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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #122: Manchester

Moon over ManchVegas

The Pennacooks called it Namaoskeag. Veterans of Queen Anne's War settling there in 1727 under a Massachusetts charter called it Tyngstown. When it joined New Hampshire in 1741, Governor Wentworth called it Derryfield. It was Samuel Blodget, the merchant who saw the area's industrial potential, who named it Manchester in 1810 (envisioning a modern economic colossus like the city of the same name in England). Would-be wits these days call it ManchVegas.

It's the largest city in New Hampshire - the largest city in all of Northern New England with about 110,000 residents. Manchester was a planned city, with massive water-powered mills on the western bank of the Merrimack River and a model company town on the eastern side. The mills, of course, belonged to the famous and massive Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, the largest cotton mill in the world with over 4,000 looms. But Amoskeag made more than textiles - the factory churned out cigars, shoes, guns, machinery, even railroad locomotives. The thirst for workers drew generations of immigrants to town, giving Manchester the working-class heritage and pride it still exudes, and the diverse collection of French Canadians (like Steve Marchand's family) and Irishmen (your forbears, Peter M. Sullivan?), Germans and Italians.

It's appropriate then, that work has usually been what's drawn me to the Queen City - that, and the occasional UNH hockey game at the Verizon or a Fisher Cats minor league baseball trip. For years I made the pilgrimage to Manchester to the mothership of Citizens Bank New Hampshire on Elm Street, where Peggy Jipson-Cloutier and Sheryl Lowney-Rivera held court (and the queen bee herself, Cathleen A Schmidt). Later, I'd make the trip a couple of times a week to the converted mill buildings that house UNH-Manchester. I was trying with mixed success to help UNH reinvent its corporate giving program, and much of the corporate heft in NH resides in Tyngstown. I mean, Manchester. My office-mate Mica Stark will recall the tiny NH state flag I hung above my desk there.

Manchester ranks high on the livability lists often published by various magazines. It has good schools, a vibrant economic and political diversity, and an arts and culture scene that includes the Palace Theater and the Currier Museum. It's also the city that gave the world Sarah Silverman and Adam Sandler. So there's that.

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