Cider doughnuts

by Robin LeBlanc | May 21st, 2015 | Leave a comment

Cider doughnuts are becoming a sort of specialty thing here in New Hampshire.  We have had them a few times and quite frankly, were underwhelmed.  However, during our charrette in Chichester last fall, we were introduced to the cider doughnuts from the Chichester Country Store. On a scale of 1 to 10, they are a 15. OMG, as they say. Fresh and light.  Oh, so light.

Last month, we were travelling to Concord and had a little time to kill.  “Ah,” we thought.  “We can take a little detour and go get a cider doughnut.”  The Chichester Country Store is just up the road from the Epsom Circle, where Main Street meets Route 28.

The Chichester Country Store is worth a visit
The Chichester Country Store is worth a visit

Who knew there were choices? We got one dipped in sugar (not powdered!) and took it out to the car.  Took a bite. Simply.  the.  best.

We headed up Main Street, which we have to say is probably one of the prettiest, rural Main Streets we have seen in our travels.  It was early spring at the time, the sun was shining and all was turning green.  We got to the top of the hill and pulled in to the library.  Here is the view – it’s hard to see here, but you are actually looking across a field and then a valley across to those distant hills (Nottingham?) …

The view from the Chichester Library is spectacular.
The view from the Chichester Library is spectacular.

Reason #73 we live and work in New Hampshire.

The library corner here (the road takes a sharp turn just to the right of this picture)  was a focus of our charrette in October.  It’s a beautiful location on a beautiful road in Chichester.  We sat for a few minutes, looking at the view and finishing that doughnut.  Bliss on many levels.

Then we  continued on Main Street, around a couple more corners and through the town center, which had been the main focus of our charrette work, and then back to the other reality of Route 4.

Such a great little town.  With great cider doughnuts.






by Robin LeBlanc | Apr 22nd, 2015 | Leave a comment


Jeff Taylor was a smart and gifted guy who cared deeply about the Granite State and its communities and its people.  Among his many accomplishments:  he played an integral part in creating the foundation of Plan NH, and through the years contributed tremendously to the charrette program and other initiatives.  Through his work, he raised awareness of and practiced values and strategies that  create healthy and vibrant towns and neighborhoods.

We attended his funeral on April 12 in Hopkinton, an absolutely beautiful town that he had lived in for years as he raised his family and worked to make New Hampshire an even better place.  As at most funerals, we each learned something new about Jeff.  (Somehow we had missed, for example, that he played fiddle.)  We loved the dad stories and the camp stories and the others in between. We wished we had known him better.

Since then, we have found ourselves thinking of Jeff a lot.   The other day, we remembered being at a meeting in his office and he pulled out a map with circles and arrows and talked about the role  of  Concord and how much longer it was already taking to get to and from the Epsom traffic circle during peak commute times.  We remembered running into him  more than once on the street outside his office.  We were there today and wondered how many other icons were at one time or another familiar faces on North Main Street.  A lot, but each unique, as was Jeff.

If you have stories or memories to share, please do send them to [email protected]

The Damming Story of Hill NH

by Robin LeBlanc | Feb 17th, 2015 | Leave a comment

The following was submitted by Andrew Cushing, a native of Grafton, NH, recent grad of Bowdoin College and currently studying for a Masters in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania:

The year was February 1937 and Fred Clark, a recent Cornell architecture graduate, rumbled along the elm-lined main street of Hill, New Hampshire, a one mile stretch of stately old homes paralleling the Pemigewasset River. Rumors had reached the state’s planning circles that new flood control projects would inundate Hill village and Clark, the director of the new Planning and Development Commission, had a thought. What if he could sell to the threatened village his dream of an entirely new village? Hill’s main street in 1937 included nearly one hundred buildings: two churches, a newly constructed school, a brick town hall, large rambling farmhouses in the Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian style, small mills, a depot and freight house, and general stores. In the summertime, people described Hill as the quintessential small town. Its residents played baseball, ate at church suppers, played in the town band, enjoyed parades under the shadows of the elms, greeted one another from their front porch.  1   Damming the Pemigewasset River would destroy Hill’s physical and community fabric.

Hill story full text

A typical house in New Hill Village
A typical house in New Hill Village

Old Main Street
Old Main Street


Hill Congregational Church ca 1900
Hill Congregational Church ca 1900


photo by John Chandler
photo by John Chandler


From Frederick P. Clark, “The New Village of Hill, New Hampshire,” The Planners’ Journal (January-March 1941
From Frederick P. Clark, “The New Village of Hill, New Hampshire,” The Planners’ Journal (January-March 1941
From Frederick P. Clark, “The New Village of Hill, New Hampshire,” The Planners’ Journal (January-March 1941
From Frederick P. Clark, “The New Village of Hill, New Hampshire,” The Planners’ Journal (January-March 1941



[1] Steven P. Adler and Edmund F. Jansen, “Hill Reestablishment: a Retrospective Community Study of a Relocated New England Town,” (Fort Belvoir, VA: The Institute, 1978), 11.



2014 Plan NH Merit Awards announced

by Robin LeBlanc | May 01st, 2014 | Leave a comment

Great examples of how the built environment can have a positive influence on a community are everywhere.  Each year, Plan NH recognizes outstanding examples from a field of submitted nominations. This year, five projects were given awards at a dinner and program held on April 2:

Honorable Mention:

Dearborn Memorial Building Manchester

Renovations to the Dearborn Memorial Building (Odd Fellows Hall) at 434 Lake Avenue in Manchester.

Built in 1908-9, this building, which has had several owners, housed the Odd Fellows Meeting Hall on the 4th floor while the bottom three have had numerous purposes through the years.  Interestingly, it is in a neighborhood not associated with the mills.  In 2010, the property was purchased by the City of Manchester, and was renovated for use by several human service agencies.  The Odd Fellows Meeting space on the top floor has been beautifully restored to much of its original look and feel.  Another Odd Fellows meeting room on the second floor was restored so that original features can still be seen.

The jury liked this project because the City took a vital lead in the restoration AND recognized the importance of having important services in the neighborhood most needing them.

Owner:  City of Manchester.  Key players:  CMK Architects, Milestone Engineering, Pilot Construction (Phase 1 renovations)


Memorial Bridge Portmsouth (re)Opending Day

Memorial Bridge Replacement Public Outreach and Involvement, Portsmouth NH.

The importance of communication between a project team and the community was significantly underscored during this important bridge-replacement project that was completed late last year.  McFarland Johnson facilitated daily interaction among project teams, the public and the media.  A special effort was made, through various means, to include those not usually involved in public dialogs and conversations.  Events, announcements and various forms of media were all used to keep the public apprised of developments, challenges and successes throughout the building process.

The jury felt that this is an outstanding example of the significance of including as many people as possible in a community undertaking, especially those who believe their voice is not usually heard.

Owner:  NHDOT and MDOT, Key players:  McFarland Johnson, HDR, and Archer Western Contractors.


Merit Awards

Endicott Hotel 03-2014

The Endicott Hotel,  Concord.

Prominently-located at the corner of Pleasant and South Main in the City of Concord, the building was erected in 1894 and was the first large commercial structure in the city on the main street but south of Pleasant and the first to be devoted completely for commercial use. During the second decade of the 20th century, the building was sold and  gradually became the Endicott Hotel.  Most of the time, the first floor remained commercial.

In 1994,  CATCH (a Concord-based non-profit which provides affordable and market-rate places to live) purchased The Endicott and through a series of smart relationships and decisions, redeveloped the property with market-rate living spaces above, and continued commercial opportunities on the ground floor.

The jury liked the idea of having choices for people to live in downtown Concord, which will contribute to the future vibrancy of our capitol city.  They also liked that this important structure was re-developed, rather than torn down, even after a fire created significant damage.  Finally, they were impressed with the thoughtful, comprehensive planning that went into this effort.

Owner:  CATCH Neighborhood Housing.  Key players:  CN Carley Associates, Steffenson Engineering, Nobis Engineering, Northway Bank, Cobb Hill Construction, Eclectica Design, Lavender and Lotus Interior Design, Renee Rucci Design and The Leading Edge Drapery.


Families in Transition Home Manchester

Families in Transition Lowell Street Addition and Historic Renovation, 136 Lowell Street, Manchester.

The scope of this work included demolition of a portion of an existing historic building and the construction of a three-story, 7700 SF addition in its place. The remaining portion of the original building underwent a complete renovation.  Built in 1846 in the Gothic Revival Style, the house had undergone many renovations and additions through the years, most recently in the 1970’s when it was a halfway house for boys.  Today, the property is a 12,300 sf facility that includes an administrator’s office, a common kitchen and dining area, and 17 units of transitional living space for homeless women and their families.

Not only was the jury impressed with the rehabilitation of the original house, and the large addition on the back which blends beautifully visually from the street, they recognized the great planning that went into this project.  The jury also liked the proximity to downtown and to public transportation.  Each juror agreed that Families in Transition is an important organization that deserves recognition, an organization that “gives voice and hope to those who have a limited voice.”

Owners:  Families in Transition and Great Bridge Properties.  Key players:  North Branch Construction, Burnell-Johnson Architects



Keene Railroad Land Development

Railroad Land Development, Keene

One block of Main Street in  downtown Keene, an old B&M railroad yard of 7+ (mostly brownfield ) acres  is now a site that includes a restaurant, hotel, offices, a Cheshire Medical Department, 8 condos, a food co-op, a 55-rooms of living spaces for seniors, and 24 living spaces for the work force.  With a bus stop, a bike path and walkable streets, the area is connected to the downtown and beyond.

The jury found this to be an outstanding example of compact, mixed-use development where it can make a real difference for the community.  They liked the integration of visual design and materials that reflect the rest of Keene, but stand alone as well.  Important, too, is that to live, work or play there, one does not necessarily need a car.

Owner:  Monadnock Economic Development.  Key players:  City of Keene, Daniel V. Scully Architects, George Hickey, Architect, CHA, SVE, Harvey Construction and Pro Con and Cheshire Builders.


 To find out more about Plan NH’s Merit Awards Program, go here.