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Mountain magic

Monadnock shapes the history and lifestyle of village in its shadow

Inn at Jaffrey Center, N.H.
The Inn at Jaffrey Center, built nearly 200 years ago, is on the way to Mount Monadnock. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)
Email|Print| Text size + By Kathleen Burge
Globe Staff / February 13, 2008

Distance from Boston: 79 miles

Population: 5,711

Websites: town.jaffrey.nh.us, jaffreychamber.com, teamjaffrey.org

Odd fact: Jaffrey is home to North America's largest paper matchbook manufacturer, D.D. Bean & Sons Co., which opened in 1938.

Emerson and Thoreau climbed it. Galway Kinnell and H.P. Lovecraft wrote poems about it. In Jaffrey, you feel as if Mount Monadnock, the tallest peak in southwestern New Hampshire, is always peering over your shoulder. It attracts 132,000 hikers a year, and is often described as the second-most-climbed mountain in the world, after Japan's Mount Fuji. The town in the shadow of the mountain has long drawn fascinating characters. Amos Fortune, a slave and the son of an African king, settled in Jaffrey after he bought his freedom. Author Willa Cather often vacationed here and now spends her everlasting days in the Old Burying Ground. One of the town's enduring mysteries is the unsolved murder of Dr. William Dean in 1918, believed by some to be connected to a German spy ring. Today, people still come to Jaffrey to hike its famous mountain - shared with the town of Dublin - swim in its lakes, and ski through its valleys.

Spend
Don't walk into Seaver & McLellan Antiques (2 Main St., 603-532-8500, seaverandmclellanantiques.com) expecting to see Chippendale desks and grandfather clocks (although you might stumble across a few). The department-store exterior, storefront windows filled with staid table-and-chair sets, lamps, and other mundane household furnishings, belies the quirky collection inside. You might stumble across a stuffed wallaby, a long table shaped like a life-size hippo, a collection of old bird eggs, or a barrel full of bowling shoes. The owners often show their wares at antique shows in New York City. Alice Blue (27 Main Street, 603-532-7015) is another shop filled with hidden treasure: wind through the rooms stuffed with antiques and new clothing. Keep going to the large back room, Mindfull Books and Ephemera (29 Main Street, 603-532-8300), whose wares run from modern fiction to antique children's stories. Don't miss the free coffee and muffins. If your tastes run to the spiritual, the Jaffrey Bible House (79 Hadley Road, 603-532-7297, jaffreybiblehouse.com), has a large collection of Bibles, other religious books and music.

Rest
The Inn at Jaffrey Center (379 Main St., 603-532-7800, theinnatjaffreycenter.com, rooms $80-$160) is on the road to Monadnock and close enough to the town's meetinghouse to hear its bell ring. Although the inn was built nearly 200 years ago - and the long porch and creaky floors testify to its heritage - its 11 rooms are modern and painted in bright colors. Two come with private sitting rooms. The Benjamin Prescott Inn (433 Turnpike Road, 603-532-6637, benjamin prescottinn.com, rooms $90-$185) lies across town in another old house, now filled with suites and rooms tucked into cozy nooks. The inn offers special packages, including Sunday afternoon tea and a program by the New Hampshire School of Falconry, with live birds. The Grand View Inn & Resort (580 Mountain Road, 603-532-9880, thegrand viewinn.com, rooms $100-$250) sits at the foot of Monadnock, with beautiful views and its own restaurant, Churchills. Not far from the Inn at Jaffrey Center is a more intimate bed and breakfast: The Currier's House (5 Harkness Road, 603-532-7670, members .tripod.com/thecurriershouse), rooms $88 and $98), with three rooms inside an 1810 Colonial home.

Fuel
The Inn at Jaffrey Center (see Rest) serves dinner and brunch in a formal dining room with a fireplace, and dinner in a small pub across a hallway. In winter, a fire often blazes in the dining room's fireplace; in warmer weather, diners can sit on the screened porch. The menu in the dining room (entrees $15-$32) includes modern versions of traditional dishes, like pan-seared breast of duck with orange-chipotle glaze, and trout piccata. (Try the chef's amazing sweet potato flan, which won a recipe contest.) The pub (entrees $6-$9) is more informal in demeanor and menu, with burgers, chili, and quesadillas. Downtown, Aylmer's Grille (21B Main Street, 603-532-4949, aylmersgrille.com, dinners $16.95-$25.95), is owned by a Jaffrey native who left town to attend the Culinary Institute of America and eventually returned home to open his own restaurant. You might want to make reservations, though; on a recent Saturday at lunchtime, seats were only available at the bar. Jaffrey Pizza Barn (6 Blake Street, 603-532-8383, jaffreypizzabarn.com, entrees $3.70-$18.95) is a more casual endeavor, with pasta, calzones, and grinders, in addition to pizza. In warm weather, Kimball Farm (Route 124, 603-532-5765, kimballfarm.com, currently closed for the season) is a kids' paradise: ice cream, including unusual flavors like malted milk ball and gingersnap molasses, and a casual restaurant with a child-friendly menu.

Do
Climb, snowshoe, cross-country ski, or otherwise perambulate up Monadnock's 3,165 feet or along the 40 miles of trails through Monadnock State Park (Route 124, 603-532-8862, nhstateparks.org/state-parks/alphabetical-order/monadnock-state-park). At the top, on a clear day, you can see every New England state. Pet owners take note: No dogs allowed. For a less strenuous walk, the Old Burying Ground behind the town's majestic Meetinghouse is the eternal home to several notables, including author Willa Cather, who often vacationed in Jaffrey, and her longtime companion, Edith Lewis. Amos Fortune, a former African slave who settled in Jaffrey in 1781, lies nearby. Fortune, who bought his freedom and established a tannery in Jaffrey, was made famous by the children's book, "Amos Fortune, Free Man," by Elizabeth Yates. On his tombstone is written an eloquent epitaph by Jaffrey's first minister, Laban Ainsworth: "Sacred to the memory of Amos Fortune, who was born free in Africa, a slave in America, he purchased liberty, professed Christianity, lived reputably, and died hopefully."

Party
Jaffrey is a quiet town by day, and the nights are quieter yet. You can canoodle before a wood-burning stove at the pub at The Inn at Jaffrey Center. If it's a Friday night in the summer, you might catch a thought-provoking speech at the Amos Fortune Forum in the Meetinghouse. Meanwhile, some Jaffrey residents are working to revive the old Park Theatre, which once was home to vaudeville shows from Boston and movies. But until they raise $1.8 million to buy and renovate the building, you may have to search elsewhere for post-dinner entertainment - Harlow's Pub in nearby Peterborough (3 School Street, 603-924-6365, harlowspub.com) has live music and dancing.

Play
Silver Ranch (Route 124, 603-532-7363) offers horseback rides and other equine diversions for children and adults. In winter, the ranch takes visitors on sleigh rides (starting at $65 for a private 20- to 30-minute ride). In summer, the horses pull wagons filled with hay. The towns' lakes are also a perfect way to lounge away a summer's day. The town beach at Contoocook Lake is staffed with lifeguards in warm months; so is Shattuck Park at Thorndike Pond. Boaters are welcome on both ponds. The Shattuck Golf Club (Dublin Road, 603-532-4300, sterlinggolf.com/shattuck) at the foot of Monadnock offers stunning views as you play.

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