A Fall Foliage Weekend in the Monadnock Region

Art, history and fall foliage in the Monadnock Region
Fall foliage in the Monadnock Region
By stillman rogers

October seemed the perfect time to drive the back roads of the Monadnock Region, with maple trees in full color and local artists opening their studios for the weekend.

Saturday Morning

We arrived in Harrisville early in the day, giving ourselves plenty of time to stop and admire the foliage before arriving at Harrisville Designs, where I joined the Saturday morning “drop-in” Fiber Circle to compare notes and work with fellow wool enthusiasts. I don’t knit, but I was like a kid in a candy shop among the shelves of colored wool fleece as I collected materials for needle felting. While I was thus engaged, my photographer partner shot fall foliage reflected in the lake and mill pond.

When I finally tore myself away from wool gathering, I joined him for a tour of the village. Wool was first spun here in 1794, in water-powered mills that continued to operate until 1970. Concerned that this group of buildings and nearly two centuries of history would be lost, local preservationists formed Historic Harrisville Inc. to preserve the principal buildings. In 1977 the complex was designated a National Historic Landmark, as “the only industrial community of the early 19th century that still survives in America in its original form.” Harrisville Designs maintains the town’s textile tradition as a center for spinning, weaving, knitting and wool arts.

Harrisville General Store
By stillman rogers

Lunch at Harrisville General Store

On a hill overlooking the mills, the brick general store has remained the hub of village life for 175 years. When it appeared endangered a few years back, Historic Harrisville stepped in to assure its future. The grocery shelves reflect the town — imported olives and premium tea brands are side-by-side with Heinz Ketchup, but most impressive are the local products. Free-range eggs from Wellscroft Farm, bacon and sausage from Mayfair Farm, soaps from Holland Homestead and stuffed toys from Emer’s Upcycle join honey from native bees, handmade preserves and local artists’ works on the walls. From the big chalkboard menu we ordered a hand-built BLT and a sandwich of roasted chicken, accompanying them with fresh-squeezed lemonade. While we were eating these at one of the well-worn tables, several people stopped in for coffee and the store’s now-famous cider donuts.

Saturday Afternoon

Showroom at Shaker Style in Harrisville
By stillman rogers

We had chosen this weekend for the peak of fall colors and because it was when Harrisville and Dublin artists and fine craftsmen join those of other Monadnock Region towns for their Annual Open Studio Art Tour. We began at Shaker Style, whose showroom is open regularly. Stephen Barlow is a third-generation New England woodworker who still uses tools passed down to him by his grandfather and great-grandfather. Although based in the functional simplicity of Shaker designs, these graceful and beautifully constructed beds, chairs, tables, desks and cases are originals, and will be handed down for generations, just as his tools and skills have been. Fiber artist Marylou DiPietro, at our next stop, re-purposes vintage fabrics, leather belts and buttons into handbags, totes and padded sleeves for electronics. Each one is a different design, inspired by the fabric or material. Artist Hans Schepker expresses his creative talents in both paper and stained glass, and in his studio we saw examples of his sculptures, windows and sculptural lighting.

Harrisville Library and the Community Church of Harrisville and Chesham
By stillman rogers

Dinner at Delrossi’s Trattoria

A 1789 Georgian farmhouse might not be the first place to expect Italian cuisine, but Delrossi’s serves authentic Mediterranean dishes along with original interpretations. We began a leisurely dinner with Artichoke Parmesan — artichokes sautéed in garlic-butter with white wine and parsley then broiled with Asiago, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses — and a salad of fresh pears roasted with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey over a bed of greens with Gorgonzola cheese and toasted walnuts. For entrées we selected Shrimp Portuguese, sautéed with peppers, onions, and chourico sausage, finished in a delicate tomato sauce and served over black pepper linguini (made in-house). The “small plate” of Buttero’s Chicken with penne was ample after the artichoke appetizer, sliced boneless chicken breast sautéed and simmered in a cacciatore-style sauce with mushrooms, pancetta, pignoli nuts and onions seasoned with fresh sage. We knew the desserts — especially the chocolate mousse — were delicious, but after the generous servings we also knew our limits.

Sunday Morning

Waking up in our antique-furnished room at The Harrisville Inn, our first sight was of the sun making the leaves on the maple outside our window seem as though they were lighted from within. The room was homey and comfortable, and its bathroom had a whirlpool tub. Other guests were in the dining room when we appeared downstairs, already enjoying fresh-baked blueberry muffins with their coffee. The eggs in our main course, our hosts told us, were from their own chickens, and they try to source as much as they can from local farms. We lingered longer than we intended, enjoying conversation with the hosts and fellow guests before heading to the nearby village center. Here we slid our kayaks into the glassy water of Harrisville Pond, where there was barely a ripple to disturb the reflected colors of the surrounding shore.

Skeins of wool at Harrisville Designs
By stillman rogers

Sunday Afternoon

We’d enjoyed our sandwiches at Harrisville General Store on Saturday, so returned for a late lunch, this time also getting directions to Mayfair Farm, the source of the bacon in my sandwich. We had the foresight to bring our cooler, and left their honor-system shop with a supply of bacon, kielbasa and breakfast sausages, along with a bag of owner Sarah Heffron’s biscotti.

We followed Dublin Road from the village center, a winding road lined with maples and mixed hardwoods. We weren’t surprised to find more artists in Dublin, once a thriving artists’ and writers’ colony where the painters Abbott H. Thayer and George de Forest Brush, poet Amy Lowell and Mark Twain spent summers. Friends of the Dublin Art Colony co-sponsor the annual tour, and we visited Edith Tuttle to admire her oil paintings and her watercolors of local landscapes. Our final stop was at the studio of Susan Barker, whose delicate jewelry captures images of leaves and flowers in silver and semi-precious stones. 

Categories: Fall and Foliage, Our Town