Destinations

Searching for Salinger’s Ghost in New Hampshire

Most people don’t know this, but New Hampshire has been the home and inspiration to many a writer, painter, and sculptor over the years. Most notably, it was the sanctuary to none other than the recluse J.D. Salinger— you know, the dude who wrote that damnable cockroach of a novel, The Catcher in the Rye

With North Conway for headquarters, one can hit up all manner of inspired literary destination, and what better time to do so than at the height of fall foliage. In this quick and dirty article, we highlight a few iconic writers and the places they haunt(ed) in the Granite State whose motto is as straight forward as they come, “Life free or die.” Fair enough.

J.D. SALINGER’S CORNISH

Naturally, when planning a trip to New Hampshire, the search for J.D. Salinger’s ghost shoots straight to the top of the itinerary. So where does one go to find J.D. Salinger’s ghost? Well, you may get lucky in visiting Cornish—the small town on the Connecticut River which the author escaped to once achieving literary fame in New York with Catcher in the Rye. Cornish has many delightful attractions, including the Blow-Me-Down Bridge: a historic covered bridge built in 1877. The northeast coast has many throwback, rustic bridges like this, and it doesn’t get more quintessential New Hampshire than an old, wooden-covered bridge.

Blow-Me-Down Bridge

The other mustsee destination in Cornish is the Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, which was named after (you guessed it) Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the American sculptor known for his bronze sculpture of Diana, and who founded the Cornish Art Colony. Inspired by the beauty of the place, the likes of Maxwell Perkins (editor of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and more), Isadora Duncan, and even Woodrow Wilson were at one point a part of the colony. The national park is chock full of beaux-arts architecture, statues, and sculptures that will tickle the sensibility of those historically minded. Sadly, the colony died out along with its founder in 1907, long before J.D. Salinger’s time there, but there’s no doubt he was drawn to Cornish in some part due to its artistic history. 

Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park

ROBERT FROST’S DERRY

Take the road most travelled straight to the Robert Frost Homestead in the town of Derry to see where the prolific poet spent his formative years. This modest estate includes a two-story house and a farm that has been converted into a museum. One can even visit a few of the places he wrote about, such as the poem Hyla Brook in 1907. This brook is located south of the farm. The homestead is plain, but strikingly beautiful in large part because of that plainness, much like Frost’s poetry. 

Robert Frost Homestead

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE’S OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN

While the Old Man of the Mountain no longer exists, we would be remiss not to suggest checking out Cannon Mountain, where a unique geological rock formation inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to write the short story The Great Stone Face. Until 2004, the uncanny resemblance to the countenance of an old man resided on the side of the mountain before collapsing spontaneously, or dying of natural causes, as it were. The short story is about a man named Earnest who lives in a prosperous valley; it tackles themes of divinity, nature, and local folklore. When one looks upon the majestic mountain, even though the Old Man has long passed, they are certainly filled with the same awe that Hawthorne must have felt.

Photo by David Noble

E.E. CUMMINGS IN SILVER LAKE

Visit Joy Farm, E.E. Cummings’ summer vacation home, now registered as a national historic place. Silver Lake is an idyllic and serene landscape, and it’s no surprise the private poet, novelist, and satirist would have chosen it as a place for a little bit of tranquility during his summer holidays. This homestead is like Frost’s farm in that it is unremarkable. Perhaps that’s the key to being a great poet—one must simply reside or holiday in a placid (and yes, dull even) but beautifully restful place.

Surely that’s it. And nothing all to do with being a misanthrope.

Joy Farm
Joy Farm

DAN BROWN LIVES IN EXETER

That is all, really—no exposition. Oh, and please don’t bother him and tell him we sent you, or anything like that; that would be all-around awkward, and not to mention, trespassing. 

Exeter, Photo courtesy of the New Hampshire Chamber of Commerce

THE NEW HAMPSHIRE READING LIST

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