Journey to the Past

Exploring Dover's history



The Woodman Institute

Photo by Stillman Rogers

Saturday Morning

The Strafford Room at The Silver Fountain Inn on Silver Street was just right for three with its queen-sized and twin beds. So just-right in fact that we all overslept and dressed hurriedly to be sure of getting to breakfast on time. We'd heard about the blueberry pancakes, but they were only part of the cooked-to-order meal that included a compote of fresh fruit, hot muffins and a fine collection of loose teas. The inn is a distinguished Victorian home from the late 1800s, with a Mansard roof, in a neighborhood of fine homes of the same period.

After breakfast we strolled along Silver Street to admire some of them, turning up Belknap Street at my old elementary school (now a dentist office). Another turn put us on Summer Street, where we walked its full three-block length, past more gracious old homes, ending at the brick buildings of the Woodman Institute.

This ensemble of museum buildings would be unusual in any city of Dover's size, but is even more remarkable for including an original garrison house that survived the Dover Massacre in the mid-1600s. Mary was fascinated with its log construction and overhanging second story, complete with holes for shooting down on attackers. But it was the main building that fascinated me most as a child and when I saw Mary's eyes light up at the cases of fossils, rocks and minerals, I knew that this apple had not fallen far from the tree.

Lunch

We timed it right to arrive at Harvey's Bakery, where my aunt bought my childhood birthday cakes, just as we were regaining our appetites. Harvey's has added a lunch room since our Dover years, so we had to sample their chicken pie and the pork pie that won the Best of NH award.

Saturday Afternoon

Having moved from their original home on Marcy Street in Portsmouth a couple of years ago, the Children's Museum of New Hampshire now lives in an old armory building overlooking the Cocheco River in Henry Law Park (where I spent hours riding my tricycle as a preschooler).

The Yellow Submarine that stole the show at the previous location still draws kids of all ages inside to test out its periscope, but the museum's interactive exhibits have expanded. The mills exhibit, with looms kids can weave on, integrates the history of the city with hands-on activities, bringing the massive mill complex adjoining the museum to life.

The multi-faceted Cochecosystem exhibit explores the Cocheco River's ecosystem and history, and a giant kaleidoscope creates patterns out of their own reflections. The museum appealed to both the scientist in Mary and the little girl, as she tried to construct a flying machine from foam blocks and sent it to the ceiling for test flights, then adjourned to the Throne Room to become a princess.

Dinner at Alexander's

We drove out into neighboring Rollinsford for dinner at Alexander's Italian Restaurant, where we had veal parmesan and pasta carbonara. The veal was tender and not too heavily breaded, and the chef had a light hand with the marinara sauce, so its delicate flavor shined through.

Saturday Evening

We toyed with the idea of a trip down memory lane with a movie at the Strand after an early dinner, but we dallied too long and decided instead to choose a movie from the library at our B&B, where we found a cheery fire in the fireplace of the sitting room downstairs.

Sunday Morning

After a leisurely breakfast of omelets filled with fresh vegetables, we drove to the other side of town and up Garrison Hill. Trees now cover the slope of one of New Hampshire's "lost ski areas," closed since the late 1970s and where we'd skied as kids. Happily, we found Garrison Hill Tower, which had been in sad disrepair and closed for many years, restored to original condition, so we climbed to the top for a birds-eye view over the city.

Sunday Afternoon

Back in Dover's upper square, on Third Street next to the Strand, we had lunch at Silver Moon Crêperie, where the crêpes are made of buckwheat from Littleton Grist Mill. Mary immediately ordered the Nutella and banana crêpe. (Why not? My mother always insisted that a banana split was a balanced meal.) We chose Vermonters, with smoked turkey, apple, sharp cheddar, walnuts and honey.

At the bridge on Central Avenue we discovered a walkway overlooking the falls, a froth of spring run-off crashing over the jagged rocks. We tried to imagine what these falls must have looked like before the dam and the mills tried to tame them. A historic sign has pictures of a flood in the 1800s that tore away an entire block of buildings above the bridge.

Sadly, Harvey's Bakery is not open on Sunday, so we couldn't get maple bars for the road before heading home.

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