Hollis and Brookline:
Twin Towns of New Hampshire
Story and photos by Tom Long and Stacy Milbouer / Fiddlehead Contributing Editors
The towns of Hollis and Brookline are twins of sorts – fraternal twins. They’re far from identical, but they’ve been more or less together since birth in the mid-1700s. They look different, have separate personalities but share so much, including a border and a school system and, once upon a time, a name.
Hollis is apple country – with strong agricultural roots and plenty of history. It has farms and horses, small business, artisans and a historic New England town center.
Brookline, while still preserving its rural roots, is dedicated to land conservation and recreation as well as development. It doubled its size in 20 years, while conserving a quarter of its open land.
The crack Fiddlehead investigative team spent some time taking a deep dive into this pair.
What’s in a Name?
Brookline and Hollis were named for English lords by colonial governors named Wentworth, who made it a habit of currying favor with their English overlords.
Governor Benning Wentworth named Hollis for Thomas Pelham-Holles, first Duke of Newcastle, in thanks for Wentworth’s appointment as governor when it was incorporated in 1746. It’s uncertain how it morphed into the misspelled Hollis.
Twenty-three years later, the town now known as Brookline was granted in 1769 as “Raby.” New Hampshire Governor John Wentworth, who was Benning’s nephew, named it after his cousin, the 4th Earl of Strafford and Baron of Raby Castle. It was later called West Hollis before it was renamed Brookline in 1798 by a resident who formerly lived in the town of the same name in Massachusetts.
More About Hollis…
Hollis is horse country. You can see the animals cavorting behind white rail fences all over town.
“It’s paradise for horse riders,” said Pixie Frank, a member of the Hollis Area Equestrians, who maintain a horse ring open to the public beside the Lawrence Barn, the town community center. It is a double English-style timber-framed barn, one of only a dozen remaining in New England.
Frank is part-owner of a horse named Jacques Dark Destiny. She spoke while a young woman was taking a riding lesson in the ring, her horse circling on a tether held by an instructor.
“I love the town’s trail system,” said Frank. “In fact, I’m a member of the trail commission and I also enjoy kayaking at Rocky Pond.”
And how does she like living in Hollis?
“What’s not to love?” she said.
There’s Never a Lull in the Action
Lull Farm’s farm stand has expanded its repertoire in recent years. In addition to corn, more than a dozen varieties of tomatoes and other veggies, it now has its own baked goods and a selection of cheeses from boutique dairies. There is grass-fed beef and organic chicken in the freezer.
You can pick up everything you need to make a complete, locally sourced dinner as well as a hemp hat to wear while you’re cooking.
Brookdale Farm is a pick-your-own paradise with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and pumpkins in season. The farm stand also sells produce as well as jams, jellies and other preserves.
Lavoie’s Farm is a family operation that grows corn and other produce available at the farm at Nartoff Road or satellite farm stands at the Big One and Hayward’s ice cream stands in Nashua and Woodmont Orchard, also in Hollis. In the fall, you can enjoy hay rides, a corn maze, a corn boil and apple cider – all free with any produce purchase.
When he was 21, Al Fulchino inherited his grandfather’s wine press and the rest is history. We don’t know from whom he inherited his green thumb. You can enjoy the benefits of both skills at Fulchino Vineyard on Pine Hill Road in Hollis, where you may sample his five signature blends and dessert wines and enjoy his showcase gardens. Check out fulchinovineyard.com for details.
A Yard Sale to the Max
The Hollis Flea Market has been held on Sundays in the warm weather since Lyndon Johnson was president and The Beatles made their debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” You can expect more than 200 exhibitors who sell everything from artwork to baseball cards, screwdrivers and hammers to Hoosiers and Tupperware.
The Neighborhood Hang
Market Place Diner is the place for locals to grab their eggs and bacon before setting off on the day’s labors, or to grab a quick lunch. Check out the Greek chicken wrap.
Beaver Brook Association has preserved 2,187 acres of forest and field and maintains 35 miles of trails. The association hosts classes and walks on its outdoor education course. And its Maple Hill Gardens has edible herb, fragrance and medicinal herb gardens.
Silver is Gold
The centerpiece of Silver Lake State Park is a 1,000-foot sandy beach and a 34-acre lake, but there are also miles of hiking and horse-riding trails. You can also rent a kayak for $15 on a first-come, first-served basis. But get there early, on hot summer days the parking lot fills up quickly.
You Don’t Have to Be a Homey to Enjoy …
Old Home Days will be celebrated in Hollis on Sept. 14 and 15. The town-wide celebration at Nichols Field has rides, an arts and crafts show, booths with foods and beverages and fireworks. Check out hollisoldhomedays.org for info.
Wild Salamander Creative Arts Center is a gathering place for artists and the community with a gallery that features shows by local artists and artisans and a wide range of day camps, classes and workshops for children and adults.
Hollis Arts Society, founded in 2007, hosts a number of exhibits and juried shows, including its fall show at the Lawrence Barn, which will be held Nov. 3-4 this year.
Journey to the Center of Town
Hollis Village Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001 with Monument Square at its center. The “Always Ready Engine House” was built in 1859, and is the oldest municipal structure in town, although there are private residences that pre-date that.
In the square is the Congregational Church Cemetery, established in 1743. The headstones there read like pages from a history book, including that of William Cummings Atwel, who died in 1778 at the age of 15. According to his epitaph, “this misfortunate youth was mortally wounded falling and being caught under a sled deeply laden with wood about 48 hours before his death to the great grief of his affectionate parents.”
The town green is an awesome picnic spot whether you grab a blanket or a bench to take in the scene. It’s handy that Monument Square Market sells killer sandwiches, pizza and cold drinks.
A Historic Night’s Sleep
Vivian Girard converted a 1774 farmhouse at 162 Broad St. into Timber Post Bed and Breakfast. The B&B is situated on two acres and has exposed hand-hewn pegged timbers, wide-plank flooring and a huge center chimney fireplace.
In 1820 Hollis had five grain mills, six saw mills and one clothing mill. By 1878 it had only one grain mill. Now it has none but there are still plenty of farms.
More About Brookline…
Art for Andres Sake
Andres Institute on Route 13 bills itself as “New England’s largest outdoor sculpture park,” and who’s to argue? The 140-acre hillside park created by engineer Paul Andres and sculptor John Weidman in 1996 at the former ski area on Potanipo Hill has miles of trails with more than 80 sculptures peppered throughout.
Maps and information are available at the trailhead parking lot on Route 13. The institute sponsors an annual sculpture symposium that attracts artist from all over that world who have created dozens of sculptures placed throughout Nashua.
Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree
You might see the glowing coals and hear the clanging of iron as you pass by the Old Smithy Shop on Route 13, where master blacksmith Franklin Horsley wields the hammer.
“People says it’s a dying art, but it’s not dying at all,” Horsley said recently while overseeing student Jacob Hopfenspirger, who was making a scoop to remove slush from ice-fishing holes, his senior project at Souhegan High School.
Horsley, who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, has operated the business since 1972 and has nurtured a niche as a creator of hand-forged hardware. His workshop is filled with crafted boot jacks, hooks, hinges, lighting, sliding door hardware and other anachronistic items.
A steel frog made from a repurposed iron fence removed from Boston Common is prominently displayed and is a memento left behind by a previous blacksmith.
“Most of our work is custom-made for historic houses and the restoration of old homes. We do a lot of architectural work for hire,” he said.
He’s forged hardware for the Paul Revere House in Boston, Longfellow House in Cambridge, and some of his handiwork has been displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
His son Miles is preparing to take over the business, and they plan to move the operation to a larger building in Wilton sometime in the future.
A Bridge to Nowhere
The pedestrian covered bridge on the corner of Route 13 and Mason Road was originally at the entrance of the Covered Bridge craft store in Nashua. It was saved by the Town of Brookline and placed at a railroad crossing over the Nissitissit River.
Treats and Eats
You couldn’t find a better place than the Cozy Tea Cart to sip a china cup of hot Darjeerling, Oolong or Assam if you were visiting “Downton Abbey.” In fact, the Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea is one of many special offerings at the Route 13 café. It includes Earl of Grantham’s fresh-baked scones, Yorkshire Parkin, Mrs. Patmore’s watercress and egg tea sandwiches, Lady Sibil’s cucumber and apricot tea sandwiches, Matthew’s Madeleines and of course, the Dowager’s Chocolate Biscuit Cake.
But whether you’re in the mood for a full-out cream tea or just a pastry and a beaker of Earl Grey with a slice of tourtière, the Tea Cart is all tea all the time. In addition to its café menu and Victorian afternoon teas, the shop also has tea classes, lectures and events. On July 20, the Tea Cart will offer a tea blending class from 6:30 to 8 p.m.; a lecture on the health benefits of tea on Aug. 24 at 6:30; and a Tea by the Sea, afternoon tea on Sept. 23 at 1 p.m., to name a few.
There’s also a tea store with everything from tea cozies to infusers to loose tea for sale. Check out products, a full calendar of events and menus at thecozyteacart.com.
Chrisanthi’s Restaurant on Route 13 serves Greek and American cuisine and recently added a martini bar and additional dining room.
Since the Riverside Restaurant closed on 99 Route 13, locals have longed for something to takes its place. And now Alamo Texas Bar-b-cue and Tequila Bar has filled the void.
The Great Outdoors
Brookline Town Manager Tad Putney credits the foresight of town planners for conserving open land during the 20-plus years Brookline was the fastest-growing community in the state – doubling its population. The Conservation Commission set a goal to conserve 25 percent of open space, which is used for hiking trails, recreation and just plain lovely views.
The majority of land surrounding the 170-acre Lake Potanipo is protected from further development. The lake and its surroundings are used for swimming, boating, fishing, ice fishing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. There’s also a town-owned beach, which only locals can access, but it also has a state boat ramp that anyone can use.
Brookline was once home to the Fresh Pond Ice Company, the largest ice house under one roof in the world. The cold stuff was harvested from Lake Potanipo from 1890 to 1935 when refrigeration became ubiquitous.