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librarypond

Harrisville library overlooks the mill pond

lane

A typical narrow lane

One of the pleasures in traveling is discovering places with local flavor and Harrisville has that in abundance, as we discovered in May.

Nestled in the Monadnock Highlands of southwestern New Hampshire is the tiny brick mill village of Harrisville, where yarn has been spun since 1794. It is about 15 minutes from the town of Keene, and about an hour from Manchester. Some houses cluster in the actual village, but many are strung out along narrow winding lanes through the woods, or around the edges of the many lakes and ponds.

 

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Houses on a lake

MtMtrees

View of Mt Monadnock

MtMlake

Another view of Mt Monadnock

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Rod M and Veronita G at Silver Lake, a short walk from our hosts’ house

Mount Monadnock (3,165ft) looms above pastoral farmland and tiny villages, such as Harrisville. Hiking to the top of it for the spectacular views became popular in the 19th century and today it still is one of the most frequently-climbed mountains in the world. A monadnok is an isolated mountain, the remnants of ancient crystalline rock more resistant to erosion than the surrounding rock strata. Geographers used the name of Mount Monadnok to describe similar formations elsewhere.

The village of Harrisville was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. It is recognized as the only 19th century textile village in America that survives in its original form, and some say it’s the most photographed village in the state.

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From the library we look across the mill pond to an old mill building, now Harrisville Designs

 

Gargans

Veronita G, Phil G and Claire G (Phil works in the Harrisville General Store)

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Harrisville General Store

Harrisville is a lovely little place and we were lucky to visit with extended family living there (the Gargan family), who were very happy to show us around and tell us about their special place.

For example, Harrisville General Store one of the oldest general stores in continuous use, is perched on a hill overlooking the mill complex. It opened in 1838, but in recent years was facing an uncertain future, due to competition from big-box stores. About 10 years ago, the preservation organization Historic Harrisville Inc. took over ownership and leased it out to new management and M’Lue Zahner and Laura Carden took over. The managers are

Genstoreinside

Inside the store

Phil Gargan and Samantha Rule who are committed to selling and preparing fresh local produce. They make pies, soups, sandwiches and salads fresh daily (try their signature kale salad with feta and dried cranberries), have a great pastry selection and also prepare dinner menus to take home. I’m told we shouldn’t miss cider doughnuts and grass-fed burger too. Besides being a popular place for the local community, it’s become a tourist destination in its own right and people are willing to make the detour to visit it, www.harrisvillegeneralstore.com .

library

Harrisville library

The library is in a gorgeous old building overlooking the mill pond. It too has become a place to socialize.

Bit of History:

Water power attracted settlers to various remote locations in NH beginning in the late 18th century. In 1794 the first of several mills was built across the Nubanusit River to harness the water-power necessary for carding fleece brought down from local hilltop farms to the village. The Harris family built many of the original mill buildings and houses for their family and workers. Hence the name of the village.

In the mid-1800s the Colony family bought out the Harris holdings and created Cheshire Mills. When that business closed in 1970, a group of citizens and preservationists joined together and formed a non-profit organization called Historic Harrisville Inc. (the same group that saved the General Store). It soon bought several of the main buildings to renovate and lease out to businesses.

HDesigns

Harrisville Designs

HDesignsyarn

Some of the yarns for sale

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One of the looms made by Harrisville Designs

John J. Colony III was very much involved in this venture. He realized that, as the mill buildings were being cleared and machinery was being broken down and sold for scrap metal, textiles would disappear from the village. So he started Harrisville Designs in 1971 to keep the textile tradition alive and to create jobs in Harrisville to help the village economy. Harrisville Designs still makes high quality 100% natural yarns for knitting and weaving, plus they make wooden floor looms in several sizes and styles. We enjoyed looking around at all the goods for sale. They also offer many different workshops and classes, and it’s become a place for locals to socialize too.

Harrisville Lake, which has loons as well as other water birds, has a small beach with imported sand and a nice kids’ playground. Our family there assures us that the water does get quite warm enough to swim. In fact, one family member swims regularly in a small lake near their home on a side road.

swimminglake

The lake where Claire G swims—she goes across to that rock on the far side

church

Harrisville Congregational Church

All around New Hampshire we saw churches with a very typical style of architecture and Harrisville is no exception. Many New England churches gained their familiar front towers and steeples between 1720 and the American Revolution. They were often adapted from the published designs of Christopher Wren and James Gibbs. The Harrisville Congregational Church, the Harrisville Designs building and the old library, all around the mill pond, create a very attractive picture of an early rural mill town—and it’s especially lovely when all are reflected in the mill pond.

Nearby, is Aldworth Manor, an old Italian-style Manor house being renovated as a wedding venue.

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Aldworth Manor

blueberry

Blueberry bushes early in the season

fiddleheads

Fiddlehead fern fronds for sale

Philferns

Phil G looks for fiddlehead fern fronds in the woods near his home

New Hampshire is well known for maple syrup and for blueberries, and we saw plenty of maple sugar trees and blueberry bushes, although it was early in the season so the bushes had nothing on them yet. It was also the season for fiddlehead fern fronds, which are delicious just lightly sautéed in butter. We saw some for sale in grocery stores, but our host also went foraging out in the woods next to his home.

 

 

 

 

HInn

Harrisville Inn

Where to stay:

Harrisville Inn, 797 Chesham Road, run by Maria Coviello a charming lady originally from the British Virgin Islands, www.HarrisvilleInn.com

Where to eat:

The Harrisville General Store (mentioned above) makes great food, fresh every day. Or drive to the nearby village of Jaffrey to the Kimball Farm Restaurant, which has soups, salads, all kinds of fish dishes and an amazing selection of icecreams. Open mid-April to Columbus Day, Kimballsignhttp://kimballfarm.com/jaffrey/ .

 

 

 

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squarefromend

The enormous Vrijthof Square

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One side of the square is lined with very nice cafes

Maastricht is the charming capital of the province of Limburg, right in the south of Netherlands. It has many narrow picturesque streets and small squares, and lovely old houses, many from the 16th and 17th centuries. You also see remains of the old fortifications and old city walls, testament to the town’s strategic importance at a European crossroads and that it withstood 21 sieges over the centuries.

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St Jans Kerk, St Servaas Basilica, and the Hoofwacht on the far side of the square

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The churches lit up at night

Most of its squares are small and enclosed, which is why the Vrijthof comes as a bit of a surprise. In the heart of the city, it is very large, a huge open space lined on three sides with trees, and on one side by lovely café terraces. Many pedestrianized shopping streets radiate out from it. It’s dominated by the vast and ancient Romanesque St Servaas Cathedral, and behind that the St Jans Kerk from the 12-15th centuries.

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Spanish Government House

hoofwachtsign

Emblem on Hoofwacht

On the south side is the old Spanish Government House (was the residence of the Dukes of Brabant and the Spanish kings), now the Museum of the Vrijthof and painted bright red/pink. On the west is the Hoofdwacht (1700s), once a guard house and now a military headquarters.

On Vrijthof, you can almost forget you’re in the Netherlands. When you stand in the middle and look around, it doesn’t look or feel like other Dutch squares, as it’s enormous and is the cultural heart of the city. It’s usually wide and open, but also hosts jam-packed events: from Carnival; to becoming the beautiful backdrop for the concerts by local favorite Andre Rieu; to the Preuvenemint, the Netherlands largest food festival.

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The cafes in early evening  light

What’s in a name? According to one tradition, the name means “free place” or “sanctuary”, but it more likely derives from the German for cemetery, two of which were known to have occupied this site.

The square was built on the marshes of the River Jeker. The area was

squareday

Note statues far left, and the fountain front

originally unsuitable for building but by medieval times was used as a military parade ground, an execution site and a pilgrims’ meeting place. Every 7 years, the Fair of the Holy Relics attracted pilgrims, craftsmen and traders to the lively square. Something of this spirit is recaptured in Vrijthof at Carnival time these days.

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St Servaas as backdrop to 2 of the Carnival statues

The square’s connection to Carnival is strong. Besides being one of the main venues for carnival activities in the city, it boasts several permanent carnival reminders. On the SW corner is a group of 5 colorful and oddly-shaped sculpted figures of different sizes. They depict players from a carnival marching band (see details in an upcoming post).

Close by is a small fountain, whose 5 bronze figures depict masked carnival figures dancing hand-in-hand. Called “Hawt Uuch Vas!” by Frans Gast, 1976.

fountaincloser

One side of the square is lined with lovely old buildings, now cafes, bars and brasseries. One, roughly in the middle, is a bit more ornate than the others. It’s the Grand Café Momus and it used to be the carnival hall. Their logo is still a carnival mask, which features on the chairs and menu.

We ate there one evening—see an upcoming post.

 

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Big new entrance door to the Dominikanen Bookstore

Big new entrance door to the Dominikanen Bookstore

A brasserie in part of the old Dominikanen Monastery

A brasserie in part of the old Dominikanen Monastery–note the large brown entranceway to the bookstore on the right

Maastricht has been a ‘tourist’ destination since the Middle Ages, ever since the many pilgrims who came to the city to visit the grave of St Servatius. More than 50 churches, chapels, monasteries and convents take part in the annual religious processions through the city, showing that religion is still a vibrant part of Maastricht’s culture.

Maastricht has many impressive churches well worth a visit, perhaps the best known being the Romanesque St Servatius Basilica (St Servaaskerk) and Basilica of our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwe), and 15th-century Protestant St John’s Church (St Janskerk).

However, many monasteries and churches were slated for demolition, for various reasons (such as poor maintenance and exorbitant cost of upkeep, poor attendance). So, in recent years, some private enterprises have re-purposed some of these buildings to save them from destruction.

So, this idea of re-purposing a religious building got us thinking, as obviously there will be pros and cons to doing this.

The two examples that we saw in Maastricht are well done, we thought, for what they have become and we felt it was far better to change the purpose of a grand building rather than tear it down. We’ve seen quite a few old churches, castles and chateaux in France that are now either just ruins, or are due to be torn down as they are dangerously run-down because of lack of funds.

The bookstore in such a beautiful setting

The bookstore in such a beautiful setting

inside4This is the reality, as frequently old castles and churches don’t have the money to keep going. If one allows a structure to fall into complete ruins, or tears a structure down and replaces it with something else, then it will be lost forever, and the memory of that structure will fade over time. Over time, even photos and pictures can disappear and people won’t remember or know what it was, what was there etc. At least with re-purposing, the structure is preserved and people will know that a church, or monastery, or castle used to be here (and is still here, even if it’s functioning as something else). The structure was originally designed with certain beauty and form, and it’s interesting that the form stays the same but the function changes. Those structures are unmistakably churches or abbeys from the outside still, so it’s a way of preserving the past.

In Maastricht, we saw a church-monastery that has become a bookstore, and one that has become a hotel, and actually when you think about it, that’s not entirely inappropriate.

Exterior of the Kruisheren Hotel in the former monastery and church

Exterior of the Kruisheren Hotel in the former monastery and church

Inside the bookstore, everything is very tastefully done, including the cafe

Inside the bookstore, everything is very tastefully done, including the cafe

The first is the former 13th century Dominican Church and Monastery. For a while it had been denigrated to a warehouse and a bicycle parking lot. But, it started a new life when it re-opened after extensive restoration as a large and lovely bookshop with a café, called Selexyz Bookstore or Boekhandel Dominicanen. The renovators have managed to preserve the atmosphere of a cathedral both inside and out, and some say it’s a “divine” space full of books. It’s a way of honoring books and the written word, and in fact books and religion are inseparable. All religions have some sort of special books or scrolls, often beautifully decorated. During the Dark Ages, it was the churches and the monks of the churches that kept the written word alive. Think of all those beautiful illuminated manuscripts, and pages of writing painstakingly inked out by hand.

It’s interesting too that in a recent edition of an in-flight magazine there was an article called “My Beautiful Shelf: Book Temples” about amazing bookstores. They list 6 and one is this one in Maastricht. The others are in Buenos Aires, called El Ateneo Grand Splendid (a former theater); Brussels, called Cook & Book (a restaurant/bookstore); Santorini, called Atlantis Books (the bookstore is the owners’ home too); Beijing, called Kid’s republic (a Kids’ bookstore); Venice, called Libreria Acqua Alta (with many kinds of storage units to protect from water).

Find it just beyond the Vrijthof, at Dominikanerkerkstr. 1, open Monday 10-6, Tues-Sat 9-6 but Thursday 9-9, Sunday 12-5.

In part of the old monastery attached to the church is now a lovely café, called Amadeus (www.brasserieamadeus.nl ).

Inside the old-new hotel

Inside the old-new hotel

The fancy new copper entranceway

The fancy new copper entranceway

The other re-purposed church-monastery is the 15th century former Kruisherenklooster (Cloister) and Church. Starting in 2000, the entire complex was transformed into a luxury designer hotel called Kruisheren Hotel, with a restaurant and wine bar, while preserving its exterior and its history. In the past, churches and monasteries were always places for pilgrims and religious travelers to stay so it seems this is just a modern version of that. It’s still a place to stay, just in a different interior form. It’s magical feeling when you walk through the ultra-modern copper entranceway into the hotel space, bright with sunlight shining through the tall stained-glass windows.

Find it at Kruisherengang 19, west of Vrijthof up the hill a little.

It seems to me that this re-purposing of lovely old buildings is a fascinating and thought-provoking concept.

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The original Dolores Mission, right next to….

The original Dolores Mission, right next to….

…the lovely Basilica, rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake

…the lovely Basilica, rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake

Inside the old Mission Chapel. Note the ceiling , side altars and main altar

Inside the old Mission Chapel. Note the ceiling , side altars and main altar

On the edge of the mural district (see previous post), at 3321 Sixteenth Street, is the Dolores Mission, built in a very distinctive style (colonial, white-washed, tall towers, very ornate doorways). The local high school, 2 blocks away on 18th/Dolores, is done in the same style and it would be easy to think at first that you’d found the Mission Church!

The actual name is Mision San Francisco de Asis (after St Francis of Assisi) and was founded in June 1776 under the direction of Father Junipero Serra (1713-1784). It soon came to be known as Mission Dolores because of a nearby creek called Arroyo do los Dolores, or Creek of Sorrows. It is the oldest original intact Mission in California (of the chain of 21 established by Father Serra) and the oldest building in San Francisco. It has always had a central place in the religious, civic and cultural life of the city. These Missions are an important part of Californian history and show the strong link to Mexico at that time.

Visiting the Mission is a good way to spend a couple of hours and find out about some of the local history. Entrance is $5 per adult, $3 for seniors and kids. Open daily, 9-4, except Thanksgiving, Christmas New Year’s Day, Easter, and closes early on Good Friday. You go first into the chapel of the Old Mission, which survived many earthquakes, including that in 1906. It’s lovely, in a way that’s so different to the cathedrals in Europe. Note the painted wooden ceiling, gravestones set in the floor, and side altars that seem to have marble columns that are actually painted wood, as is the gorgeous front altar.

Gorgeous main altar in the old Chapel

Gorgeous main altar in the old Chapel

Stained-glass window depicting Father Junipero Serra

Stained-glass window depicting Father Junipero Serra

The Basilica next door was rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake and has pretty stained-glass windows of the saints associated with the various Missions in California and a wood carving of Mater Dolorosa. This is an important basilica because Pope John Paul 11 visited (see papal signs on sides of front altar), a fact of which they are very proud, as the walkway outside has many photos from his visit. One small room off the walkway has a tiny museum, telling the history of this Mission, including the story of Father Junipero Serra, the local Indians and their way of life then (note the soap plant, called soaproot (Chlorogalum pomeridianum), which can also be eaten) and a section of the original adobe wall.

Just outside the museum note the statue of Junipero Serra, plus one in the cemetery, which is a peaceful place, pretty with flowers and blooming bushes, replanted with traditional plants from the 1790s. It has the burial places of many notable early/first San Franciscans.

 

 

Peaceful garden and cemetery

Peaceful garden and cemetery

Statue of Father Junipero Serra in the garden

Statue of Father Junipero Serra in the garden

A great place nearby for lunch is Dolores Park Café (corner 18th/Dolores, opposite the high school). You can sit outside if it’s sunny, and the food is great. The soup of the day may be chicken tortilla and they offer very nice salads.

http://missiondolores.org/index.html

 

 

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