Travelers driving the back roads of New Hampshire will experience alluring small towns like Conway and North Conway along State Highway 16. Breaking off onto rolling State Highway 302 in the White Mountains, the magnificent Mount Washington Resort, the site of the historic Bretton Woods International Monetary Conference, can be seen. Delegates from 44 nations convened here in 1944, establishing the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, setting the gold standard and designating the US dollar as the backbone of the international exchange.
Don’t blink or you’ll miss the best part of the journey…
Over 20 years ago, travelers venturing down old Highway 10 would have seen (or not, depending on whether they blinked once OR twice) the quaint little village of Lyme. (pop 1716). Rounding the lower curve of the Lyme Commons, the Lyme Inn stood beckoning tourists to come back for more. At that time, the Inn’s guests could enjoy 19 cozy guest rooms on three levels accessible only by stairway and meals were served in a large dining room.
Today, driving along portions of the 407 mile-long Connecticut River, travelers find a more active, well-preserved village. Traveling south on old Highway 10 parallel to the river on the right, the first of five local cemeteries, The “Old” Cemetery, comes into view in the shadow of the towering white Congregational Church.
Old, this cemetery definitely is with burials dating back to 1786 lining the cemetery’s still-grassy pathways. With so many cemeteries in decline across America with fallen and damaged tombstones dating more recent than most of those in this cemetery, Lyme should be lauded for protecting its heritage and maintaining the appearance of this historic churchyard.
But that is just a hint of what Lyme has done to protect and preserve its heritage.
The Town of Lyme has maintained its focus for the 21st Century “to ensure that the town will still be recognizable to its children years from now, and that good soil will still be available for food production.”
Despite Lyme’s diminutive size the town has taken a statewide leadership role in protecting its agricultural heritage with one of New Hampshire’s first farmland protection projects and, most recently, with an effort to preserve historic barns.
Lyme’s historic architecture has prompted citizens to instinctively respect and care for its heritage. Ahead of so many other communities of greater size in its preservation efforts, Lyme’s citizens worked together to restore the historic horse sheds behind the Congregational Church. The row of twenty-seven sheds is the longest line of contiguous horse sheds in New England – possibly anywhere. Sadly, there is still no Interpretational Signage to identify this historic treasure for visitors.
Lyme has maintained all the necessary campaigns needed to preserve its churches, too, and when a new school was needed in the 1990s, the community came together and, using the original 1912 schoolhouse, built around it. In many other communities, it would have been considered easier and far more economical to simply demolish the schoolhouse and build anew. Not Lyme!
Today, in Lyme, NH…
Today, Lyme has several charming inns and bed and breakfasts. Just a stone’s throw from Hanover’s Dartmouth College, this small town does not lack for attention for global tourists who appreciate heritage tourism development.
And the Lyme Inn?
The Lyme Inn still stands proudly at the head of the Lyme Commons. The three-story inn of 20 years ago has had a recent face lift and shows no signs of deterioration.
The Inn has been restored and renovated from top to bottom. It now has ten rooms combined into five elegant suites, with the nine remaining rooms superbly decorated.
And the dining hall?
Still there – slightly repositioned with a fine cuisine and and expanded menu with a warm New England atmosphere that has visitors chatting for hours.
A commanding fireplace warms the new Dining Hall with the ceiling beams (matching the pine beams throughout the inn) preserving the charisma of the former inn.
Instead of schlepping luggage up three floors as was done 20 years ago, guests today take the inn’s elevator which blends smoothly into the design and original charm of the inn.
The Lyme Inn, the village matriarch, has retained its allure over the years and continues to welcome guests as it has for the last 200 years with its beauty and charm and historic elegance. Only now, it offers even more with just the right mix of contemporary luxury – in this very small state – in this very small town – on the Lyme Commons.
Don’t be in a hurry when you circle the Commons or you’ll miss everything that Lyme has to share – in a blink.
Website: Heritage Tourism Development – Jacqueline L. Evans
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Called “The Patron Saint of Small Towns” by Iowa Commerce Magazine
John Poimiroo, Deputy Secretary of (CA) Tourism said: “I was so impressed by your emphasis on sustaining heritage tourism as an economic development tool.”