• Joe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #51: Swasey Parkway, Exeter


The skyline of New Hampshire's Athens

There are a lot of places I love in Exeter - and unapologetically so, as there are so many places there worth loving. Among these is Swasey Parkway, the tree-studded greensward alongside the Squamscott River stretching from downtown toward Newfields Road. It's one of the town's most beautiful venues, with perfect views of that quintessential New Hampshire skyline, the distinctive steeple of the Congregational Church and cupola atop the Town Hall reaching modestly skyward in laconic, almost sheepish splendor.

It's beautiful, but not sterile. Joggers and walkers and bikers take regular advantage of that picturesque route (I've run it many times myself). Concerts, farmers' markets, and festivals pepper the calendar with small-town bustle worthy of Sherwood Anderson. The river itself teems with Phillips Exeter scullers and Great Bay shore birds. A new pavilion went up in 2007, and the place has become popular for weddings and photo shoots (apologies to our youngest that we bought our stone during that brief period when there was only one son). One of my favorite memories from my three terms on the Board were the annual Memorial Day parades that would begin at the Parkway with such perfectly located patriotic dignity.

Ambrose Swasey donated the land for the Parkway to the Town in 1931, and in the eighty-six years since it's been an integral piece of Exeter's character and identity. I'm partial to the Parkway both because of its charm and because of our own connections to the family - Christine Swasey has long been one of Sarah's best friends, and I was lucky enough to get to know patriarch Bob Swasey during our time as neighbors in town. It's almost the right time of year for a picnic - if the snow ever melts, I suppose.

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