
who is running for Senate, John Babiarz who is on the governor's committee to
reduce waste in government, and representatives from the Gun Owners of New
Hampshire. I was impressed by how much these people seemed willing and eager
to work with the Free State Project. They were discussing with us some of the
projects they are working on: privatizing the prisons, removal of mandatory
permits for concealed carry of handguns among others. We're barely starting to
move people in to New Hampshire, yet we're already getting this great network
of liberty lovers set up.
The two times I have visited, I've not wanted to come back to Texas. The
state is breathtakingly beautiful. As soon as you leave any city, it seemed
like I was right there in lush forest. There are lakes and rivers all over.
The ocean is spectacular, as it is wont to be. I had a great time driving
around, looking at all the old houses. There's so much fascinating
architecture. I've lived most of my life on the West coast where the buildings
are all basically new, and not built to last 300 years as some of these in NH
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A New Yorker looks at New Hampshire
by William N. Kilarjian • 8/8/04
This last Fourth of July my wife, myself and our Jack Russell Terrier 'Mac'
traveled to New Hampshire from our home in Westchester County, NY. This was
only the second trip to the granite state for my wife and the first for Mac.
In my youth our family had traveled often to New Hampshire on summer vacations,
frequenting Manchester, Portsmouth, Nashua and Lake Winnipesaukee. Those
summer trips and subsequent trips thereafter always engendered a feeling of
being drawn to the Old Man of the Mountain. New Hampshire's appealing qualities
are manifest. In the muscular natural beauty, the open, friendly and
forthrightness of the people, the dignity of her cities and towns. Admirable
On this trip we planned to visit Keene and then continue north to stay with
friends in the Berlin and Gorham area. We departed NY and made our first port
of call. We found Keene and its environs to be thoroughly lovely. The Main
Street, which we strolled along amiably, is nonpareil. Reasoned development
policies clearly in evidence, Keene possesses the needed commercial attributes
and infrastructure without sacrificing the feeling of neighborly community.
Our next stops were in Berlin and Gorham. Here we met friends, took in the
beautiful fireworks display in Gorham and basked in the wonderful surroundings.
Berlin, while obviously a factory town, fortunes ebbing and flowing as the tide
thereon, seems as if the tide is coming back in with a vengeance. In many
locations we noticed new or just getting ready to open businesses. There is a
sense of optimism about town. This augurs well for the future. A note about the
Fourth of July fireworks show in Gorham. When the National Anthem started it
was heartening to see the vast majority of people stand while it played. In me
this evoked clear thoughts on the meaning of patriotism and brought to mind
"Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but
the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime."
A short frenzied burst of patriotic emotion is what we saw in New York
after recent events. True to type, New Yorkers have reverted to their
particular and peculiar form of condescension towards not only our nation but
to those who evince the tranquil and steady patriotism of a lifetime. Being a
life long New Yorker, born in New York City in Jamaica, Queens and raised in
Astoria, I am keenly aware of the attitudes of New Yorkers toward what they
regard the "lesser States" and those who dwell in them.
One of the reasons we made the Keene area our first stop was because of our
intention to move there over the course of the next year. Deciding to leave our
settled life in New York was not done on a whim. Sadly, or perhaps not so, it
has become a necessary reality. New York as presently constituted no longer
resembles the New York of my youth. Decades of misguided government policies
both fiscal and social have taken the empire out of the Empire State. Also, as
a life long conservative and republican one no longer feels especially welcome.
A monolithic political structure is not conducive to representative government.
The State itself, particularly in the area of government, has become unwieldy.
In light of the stark differences that exist in the three main regions it may
be time to consider devolving to three smaller states - North, West and South
New York State. Perhaps this might stem the tide so to speak and bring sanity
back to governance. Well, enough about New York.
After deciding to make the move we researched New Hampshire and several
other states and in nearly every measure and survey year after year New
Hampshire ranks at the top or highly in nearly every category. Its admirable
qualities and policies of government at every level plus an abiding belief in
the fundamental ability of the individual or business to make their own way
sans the tender mercies of government are attributes seen all to infrequently
in government these days. Frankly, there was really no way New Hampshire was
going to lose in our book. Our minds had already been made up; we were just
going through the motions in cursory fashion.
The entire trip was thoroughly enjoyable. All that we saw and did along
with the people we spoke with reinforced for us that we made the right choice
in deciding to move to New Hampshire.
We look forward to making New Hampshire our new home.
William N. Kilarjian is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of
the United Kingdom.
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by Karl Beisel 5/15/04
I've lived in the Washington, DC area for 17 years, and I'm not much of a
traveler. In growing up and living in a city that lives and breathes
government, I've become accustomed to its culture. So whenever I travel
outside the DC metro area, I find myself refreshed at the differences in
attitudes I experience.
No other place I've visited embodies the difference more than New
Hampshire. My third visit to the state in a year landed me in Manchester for a
long weekend in April. While there, I had the opportunity to meet several
fellow Porcupines over lunch (thanks to Cal and Karen Pratt for organizing
it!). It was quite rewarding to meet some of the people who I will be working
with in the future, on real projects that will one day enhance the liberty for
all residents of the state.
Manchester is a neat city. It's much smaller than DC (the DC metro area
contains five times as many people as the entire state of New Hampshire). Yet,
it still retains a distinct urban feel that I prefer. Among the many
contrasts: the famous Yankee industrial ethic is quite noticeable. Houses are
well kept throughout the city, and most of the buildings are dedicated to
useful production, not government work. It's nice to see actual factories
instead of office buildings full of useless bureaucrats. Yeah, this is new to
me. I get a real sense of relief just being in New Hampshire.
The most striking thing I noticed about New Hampshire is this the
people are so darn friendly! I've always heard that New Englanders were
supposed to be aloof, or even mean. That's certainly not true in New
Hampshire, even in its largest city. People smile easily there, and I
frequently received friendly hellos from shop clerks and pedestrians in the
neighborhood. Even the attractive woman who nearly ran me over with her SUV
while I attempted to cross a crosswalk flashed a friendly smile my way.
Oh, and that's the other thing. For all of us single guys, no worries
the women of New Hampshire are not only warm and friendly, they're
Ah, New Hampshire... what a difference.
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Porcupines Visiting NH
(If you are an FSP participant and would like to submit an article about
your visit to NH, please send us an
Moving to Manchester Head 'em up! Move 'em out!
by Karl Beisel 6/9/04
I'm pleased to report that I closed on my house in Manchester last weekend,
and will be making the move on June 19, just in time for the PorcFest and NHLA dinner the
I want to take a moment to explain how I came to select Manchester as my
new home, and tell a little about my impressions of the city.
Last December, I did a week-long driving tour of southern New Hampshire,
stopping in the towns on a list of possible destinations. My route took me
through Keene, Claremont, Lebanon, and Hanover, then down to Concord and
Manchester, then up to Rochester, Portsmouth and finally Hampton. I prefer a
more urban lifestyle, so I did not stop in small towns and rural areas. I'll
describe my impressions of each town briefly.
Keene: This is a neat and vibrant medium-sized city, dominated by Keene
State College in the center of town. Its downtown has many businesses that
cater to a college crowd. By all appearances, Keene is a great place to live.
It is, however, a bit too isolated for my wants, and it has a reputation for
being one of the most "liberal" towns in the state, which has advantages and
disadvantages, I suppose.
Claremont: This city was mentioned months ago as a possible destination
for Free Staters. But be warned, this town is in rough shape. Claremont was
the town that originally brought forth those infamous Claremont lawsuits, which
resulted in the statewide property tax. The Claremont lawsuits are just the
latest attempt by the Claremont government to foist their self-created economic
disaster onto the rest of New Hampshire.
Although it has a reasonably pretty downtown with a beautiful City Hall,
about a third of the shops are shuttered. It has several abandoned mill
buildings that will soon be the home of a technical college that will be moving
from its current location north of town. Otherwise, the downtown is in a
perpetual state of "revitalization" that has apparently been going on for
decades, at great taxpayer expense, and to little effect. Despite all this,
the town manages to support BOTH a K-Mart and a Wal-Mart, among the many stores
located on Claremont's particularly ugly sprawl strip. There are few jobs and
worse-than-usual public schools. The good news: dirt-cheap housing, and the
city is nestled amidst some beautiful rural semi-mountainous country.
Lebanon: North of Claremont, Lebanon is like a smaller version of Keene;
it has a community college at the town center. It's much prettier than
Claremont, and there is actual industry there; it seems to benefit from the
nearby interstate highway and its proximity to wealthy Hanover a couple miles
Hanover: Home of Dartmouth College, with its premier medical school.
Georgetown on the Connecticut River, and absolutely beautiful. This is the
definition of a college town; Dartmouth College practically IS the town.
Downtown, the many shops, bars and restaurants cater to a college crowd, and
the many out-of-state visitors. There are a couple of ski resorts close by as
well. By most measures, a fine (though expensive) place to live.
Concord: A bit closer to what I'm looking for, though a tough egg to crack
politically, due to the large number of state employees and lobbyist-types. It
has a vibrant downtown, with the State House at the center. I visited the
State House, and the stories I've heard are true. No metal detectors, no bag
searches. I walked through the corridors unmolested. I walked by the office
for the "Speaker of the House." I could just walk in if I felt like it.
Living with the police presence of Washington, DC, this experience was quite
novel. I didn't stay in Concord long, because I wanted to get to the 2nd city
on my "short list", Manchester before the end of what, as it turned out, was
literally the shortest day of my life (the farthest north I've been on a winter
solstice). As I headed out, I noticed the Federal Building, which is oversized
and fronts the street at crooked angle, with its bunker-style architecture,
completely out of character with the rest of the city, like a UFO had landed in
Concord. Typical. Anyway, I decided to avoid I-93, and traveled back roads
through Bow to Manchester.
Manchester: There's a whole lot more going on here than anywhere else in
New Hampshire. Manchester is the largest city in the state, at about 108,000
people. Its downtown is dominated by a series of large mill buildings, many of
which had been abandoned for a long time, but are now mostly in use as
warehouses, offices, hotels, retail shops, apartments, a museum, and even a
branch of UNH. The downtown is bustling, and it promises to become even more
so, with the construction of a new minor league baseball stadium, and new
downtown apartments. Manchester may have a reputation for an industrial-grit
character, but its downtown is becoming increasingly "yuppie" with new
independently-owned coffee shops and restaurants. I'm a yuppie, so I like this
Transportation is excellent. I-93 and I-293 both go through town (I-93 is
being widened now), and there is a small bus system, apparently used mostly by
the elderly. As in most NH towns, homes tend to have a lot of off-street
parking, which is especially important because of the winter parking ban (most
towns in New Hampshire have ordinances that ban street parking during the
winter months). There is also rumored to be a future passenger rail line
connecting Manchester to Nashua and Boston, but its status is unclear.
Manchester has several identifiable neighborhoods. The very center of the
city east of Elm Street (Manchester's "main" street) is densely packed with
4-12 unit tenements, where mostly lower-income residents live. Along Elm
Street and in the Mill district along the Merrimack is the site of much
post-industrial redevelopment, and an increasingly popular area (read: pricey)
for those who like genuine urban living.
Outward, the neighborhoods are generally identified as one of four "ends"
north, east, west and south. The "West End" is the part on the west
side of the Merrimack River. This is mostly lower-middle income, mostly
apartments mixed in with businesses but also some houses. The "North End" is
the upscale part of town, with many large houses, especially along Elm Street,
which is ridiculously wide. The "East End/Hanover Hill" neighborhood is
largely middle class, as is the "South End" both of which consist mostly of
single-family homes. Beyond these urban neighborhoods is the customary
asteroid belt of sprawl, with its cookie-cutter colonial houses and strip
malls. Beyond that, it gets rural quickly.
Manchester has everything three pro sports teams (baseball, hockey,
and arena football), a major shopping mall (The Mall of New Hampshire), and a
newly updated airport with flights throughout the country (note to self: get on
Airport Commission and make them stop piping FOX NEWS throughout the airport).
There are also many parks, and a large lake (Lake Massabesic) where you can
enjoy fishing and light boating. The quality of life here is something to
Rochester: After visiting Manchester, I knew that was the place to be.
But Rochester was also one of my "short list" cities, so I headed up that way.
I've heard some not-so-flattering things about this city, but I didn't think it
was that bad. If you like the seacoast region, Rochester still has
reasonably-priced real estate, and a reputation, whether true or not, for being
among the more libertarian-leaning towns in New Hampshire. The city's main
newspaper has an emblem that reads "Your Rights, Your Liberty." Sounds good to
me. I think Rochester is a good compromise city for those who want a city like
Claremont but with less poverty. Some Free Staters have suggested Rochester as
a candidate for a larger "free town" but I'm not aware of any takers so far.
Portsmouth: I buzzed through Portsmouth pretty quickly. I hear it's a
great downtown, but fabulously expensive, being right on the seacoast. It's
also a major retirement destination, and a high-tech employment center, due in
part to the proximity of a US Navy shipyard that builds submarines (this base
has been under the threat of closure for some time). I hear the downtown was a
dump not so long ago. Now it's a major tourist destination and a choice spot
for uppity living. Lots of restaurants and touristy shops.
Hampton: After a few days in Portland, Maine, I headed back south to
Hampton, one of New Hampshire's beach resort towns. It is located adjacent to
the Seabrook nuclear power plant. Its downtown is right on the coast, with a
small beach, complete with a boardwalk and beachy trinket shops. It was the
dead of winter, so the whole place was shut down; even the McDonalds was
boarded up. From what I could observe, at least in winter, there must be a
rule that you have to be over the age of 65 to live in Hampton. Apparently,
like Portsmouth, Hampton is retirement destination. I'll have to return this
summer to get another take.
The decision: Manchester.
So, why Manchester? Having lived in very urban neighborhoods in
Washington, DC and Arlington, VA, I've come to prefer the urban, where I may
walk to most of my destinations, and where I feel I can take a more active part
in the community. New Hampshire is one of those special places where its inner
cities are, for the most part, still vibrant, productive, and safe. Manchester
in particular has a sort of aura about it that seems almost to brag about its
industrial ethic, an embodiment of the Yankee spirit that I find so appealing.
I want to be a part of that. Other towns share that spirit, but perhaps
Manchester's mill yards and the raging Merrimack River through the center of
town, and even its large buildings and traffic congestion on Elm Street, make
it stand out.
Manchester is the very heart of southern New Hampshire; anyone living there
has access to the employment opportunities and amenities available in
Portsmouth, Nashua and Concord, and even Metro Boston.
Politically speaking, I know only a little about Manchester politics, just
what I've occasionally read in newspapers. As the largest city in the state,
with its share of urban problems, I see living there as an opportunity to help
open up discussion to new ideas for solving these issues in a way that is
consistent with the principles of liberty. I certainly don't see Manchester
ever becoming a libertine "free town", but I can imagine that one successful
and innovative reform in local government, in a city of that size, could serve
as a powerful example of what such policies can achieve. I'll do my best to
take my time in becoming a member of the community; and I will pursue my goals
as such a member. And so, we'll see how it goes.
Meanwhile, on to the Manchester in New Hampshire, the Free State
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