I have been looking forward to visiting Manchester, New Hampshire and its museums
for some time. I knew
that Manchester was at one time a mill town. I grew up in a small mill town in Alabama and saw firsthand
how my town was influenced by textile mills. Unfortunately, over the past thirty years or so, all of our
mills moved out, as they did in Manchester, causing a devastating economic impact on my home town. I loved
the Manchester visit. I thoroughly enjoyed simply walking around the beautiful downtown area. The people
we met were very friendly and a few of them went out of their way to make sure we found our way around.
Manchester is the largest city in the state of New Hampshire, the tenth largest city in New England, and the largest city in northern New England, an area comprising the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. It was first named by the merchant and inventor Samuel Blodget (after whom the Samuel Blodget Park in Manchester North is named). Blodget's vision was to create a great industrial center similar to that of Manchester in England, which was the world's first industrialized city. It is located in Hillsborough County along the banks of the Merrimack River, which divides the city into eastern and western sections. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 109,565, and its 2014 population estimate was 110,448.
Pennacook Indians called it Namoskeag, meaning "good fishing place" - a reference to the Amoskeag Falls in the Merrimack River. In 1722, John Goffe III settled beside Cohas Brook, later building a dam and sawmill at what was dubbed Old Harry's Town. It was granted by Massachusetts in 1727 as Tyngstown to veterans of Queen Anne's War who served in 1703 under Captain William Tyng. But at New Hampshire's 1741 separation from Massachusetts, the grant was ruled invalid and substituted with Wilton, Maine, so Governor Benning Wentworth re-chartered the town in 1751 as Derryfield. Derryfield remains a neighborhood in contemporary Manchester, along its easternmost area adjacent to Massabesic Lake.
In 1807, Samuel Blodget opened a canal and lock system to allow vessels passage around the falls. In 1809, Benjamin Prichard and others built a cotton spinning mill operated by water power on the western bank of the Merrimack. Following Blodgett's suggestion, Derryfield was renamed Manchester in 1810, the year the mill was incorporated as the Amoskeag Cotton & Woolen Manufacturing Company. It would be purchased in 1825 by entrepreneurs from Massachusetts, expanded to three mills in 1826, and then incorporated in 1831 as the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company.
On the eastern bank, Amoskeag engineers and architects planned a model company town, founded in 1838 with Elm Street as its main thoroughfare. Incorporated as a city in 1846, Manchester would become home to the largest cotton mill in the world - Mill No. 11, stretching 900 feet long by 103 feet wide and containing 4,000 looms. Other products made in the community included shoes, cigars, and paper. The Amoskeag foundry made rifles, sewing machines, textile machinery, fire engines, and locomotives in a division called the Amoskeag Locomotive Works (later, the Manchester Locomotive Works). The rapid growth of the mills demanded a large influx of workers, resulting in a flood of immigrants, particularly French Canadians. Many current residents descend from these workers. The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company went out of business in 1935, although its red brick mills have been renovated for other uses. Indeed, the mill town's 19th-century affluence left behind some of the finest Victorian commercial, municipal, and residential architecture in the state.
Manchester is nicknamed the Queen City, as well as the more recently coined "Manch Vegas". In 1998, Manchester was named the "Number One Small City in the East" by Money magazine. The Mall of New Hampshire, on Manchester's southern fringe near the intersection of Interstates 93 and 293, is the city's main retail center. In 2001, the Verizon Wireless Arena, a venue seating more than 10,000, opened for major concerts and sporting events, enhancing the city's downtown revitalization efforts with a major hotel and convention center already in place directly across the street from the arena.
Cultural landmarks include the historic Palace Theatre, the Currier Museum of Art, the New Hampshire Institute of Art, the Franco-American Center, the Manchester Historic Association Millyard Museum (we have a secion on this museum), the Massabesic Audubon Center, the Amoskeag Fishways Learning and Visitors Center, the Lawrence L. Lee Scouting Museum and Max I. Silber Library, and the SEE Science Center. Valley Cemetery, the resting place of numerous prominent citizens since 1841, is an early example of a garden-style burial ground.
The John F. Kennedy Memorial Coliseum is another, smaller venue located in downtown Manchester with a capacity of approximately 3,000 seats. It was completed in 1963, serves as home ice for the Manchester Central and Memorial High School hockey teams, and is home to the Southern New Hampshire Skating Club.
Manchester has a growing collective of artists, due in large part to the influx of young students at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, Southern New Hampshire University, and the University of New Hampshire at Manchester. Slam Free or Die, New Hampshire's only weekly slam poetry venue, is located in Manchester and was voted "Best Poetry Venue in the World" by readers of Write Bloody Publishing.