Keene, New Hampshire (population 22,780), county seat of Cheshire County, is located on the Ashuelot River. Glassmaking and textiles were early industries, and Keene was once the site of well-known pottery works. Chartered in 1753, the town features an impressive collection of Georgian buildings, including the 1762 Wyman Tavern, now maintained as a house museum representing the period from 1770 to 1820.
Built by Captain Isaac Wyman and operated as a tavern by his family for 40 years, the tavern was the site of the first meeting of the trustees of Dartmouth College in 1770. It was also from this tavern that 29 minutemen started their march to Lexington and Concord in April of 1775 under the command of Captain Wyman, a veteran of the Indian Wars. In summer months, Revolutionary War re-enactments are held on the tavern grounds.
Keene is known for its wide main street and the fact that many of the town's earliest structures have remained unchanged for more than two centuries, including the 1795 doctor's house, the 1791 home of Keene's most prominent attorney, and the 1805 home of its postmaster. Keene is also the birthplace of one of America's earliest environmentalists, Henry David Thoreau. The National Trust named Keene one of its “Dozen Distinctive Destinations” in 2003, calling the town a "Currier & Ives landscape come to life.”
Since 2000, Keene has compiled an inventory of nearly 200 historic properties, and established a Heritage Commission and a Downtown Historic District and Commission. As part of a complex environmental cleanup and redevelopment of its abandoned rail yard as an Industrial Heritage Corridor, a circa 1900 city-owned factory is being restored and converted for housing by a private developer, and new recreational spaces are being created, including trails with interpretive signs that follow the old rail bed.
Keene enjoys one of the best-preserved and most architecturally rich downtowns in New England. Economic prosperity over time is reflected in richly decorated commercial blocks and large private homes now used for commercial purposes.
The restoration of the Faulker & Colony mill complex and the Colonial Theatre are two of the projects that are helping keep the community historically sound and economically viable. Because of their successes, Keene’s historic preservation leaders are often asked to lead workshops and training sessions for land use boards and preservation advocates around the state.
Designated a Preserve America Community in August 2005.
For more information
Keene Historic District Commission