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Blais & Associates, Realtors®
32 Monadnock Hwy.
Keene, NH 03431
Phone (603) 352-1972
Fax (603) 352-0545

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Peterborough is a town in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 5,883 at the 2000 census, with an estimated population of 6,190 in 2009. Home to the MacDowell Art Colony, the town is a popular tourist destination.

History

Granted by Massachusetts in 1737, it was first permanently settled in 1749. The town suffered several attacks during the French and Indian War. Nevertheless, by 1759, there were fifty families settled. Incorporated on January 17, 1760 by Governor Benning Wentworth, it was named after Lieutenant Peter Prescott (1709–1784) of Concord, Massachusetts, a prominent land speculator.

The Contoocook River and Nubanusit Brook offered numerous sites for watermills, and Peterborough became a prosperous mill town. In 1810, the first cotton factory was established. By 1859, when the population was 2,222, there were four additional cotton factories, plus a woolen mill. Other industries included two paper mills, an iron foundry, a machine shop, a carriage factory, a basket manufacturer, a maker of trusses and supporters, a boot and shoe factory, seven sawmills, and three gristmills.

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 38.1 square miles (99 km2), of which 37.7 sq mi (98 km2) are land and 0.4 sq mi (1.0 km2) is water, comprising 1.08% of the town. Peterborough is drained by Nubanusit Brook and the Contoocook River. The highest point in Peterborough is South Pack Monadnock Mountain (2,290 feet (698 m) above sea level), in Miller State Park.

The town center, or census-designated place, is where over 50% of the population resides. It has a total area of 4.8 square miles (12.4 km2), of which 4.7 sq mi (12.2 km2) are land and 0.04 sq mi (0.1 km2) (0.42%) is water.

The town is crossed by U.S. Route 202 and Route 101.

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 5,883 people, 2,346 households, and 1,531 families residing in the town. The population density was 156.0 people per square mile (60.2/km²). There were 2,509 housing units at an average density of 66.5/sq mi (25.7/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 96.97% White, 0.63% Black or African American, 0.15% Native American, 1.29% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.27% from other races, and 0.65% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.83% of the population.

There were 2,346 households out of which 32.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.5% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.7% were non-families. 28.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.94.

In the town the population was spread out with 25.1% under the age of 18, 5.0% from 18 to 24, 24.8% from 25 to 44, 24.3% from 45 to 64, and 20.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 84.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.7 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $47,381, and the median income for a family was $54,375. Males had a median income of $42,178 versus $27,422 for females. The per capita income for the town was $26,154. About 6.4% of families and 9.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.0% of those under age 18 and 4.7% of those age 65 or over.

Town center

As of the census of 2000, there were 2,944 people, 1,225 households, and 719 families residing in the central village, or census-designated place (CDP). The population density was 621.4 people per square mile (239.8/km²). There were 1,289 housing units at an average density of 272.1/sq mi (105.0/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 97.62% White, 0.41% Black or African American, 0.24% Native American, 0.88% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.17% from other races, and 0.65% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.78% of the population.

There were 1,225 households out of which 28.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.8% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.3% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.88.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 22.7% under the age of 18, 5.5% from 18 to 24, 25.3% from 25 to 44, 22.1% from 45 to 64, and 24.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 79.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 72.0 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $45,313, and the median income for a family was $53,409. Males had a median income of $41,533 versus $28,333 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $26,091. About 7.6% of families and 11.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.7% of those under age 18 and 8.5% of those age 65 or over.

Education

The public schools are part of Contoocook Valley school district (SAU 1) which has a total of 11 schools and 1 applied technology center.

  • Contoocook Valley Regional High School, built in 1970, serves approximately 1350 students.
  • South Meadow School, founded in 1989, serves approximately 500 students. The school was originally named Peterborough Middle School.
  • Peterborough Elementary School, locally known as PES, serves approximately 300 students.
  • The town's only private school, The Well School, founded in 1967, serves approximately 200 students, grades Preschool-12.

Economy

Peterborough is home to one of the oldest basket manufacturers in the country, Peterboro Basket Company, which has been in business since 1854, as well as home to the headquarters of Eastern Mountain Sports, an outdoor apparel and equipment retailer.

Culture

A rural area of Peterborough has been the location, since its creation in 1907, of the MacDowell art colony.

The town features an institution it calls "First Friday". This tradition has been awarded "Best Community Tradition", and is celebrated on the first Friday of each month.

In May of every year, Peterborough holds its annual "Children and the Arts Day" festival. The festival is a chance for local students, ranging in age from preschool to high school and beyond, to exhibit their artistic and creative talents. The celebration lasts all day and consists of a Giant Puppet Parade, as well as a rubber duck race for the benefit of local charities. There are also many other activities, including concerts, dancing, and an international food court.

The Peterborough Town Library is the oldest free library supported by taxation in the United States. It was founded on April 9, 1833, by Unitarian minister Abiel Abbot. The original collection comprised 100 books and was housed in Smith and Thompson's General Store, along with the post office. It later moved to the town hall, then in 1893 was given its own building designed by the noted bridge engineer George Shattuck Morison. The collection now includes over 50,000 volumes.

The Moses Cheney house in Peterborough served as a stop on the Underground Railroad in the mid-19th century, and Frederick Douglass stayed at the home. Moses' son Oren B. Cheney founded Bates College in 1855, and his son Person C. Cheney was a U.S. Senator.

The Peterborough Players have performed since 1933, having employed such renowned actors as James Whitmore and Sam Huntington.

New Hampshire's oldest continuously active state militia unit, the Lafayette Artillery Company, was founded in Peterborough in 1804. Currently it is based in nearby Lyndeborough. However, since the early 20th century, Peterborough has been home to the Amoskeag Veterans, founded originally in Manchester in the mid-19th century.

The town was a model for the play Our Town, written by Thornton Wilder while in residence at the MacDowell Colony. His fictional town of Grovers Corners appears to have been named for Peterborough's Grove Street.

The film The Sensation of Sight was shot entirely in Peterborough.

Notable inhabitants

  • Charles Bass, congressman
  • Perkins Bass, congressman
  • Robert P. Bass, farmer, forestry expert and governor
  • Jotham Blanchard, lawyer, newspaper editor and politician
  • Moses Cheney, abolitionist, printer and legislator
  • Frank Gay Clarke, congressman
  • Person Colby Cheney, manufacturer, abolitionist and politician
  • Matt Deis, musician
  • Sam Huntington, actor
  • James Miller, congressman and general
  • Walter R. Peterson, Jr., realtor, educator and politician
  • Jeremiah Smith, jurist and politician
  • Robert Smith, congressman
  • Samuel Smith, manufacturer and congressman
  • John Hardy Steele, mechanic, manufacturer and politician
  • James Wilson I, congressman
  • James Wilson II, congressman
  • John Wilson, congressman

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