Head north on Route 153
Agroup of charming rural villages lie along meandering Route 153, offering a 40-mile shun-pikers alternative to busy Route 16 between Wakefield and Conway.
Leave Rte. 16 on Rte. 153, entering the Wakefield Corner Historic District. On the right is the 1858 schoolhouse, now the Wakefield Historical Society, followed by a cluster of 24 other buildings on the National Historic Register. These date from as early as 1770; most around 1800. In the center opposite the church is the Wakefield Inn, where full-course dinners are served by reservation Friday and Saturday evenings.
Route 153 turns left and leaves the historic district to enter a hemlock forest, passing the imposing Bancroft estate on the left, now sadly without its landmark barn. Where the road curves to skirt Woodman Lake, the go-to place for anything wood stove related, Woodman’s Forge & Stove Museum, features antique stoves. Missing the lid-lifter for yours? Buy an original one here.
The road passes Woodman Lake Campground and intersects with Rte. 110 at the Maine border. The Hen House (breakfast served all day) and Side
pocket Corral Restaurant are at the intersection. The road soon crosses into Maine briefly, to get around the shore of Province Lake before entering Effingham, marked by the Effingham Country Store and several interesting buildings: a small shingle-style chapel, a schoolhouse, the white clapboard Baptist Church and at the hilltop an imposing Town Hall, formerly the Masonic Temple. Detour uphill for a closer look at its unusual architectural detail, unexpected in a small community.
Learn more about this surprising town’s architecture back on Route 153 at the Effingham Historical Society, whose free museum is open Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, June through October.
A very pretty stretch of road is lined by large trees, and open meadows as it climbs to Lord’s Hill, a striking ensemble of homes dating as far back as 1780. As the road zigzags through these, it passes Hobbs Road, worth taking for two reasons. The first is the astonishing Squire Lord’s Mansion, a private home, and beyond it Effingham Union Academy, which was New Hampshire’s first teachers’ college.
Route 153 joins briefly with Route 25, on which turn left for a mile before following 153 to the right. A one-mile sidetrack to the right leads into Freedom, a pretty village where Freedom House B&B has an antiques shop. The Freedom Historical Society’s Works Barn Museum and Allard House, on Maple St., are open Saturday mornings from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Mountain views rise above the trees as the road follows the side of a ridge into East Madison. Shortly after Sunshine Farmers Market is the family-friendly Purity Springs Resort, whose little springhouse sits at the end of the long Purity Lake.
Crystal Lake soon replaces Purity Lake on the right, and at its end is The Inn at Crystal Lake. Its Palmer House Pub features an elegant walnut bar from Boston’s Ritz-Carlton, and serves a varied menu that might range from curried pork medallions to vegetarian paella.
Follow Rte 153 to the right at the inn to find the Eaton Village Store facing the lake. Along with being the general store and unofficial community center, it also serves a good lunch. Route 153 continues on to Conway, where it ends at Route 16.