Manchester: Birthplace of America’s Industrial Revolution

By Michelle Newman

Manchester, New Hampshire is the birthplace of America’s Industrial Revolution which began in the 1830s. Miles and miles of red brick factories were built alongside of the mighty Merrimack River, which provided power for textile mills, shoe factories and tanneries. Factories produced 470 miles of fabric a day! Nearby, three and four story buildings were constructed to provide housing for thousands of factory workers. Baseball teams, marching bands, orchestras, theatre groups were formed while schools, playgrounds and community gardens were built for the workers by the affluent factory owners. Many workers were recruited off of farms from Quebec and Montreal and other areas of French Canada. This began a major migration movement and a population shift into the bigger cities leaving rural life behind. Irish immigrants escaping the Potato Famine, arrived in hordes to begin a new life with the promise of a better future. This fascinating migration story is well documented at the Millyard Museum housed in one of the preserved mill buildings.

Large mansions were built in Manchester’s North End by wealthy factory owners and businessmen. If you’re an architecture lover, you’ll enjoy a drive through this posh neighborhood and drool over the magnificent mansions. These historic beauties still stand today and serve as a reminder of Manchester’s enormous wealth in the 19th century.

After touring the North End, architecture aficionados will want to book a tour to see the only house in New England that is designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and open to the public. The Currier Museum of Art gives informative ninety minute tours of the Zimmerman House. The “Usonian House,” built in1951, is in pristine condition with many of its original furnishings and appliances still intact. Wright’s signature low slung roofline; Indian red cement flooring; wood built-ins maximizing space and custom designed furniture are features seen in the Zimmerman House.

After the tour, enjoy a quick lunch (homemade soups, salads & sandwiches) in the Winter Garden Cafe, the museum’s onsite cafe before touring the museum. The museum’s collections constitute the most comprehensive holdings of fine art and decorative artist in the state. It houses an important collection of American art from the colonial period to the present; a substantial representation of European painting from the 14th through the 20th centuries; and a significant collection of regional artists of national and international importance. Of special note is the museum’s impressive paperweight collection which includes nearly 400 outstanding examples from the major French and American glass houses. Also noteworthy is the collection of fine American furniture dating from the 17th to the 19th century.

Good Eats:

Waterworks Cafe – The popular cafe, located in the Millyard, serves up great soups and sandwiches especially the steak and cheese sandwich topped with caramelized onions. The Hungarian mushroom soup is out of this world. Don’t even think about leaving without splurging on one of their Gourmet Whoopie Pies (chocolate, red velvet & pumpkin).

Cotton – Also located in the Millyard offers upscale dining and takes pride in using seasonal ingredients from local farms. Favorites include award-winning Steak Diane and Sweet and Spicy Popcorn Shrimp. The tempura-battered shrimp, one of the signature dishes, is served in a real popcorn box with a pungent sweet & sour dipping sauce. The Retro Meatloaf comes with all-you-can-eat mashed potatoes and smothered in a port and mushroom sauce. Save some room for the killer Apple crisp cheesecake.

Red Arrow Diner – This institution is open 24/7 and is rated as one of the top 10 diners in the nation. It’s also a must-stop on the presidential campaign trail. The diner is Adam Sandler’s favorite hangout when he’s in town visiting family and friends. The diner’s food and pies are exceptional. Portions are gigantic, so bring a hearty appetite along. You can sit in the Trump booth, or if you’re a Democrat, the Obama and Clinton seats at the counter. You can’t go wrong with anything on their menu – it’s all made from scratch and delicious comfort food. Take your pick – from their killer pies to lasagna, American Chop Suey, or the “Stan the Man Breakfast,” (named after Adam Sandler’s dad.) You’ll probably recognize many of the famous folks and politicians whose photos are plastered over all the walls.

Where to stay:

Ash Street Inn Bed & Breakfast – This Victorian beauty was built as a wedding gift for a wealthy mill owner’s son in 1885. Guests can linger by the cozy fireplace or relax on the large wrap-around porch. Innkeeper Rob Wezwick, who is also a trained chef, spoils guests with his made-from-scratch pumpkin pancakes for breakfast.

DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown is conveniently located in the heart of downtown close to the Millyard Museum and other attractions. The Sunday Brunch features delicious blintzes. Request a room facing the Millyard and the mountains for a million dollar view.

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