Southern New Hampshire Life

Southern New Hampshire Blog by Steve Russo, Realtor

Southern New Hampshire Life - Southern New Hampshire Blog by Steve Russo, Realtor

Country Inns: The Hancock Inn

In operation since 1789, the Hancock Inn is a historic site located on the main street of a town filled with ancient buildings.  Although the original inn is over 200 years old, the guest rooms are very comfortable, with up to date air conditioning, televisions, bedding, and bathrooms – and antique furnishings and reproductions.  DSC01082

Some rooms have Rufus Porter style murals decorating the walls and gas fireplaces.  The first floor common rooms are very inviting, and the public sitting rooms on the upper floors have small refrigerators and coffee machines for use by overnight visitors.

The Inn boasts a very attractive garden in back, with tables and chairs set along the sides for individual or group relaxing.  On the front porch are rockers waiting for guests to while away a few hours as they watch the world go by.


At 33 Main Street, the Inn is in the heart of Hancock.  A walk down either side of the road will bring the visitor past 18th and 19th century homes and public buildings that have been meticulously preserved; most are on the National Register.

The Inn has a very attractive main dining room and tavern room, and serves hearty breakfasts to lodgers free of charge.  Breakfasts include eggs, pancakes, French toast, juices, fresh fruit, home-made hash and muffins, etc.  The dining rooms are open to the general public for gourmet dinners, featuring nonvegetarian and vegetarian items; the tavern menu has lighter fare.   For lunch, the Fiddleheads Cafe across from Inn makes fresh sandwiches and light meals to order.

1st Floor Common Room

The owners and their staff are very friendly, efficient, and helpful, making travelers feel at home.  They are also great resources on attractions to visit in Hancock and the surrounding towns.

For more about the Hancock Inn, visit their informative website.

The 75th Annual Cheshire Fair

The theme for this year’s Cheshire Fair is “Love What’s Old – See What’s New.” The Fair runs from Wednesday July 31st through Sunday August 4th.

The Cheshire Fair is one of the largest festivals of its type in the area, with five activity-filled days. The fairground opens at 8AM every morning.  Each day will be filled with animal shows and contests, educational seminars, and shows by comedians, musicians, and other entertainers.  And – of course – the Midway!

Ten demonstration gardens will be on display, including a patio garden, hydroponic garden, and an herb alley.  The Cheshire Fair Horse Show starts Friday August 2nd at 2PM and continues through Sunday afternoon August 4th.

Saturday at Noon will be the Fair Parade.  Special Grandstand activities are: Thursday evening – Battle of the Bands; Friday and Saturday afternoons – 4×4 Truck Pulls; and Sunday afternoon –  Demolition Derby.  A full schedule of Fair events is available on the Fair’s website.

The first day of the Fair will end with fireworks at 9PM.  Thursday through Saturday the last activity starts at 7PM; on Sunday the Lumber Jills end the Fair with their 6PM show.

The Fair will be at the Cheshire Fair Grounds at 247 Monadnock Highway in Swanzey.  Tickets to the Cheshire Fair may be purchased in advance by calling 603-357-4740; children 4 and younger are admitted free.  There are additional charges for Grandstand events and Midway activities. Some campsites are also available. For more information on tickets, click here.

The USDA Mortgage Loan Program

Just about everyone has heard about Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and VA mortgages.  There is another federal government backed mortgage program that is little known but compares very favorably with these more popular ones.  That’s the USDA Rural Development Mortgage Program.

Don’t be put off by the “Rural” in its name.  USDA mortgages can be used to purchase homes in most towns in New Hampshire and central and western Massachusetts!  In general, only properties in urban areas – larger cities and larger towns – are not eligible.  In southern New Hampshire, for example, only Derry, Hudson, Keene, Londonderry, Manchester, Merrimack, Nashua, Portsmouth, Salem, and parts of Goffstown and Hooksett are ruled out.

Why are USDA mortgage loans attractive?  They require no money down, have low interest rates, and don’t require mortgage insurance.  Rural Housing loans are aimed at families with moderate or low incomes looking to buy (or refinance) a primary residence.  The USDA will not lend to people with incomes over a certain amount, which can be as high as $ 103,000 for a family of four in certain areas of New Hampshire.  For information on income limitations, see the income tables on the USDA RD website.

For more information on which communities are eligible, click here.  Previously, the USDA had announced that it would be deleting some towns from its program, but they have since reconsidered; there will be no changes in the eligible towns for the next few years.  Maps of the eligible and ineligible towns are available here.

All mortgage programs are complex.  For an overview of the USDA Rural Development mortgage program, consult your banker or financial adviser.  Please note that not all mortgage lenders offer this program, but there are many in every state that do.  If you need assistance in finding a lender that offers USDA mortgages, please give me a call.

Call (cell: 603-321-9895; direct office: 603-459-1103; general office 603-888-4600) or email

Steve Russo

– Steve Russo, Connecting People with Homes in Southern New Hampshire and North Central Massachusetts.


Facebook page: Steve Russo, Realtor

Brookline Tailgate & Grilling Barbecue Cookoff

This fundraiser sponsored by the Brookline Fire Department is one of only 3 cookoff events in New Hampshire endorsed by the New England Barbecue Society (NEBS). Contestants are eligible for NEBS’s Team of the Year awards, so you know the cooks will be good and their offerings will be tasty!Brookline Barbecue 7 2013

The festivities will take place Saturday and Sunday, July 20th and 21st, at the Brookline Ball Field, State Route 130 (Milford Street), in Brookline.  The barbecue competition will take place both days.  A special attraction for children will be a petting zoo, which will also be on site both Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday events start at 9AM with horseshoes and a Kids Fireman’s Muster.  Lunch will be served 11AM – 2PM, with a chicken barbecue dinner 5 – 7PM.  Several bands – the Ashley Dawn Trio, Mariany, The Brooklyns, and Eastwood Peak will entertain from Noon until 11PM.

Sunday activities include a Pancake Breakfast from 8 to 10AM, followed by Touch A Truck at the Richard Maghakian Memorial School at 22 Milford Street, across the street from the ball field (8AM to Noon).  Lunch will be served 11AM to 2PM;  pulled pork will be featured in the afternoon.  From 2 to 3PM they will be a Brookline Fire Dept. vs. Brookline Police Dept. competition – with members of the public deciding who the better cooks are.Barbecue 2

Admission to the Brookline Tailgate and Grilling Barbecue Cookoff is free.  For a schedule of events and cookoff competition information, click here.  For more information on the New England Barbecue Society, see their website.

The 46th Annual Stratham Fair

For almost 50 years, the Stratham Fair has been the first agricultural fair of the season. This year it will be held Thursday through Sunday, July 18th – 21st at Stratham Hill Park, Route 33 (Portsmouth Avenue) in Stratham.

There will be activities for every member of the family. Every day will be filled with many agricultural demonstrations and shows. Some of the contests include rabbit hurdling, ox and horse pulling, pie eating, and goat milking. Like many country fairs, the Stratham Fair will have rabbit, poultry, sheep, livestock, and plant judging – and many more.  There will be carnival rides, a midway, and special children’s activities too.

Entertainers include funnyman Wacky Chad and the talented Flying High Frisbee Dogs.  The musicians and singers that are performing include: Tom Dixon, Nicole Murphy, Jamie Lee Thurston, Jillian Cardarelli, Zach Lockwood, the Funky Divas, The New Englanders, and the Jandee Lee Porter Band.

The special highlights of the fair will be the Miss Stratham Fair contest on Friday evening, the Stratham Fair Road Race on Saturday morning, and the Finale Fireworks Sunday night.

The Fair has scheduled a preopening breakfast at 7 – 9AM on Thursday, followed by the exhibits opening at 10AM.  Fair activities will be held Thursday 10AM – 10PM, Friday 8:30AM – 10PM, Saturday 7AM – 10PM, and Sunday 10AM – 10PM. Click here for a full schedule.

The Stratham Fair is the major fundraising event for the Stratham Volunteer Fire Department. There is an admission charge, but discounts are available, with special discount days for grandparents, the military, Stratham residents, and groups.  Restrictions apply; see this webpage for ticket details.

The Cheshire Railroad Stone Arch Bridge in Keene

New England is famed for its covered bridges, but its stone arch bridges are also deserving of admiration.  One of New England’s most impressive stone bridges is the one in South Keene.  Traveling west on 101, shortly after exiting Marlborough, one may see a massive white-gray stone span to the left of the road; this is the celebrated Cheshire Railroad Bridge.


When Keene was bypassed by other railways in the mid-1800’s, the residents banded together to form a railroad company that would connect Keene to other towns in New England; the Cheshire Railroad Company was the result.  This structure was built in 1847 as a part of the rail line for the Cheshire Railroad which went from Winchendon, Massachusetts to Bellows Falls, Vermont.  From Winchendon, the line connected with other railways to enable people to travel all the way to Boston.

This arch over the Branch River was one of the most demanding sections of the railway built; it has a span of 90 feet and is over 50 feet high. It is built of split-faced granite ashlar stones quarried from the nearby Thompson Farm in Roxbury, NH.  It is considered one of the most impressive stone arch structures built in the United States before 1850.  It wasn’t until the 20th century that other bridges were built to rival its height, span, or mass.

The railway was abandoned in 1972 and was eventually taken over by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation; the bridge is currently administered by the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development as part of its hiking trails division.

By the mid 1990’s the bridge was deteriorating, but due to a concerted effort by local historic and preservation groups and Keene city officials, the bridge was restored to its current condition with the aid of state and federal funding.


The bridge is open to pedestrians, and is a favorite of rock climbers.  Please note if visiting this site: there are no railings on the bridge or its approaches, so one must be careful walking on or near it.

The bridge was placed on the National Historic Register in 2012.  For a detailed history of the bridge with construction and engineering facts, consult the application that secured its place on the Register, available online.