Winter Walk-Off 2015

Spring begins on Friday but you’d never know it by the weather in New Hampshire. Today the temperatures were hovering in the upper 20’s with 25 MPH winds and gusting… true winter weather for the Annual Winter Walk-Off 2015.

Fellow blogger, Les, at A Tidewater Gardener, issued the following challenge to be completed by midnight, March 19:  “On your own two feet, leave the house, and share what can be seen within walking (or biking) distance of your home (if you want to drive to your walk destination that’s OK too). Your post does not have to be about gardening or a travelogue (though I do like both), unless you want it to be. Maybe instead you will find some unusual patterns, interesting shadows, signs of spring, a favorite restaurant or shop, questionable landscaping, or local eyesores. Whatever, just keep your eyes and mind open, be creative, and have fun, but don’t show anything from your own garden.”

With the deadline for the event looming, I charged myself today with the task of completing Les’ challenge. There are no gardens visible beneath the snow in New Hampshire but when I thought of the most interesting shapes, angles, patterns, and shadows indoors, I could think of nothing better than the local Phillips Exeter Academy’s library, the largest secondary school library in the world.

The architect was Louis I. Kahn who was commissioned in 1965 to design a library for the academy. With his love of brick, his design fit right in with the brick Georgian buildings on campus. He was oft quoted saying, “I asked the brick, ‘What do you like, brick?’ And brick said, ‘I like an arch.'” And you see his arch again and again in this library. He is known also for his skillful use of natural light in the library. Groundbreaking was in 1969 and it was open for students in 1971. In 1997, the library was awarded the American Institute of Architect’s Twenty-Five Year Award.  Read more about Louis Kahn and the design process HERE.

The building is all about shapes. Walking up to the library, we see a square brick building that looks as if the outside walls are are detached or floating. Bricked pavilions lead visitors to entries.  Click to enlarge photos.

There are officially 4 floors in the library but in actuality, there are 9 levels. I climbed the stairs to all the floors and tried to capture a piece of the architecture: angles, shapes and shadows  and patterns…. arches, squares, diamonds, rectangles, and circles. Staircases provide curves, sharp angles, rectangles, and triangles:

Views from every floor give great form to function with the use of wood and concrete:
Click to enlarge.

There are 210 study carrels for students, all flooded with natural light and views to the campus below. Although the students are on spring break and nowhere to be seen today, I smiled when I saw that some of the carrels must be claimed domains:

Click to enlarge.

On the upper most floors are reading lounges with fireplaces, long tables group work, great views overlooking the campus and the administration building and a closer view of the circular atrium high above that illuminates the first floor:

Far below, a flurry of activity is evident on the ground floor level preparing for something new, The Library Commons, a place for social interaction. Furniture will arrive any day, furniture that will be flexible for individual or group use and can be arranged in a number of ways. Also in the plans for this area is a much anticipated café.

It looks nothing at all like Virginia’s beloved Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, yet I thought of TJ as I walked through the library.  I have a sense that both architects had similar visions for their buildings. They both possessed imagination and boldness of thought, both ahead of their time, both fashioned a building with a sense of serenity and, finally, this architect positioned his library to overlook this campus as Jefferson positioned his home to overlook his cherished University of Virginia.

A Walk in the Spring Woods

A very short walk from our neighborhood are the Phillips Exeter Academy Trails, 140 acres of woods along the Exeter River. It’s a haven for dogs and their owners, cross country skiers, bicyclers, joggers, hikers, Exeter Academy sports teams, and for strollers like us.

trail map

Exeter River

Exeter River

Tranquility of nature abounds. Trails are wide and picturesque with hemlock and pines beckoning us along.

HemlocktrailMost of the trails were well maintained, either covered with thick leaf litter or wood chips over muddy spots. Several well-shaded areas were still covered in icy snow, packed well from cross country skiers earlier in the season.

snowIt was fun to see the newly emerging plant life along the way, some of the familiar flora we left behind in Virginia.

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

Princess Pine (Lycopodium obscurum)

Princess Pine (Lycopodium obscurum)

We saw evidence of fauna along the way too.

The work of beavers

The work of beavers

Mallards

Mallards

Numerous bogs were alive with the chorus of wood frogs… that were quickly silent on our approach.

Bog

It’s Spring. Bogs are everywhere!

Our only misadventure was not knowing exactly where we were two miles back in the woods. There are numerous side trails and Y’s along the way that were not on the map. Should we go this way or that way?

Is that a trail marker? We almost missed it.

Is that a trail marker? We almost missed it.

Can't miss this one but should we turn here?

Can’t miss this one but should we turn here?

Thank goodness we were saved by the Phillips Exeter Academy track team who pointed us the way out.

Track Team

Track Team

We have since downloaded the app Map My Walk, an amazing GPS pedometer that tracks our route, pace, calories, distance, and time. We’ll never be lost again!

A Mini-Walkabout in Exeter

Winter seemed to vanish overnight along with the mounds of snow just before the Easter weekend. Spring fever abounded with runners, walkers, shoppers, bikers outnumbering vehicles. We decided it was time to join in the procession and become acquainted with a bit of the town of Exeter, the capital of this new state during the Revolutionary War.

We made a visit to the Exeter Town Hall, built in 1855 and still going strong. It was on these steps that Abraham Lincoln spoke to a large crowd on March 6, 1860 against the expansion of slavery in the Kansas and Nebraska territories. It was later that year that he was elected our 16th president.

We climbed those steps to the interior of the building where we found a beehive of activity. Until 1979, the main floor was home to the police department but now it is used for community meetings. This day, they were making preparations for an Easter service… setting up chairs, sound equipment, bringing in Easter lilies.

We though we might as well climb the seemingly endless staircase to the second floor where District Court was originally held.

Now it’s the home of the Exeter Arts Committee, a volunteer Town Committee appointed by the Board of Selectmen to help promote the arts and artists in the area. This day they were sponsoring a youth art show from a bunch of local schools. I think I’d like to be a regular visitor to the upcoming art shows.

Views from the 2nd floor windows gave a grand panorama of Water Street and the Squamscott River in the distance…..

….and a nice view of the Bandstand in the center of town where the Exeter Brass Band gives concerts on Monday evenings during the summer.

We were in and out of diverse and interesting shops and reading the menus in the windows of a variety of restaurants along Water Street.

Travel and Nature

Stopping on a bridge crossing the Great Falls, we watched the fresh water Exeter River flowing over falls into the salty Squamscott River.

At the end of the shopping area was the Phillips Exeter Academy’s boathouse where four friendly and polite students greeted us at the door and laughed when I told them I thought their grand boathouse was the local farmers’ market. Crew season is just about to begin and training is in progress. mister gardener and I were invited in to see the interior that was filled with boats and equipment, girls on the left, boys on the right.

The girls in the middle are New Englanders, the gal on the left is from Exeter and the girl on the right is from Chicago. They gave us great advice for our next stop on our mini-walkabout.

The Squamscott River is where the teams train but cannot compete on the river, they said, because it is not straight enough.

We took the students’ advice and our last stop on our walk was their favorite ice cream store…. where we found more Phillips Exeter Academy students packing the store. I had butter brickle and mister gardener had black raspberry, a grand way to end our day!

375 Years Old and Thriving…

Water Street

Exeter, NH

After exploring the state for a year, we have finally taken up residence in the quaint town of Exeter, New Hampshire, a historic mill community first settled in 1638. The Squamscott/Exeter Rivers and Great Falls powered numerous mills: sawmills, gristmills, a cloth mill, paper mills, and a snuff mill that was mentioned in the writings of George Washington after he visited in 1776. Abraham Lincoln stood on the steps of the Exeter Town Hall and gave a speech and his son attended the local preparatory school, Phillips Exeter Academy, founded in 1781. We love the community, the vitality, the rich history, the close proximity to Portsmouth and Boston, the fine restaurants, charming shops, and the small town flavor. There’s much to be discovered and we’ve just begun…. as soon as the snow melts just a little!

Phillips Exeter Academy

Phillips Exeter Academy

Runners

Exeter Academy students run along the Squamscott River with 1827 mill buildings across the river, now Exeter Mill residential community.

The Green Bean

The Green Bean

11 Water Street

11 Water Street

Personality Plus Waitress at 11 Water Street

Miss Personality… our waitress at 11 Water Street