Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A New Hampshire Jaunt

Vermont has skiing, Maine has Acadia National Park, and Massachusetts has Boston, Cape Cod and the Berkshires. What’s worth seeing in New Hampshire? I recently found out after always managing to miss visiting that state on previous New England trips.

My wife and I, both Frank Lloyd Wright fans, were happy to see that Manchester, New Hampshire has not one but two Wright houses: and on the same street! The privately owned Kalil House is not open to the public, but the masterly Zimmerman House (above) is operated by the nearby Currier Museum of Art, which gives tours of the property.

The Currier Museum of Art (below) is a valuable museum that any small American city would love to have, with paintings by Picasso, Monet, Hopper, Wyeth, O’Keefe and Grandma Moses, and sculptures by Matisse, Calder and Remington. The Currier is compact enough to walk through before or after seeing Wright’s house, and the price of a house tour includes museum admission, so there’s no excuse for missing the Currier’s collection.

One of Wright’s most notable Usonian houses, the Zimmerman House is simply another brilliant piece of architecture from America’s greatest architect. The landscape and living quarters, in perfect balance, are still astonishing to visitors over half a century after the house’s creation. (Wright, who never visited the site, supervised its building in the early 1950s; he died at age 91 in 1959.)

Another American artistic genius, sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, also has ties to New Hampshire, and the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site (comprising his home, Aspet, studios and surrounding property) is an easy drive 90 minutes northwest of Manchester, in the village of Cornish.
The historic site is a must-see for any lover of history and art. Aspet (above) looks much like it did when the sculptor lived there until his premature death in 1907 at age 59, and the spacious grounds feature his working studios and the surrounding gardens, which are not only beautifully landscaped but include examples of his greatest works: the imposing and intricate Shaw Memorial (below), commemorating the leader of the all-black Civil War regiment that inspired the Oscar-winning movie Glory; the haunting and unforgettably funereal Adams Memorial; the glorious Farragut Memorial, which anyone who walks through Madison Square Park in Manhattan can also see; and even his magnificently designed 1905 gold eagle coins that were minted for more than a quarter century after his death.
The Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is a stirring example of our tax dollars at work. Another, a mere half-hour drive over the border in Woodstock, Vermont, is the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, the only national park site honoring conservation. Opened to the public in 1998, one of the National Park Service’s newest sites is well worth a visit if you decide to leave New Hampshire behind.

Zimmerman House
Currier Museum of Art
Manchester, NH

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site
Cornish, NH
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park
Woodstock, Vt.

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