World Class Skaters to Perform at New Ice Rink in Portsmouth, NH

One of New England’s most visited historic attractions, Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth New Hampshire will soon be hosting world class ice skaters at their new outdoor seasonal ice skating rink on the museum grounds.

Concept of Puddle Dock Pond rink in Portsmouth, NH -Courtesy Photo

Joining them will be members of the public when the new rink opens around December 1st. According to a news release from Strawbery Banke, the rink will be professionally maintained.

“The nonprofit community skating venue will be open seven days a week from December through February. There will be public skating, including free community skating, skate rentals, lessons, pickup pond hockey, special events and private rink rentals.  Puddle Dock Pond is the size of a traditional rink, with a unique shape featuring an area where skaters can warm up next to a wood fire and grab a cocoa and something to eat at the White Apron Cafe inside the Visitors Center.  Spectators can view the action from a heated outdoor deck.  The ice surface will be professionally maintained.  The facility will be a temporary structure that is open for three months and then removed.”

Groundbreaking at Puddle Dock Pond Rink – Roger Wood Photo

 

I spoke to Lawrence Yerdon, President and CEO of Strawbery Banke at a recent groundbreaking ceremony, held to celebrate the successful fundraising drive that netted some $487 thousand dollars. That figure surpassed the original goal of $462 thousand dollars the committee decided on.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Jeff Keefe, who co-chaired the rink committee, spoke of the years it took to bring it to fruition.  He also introduced Doug Webster, who talked about the world class skaters he will bring to the facility for performances and skating activities with children.  You can listen to highlights of the ceremony with Keefe and Webster by clicking on the podcast arrow just below or the download link, depending on your device.

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Among the challenges faced by the group was the overcoming of some local opposition of nearby residents in the city’s Sound End.  They expressed concerns over the potential of noise and traffic in the neighborhood.  Ultimately, their concerns were answered, and city boards approved the project, expected to open for this skating season.  The website for the museum is www.strawberybanke.org.


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Iconic Restaurant Sign Restoration Nearing Completion

So many historic signs have deteriorated beyond restoration along the nation’s highways that it’s rare to see one brought back to its original condition.  But that is the case with the well known Yoken’s Restaurant Sign that used to beckon visitors and locals to the sprawling eatery along Route One in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Yoken’s Restaurant Sign in its original condition – Courtesy Photo

For generations, families would journey for miles just to eat there.  Rotary club luncheons, weddings, conventions and other functions took place in their flexible meeting rooms.  That all ended when the owners demolished the building and sold the land.  But the famous Yoken’s, Thar She Blows Sign stood for years, growing older and more decrepit while the lot behind stood empty.  Finally, a group of developers, the 4 Amigos, spearheaded construction of a Rite-Aid Pharmacy, a bank, the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, and a Five Guys Hamburger restaurant.  They call the site Yoken’s Common, and made a decision to commission a restoration of the historic sign.  The group chose Portsmouth Sign Company, now based in a new building in nearby Newington, New Hampshire, to do the work.

Partially Restored Yoken’s Restaurant Sign at Portsmouth Sign Company – Courtesy Photo

As you will see from the short video introduction and hear from the podcast/radio feature, the process has been intense for the crew of the company.  Chip Lawry is project manager, and has been with the company for 11 years.

We talked more about the sign restoration and plans for locating it in the audio podcast which you can hear by clicking on the podcast arrow below or download link depending on your device.

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Chip Lawry says that he’s had many inquiries about the sign including one person who collects information about historic signs that have either disappeared or have undergone restoration.  His company’s website is www.portsmouthsign.com

 

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Last Chance for Historic Lighthouse Tour this Year

Today, Columbus Day, is the last time that Friends of the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses will open the door of the historic lighthouse in New Castle to the public this year.  The hours will be from 1 to 5 pm, and the location is adjacent to the Portsmouth Harbor Coast Guard Station.  Here’s an earlier  interview with Jeremy D’Entremont of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses.  He talks about the haunting of one of the lighthouses.

Jerry D’Entremont – Roger Wood photo

You can listen by clicking on the arrow or download link.

Listen to podcast:

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For more information about the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, visit
portsmouthharborlighthouse.org.

 

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Oldest Navy Yard in the Nation the Subject of a Multi-Million Dollar Waterfront Study

From Sails to Atoms…That’s how the insignia reads on the the logo of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard – Courtesy Photo

It was built on Seavey’s Island in Kittery, Maine just after the American Revolution when the Founding Fathers realized that the new nation needed a navy.   Now, 214 years later, the Defense Department has come to the conclusion that the waterfront facilities, including the piers, wharves, quaywalls, bulkheads, crane rail systems, fender systems, berthing and mooring systems along with the drydocks need to be inspected and redesigned.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard – Courtesy Photo

The goal is to make the yard ready for a new larger class of submarines, the Virginia Class subs to be overhauled and refitted there.  Just a little over a mile away, a Portsmouth firm, Appledore Marine Engineering LLCwill bring its expertise to the job, inking a $10 million dollar contract with the Navy.  Noah Elwood is President of the company.

I spoke to Noah Elwood extensively about the long-term project with the Navy and other projects that Appledore Marine Engineering has been involved with.  You can hear the interview by clicking on the podcast arrow below or download link depending on your device.

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In a news release, the company pointed out that the $10 million dollar engineering contract was the result of a competitive process, through which the Department of Defense chose the firm from a field of qualified engineering companies.  ”As a leader in the field of waterfront engineering, Appledore completes projects throughout the U.S. and its territories; it also mobilizes to the far reaches of the globe for the U.S. Navy, providing engineering services for remote facilities including Thule Greenland, Okinawa Japan and the Wake Islands.”

 

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Columbus Day Weekend Means a Leaf Peepers Bonanaza

Peak fall foliage colors, especially in Northern New England, are expected to attract a record number of tourists this holiday weekend.  My podcast with Amy Bassett of the NH Division of Travel and Tourism Development is available by clicking on the arrow or download link, depending on your device.

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Autumn Sugar Maples – Courtesy photo

According to the Institute for New Hampshire Studies, up to 645 thousand people spending some $95 million dollars will descend on the state under perfect early fall weather.  The State’s Division of Travel and Tourism Development says that that the fall foliage season is the third busiest of the year, attracting visitors from neighboring states, Canada, even Europe.

“As Columbus Day weekend approaches, our travel and tourism industry continues to grow, creating jobs, expanding middle class opportunity and keeping our economy moving in the right direction,” Governor Maggie Hassan said. “The Granite State has so much to offer those who visit – including our breathtaking natural beauty, cultural and historic landmarks and tax-free shopping – and I am excited to welcome the hundreds of thousands out-of-state visitors to New Hampshire for Columbus Day weekend.

Fall in the Lakes Region – Courtesy Photo

A web site for information on all the opportunities for recreation in the state with special foliage reports for the fall foliage season is available on the web site visitnh.gov.  I spoke to Amy Bassett, Acting Director of the Division of Tourism and Travel Development.  Again, you can hear the interview by clicking on the podcast arrow above or download link below depending on your device.

Here’s a foliage map from Yankee to help you plan your leaf peeping trip


 

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Pulpit Rock Tower a Living Military Treasure

It was built in 1943 at a cost of some $18 thousand dollars, with the mission of keeping watch over the North Atlantic Ocean for enemy warships that could threaten the U.S. Coast.

Pulpit Rock Tower in Rye, NH – Roger Wood Photo

None were ever spotted, and a new enemy emerged for the tower, one of the last standing on the coast….deterioration.

The property, just off Route 1A in Rye New Hampshire, became a dumping ground for bottles, tires, even an old auto engine.

But a dedicated group from the area, assisted by boy scouts, cleaned up the environment around the historic eight story high tower, and began to restore it, inside and out. So far, the group has spent some $50 thousand dollars restoring the building inside and out.  And more needs to be done, including repairs on the outside concrete walls.

View from the Pulpit Rock Tower – Steve Tobin photo

But, as you will see from the video introduction, and audio podcast, along with pictures, the tower stands strong, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  A podcast/radio interview follows a short video introduction.  You can click on the podcast play arrow or download link to hear the interview depending on your device.

Steve Tobin is the Treasurer of Friends of Pulpit Rock Tower.

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Pulpit Rock – Courtesy Photo

Pulpit Rock Tower has been selected by the New Hampshire Preservation Society as one of the 2010 “Seven to Save,” a select list of endangered properties in the state.  The next open house scheduled by the organization is November 8th.  Access is off Route 1A at Neptune Drive.  Their website is www.friends of pulpitrocktower.org.

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Inflatable Fin Whale to Key Educational Marine Efforts for Marine Group

He’s “Ladder,” the inflatable fin whale, and the latest acquisition of the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Ladder the inflatable whale on display – Roger Wood photo

The real Ladder – Courtesy photo

The 65 foot inflatable model exhibits many of the real exterior and interior anatomical features of the real “Ladder,” the whale that the non-profit group has been studying since 1996 off the New Hampshire Coast.  Jen Kennedy, a marine biologist and executive director of the society, was at a public unveiling of the new inflatable, and I spoke to her before producing a short podcast, which follows.

You can listen to my interview with Jen Kennedy by clicking on the podcast arrow below or download link depending on your device.

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The inflatable Ladder is available for indoor and outdoor programs at schools, libraries, scout meetings and other events.  The acquisition was funded by the Alex Shulman Environmental Fund, Community Fund for Environment and Berounsky Family Fund, both of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation;  Dorr Foundation; Donors to Blue Ocean Society’s Moosejaw x Crowdwise Challenge Spring 2014.  The website is www.blueoceansociety.org

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New Maine to New Hampshire Bridge to cost over $138 million dollars

Cinabro Construction of Pittsfield Maine will be the prime contractor for a new bridge to be built between Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Kittery Maine.  And, according to both states’ Departments of Transportation, construction on the new span could begin as early as this December.

Present Sarah Long Bridge between New Hampshire and Maine – Roger Wood Photo

The cost….$158.5 million dollars.  MaineDOT says that the bridge, sandwiched between the I95 bridge and the newly rebuilt Memorial Bridge on Route 1, serves as the second most significant bridge for the state, serving as a backup for traffic on I95.  New Hampshire DOT officials say that the construction price is tentative, and the actual finished cost could be higher.  I spoke to NH Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Boynton about the project in a podcast you can hear by clicking on the arrow below or download link depending on your device.

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The new bridge was designed with long open spans using eleven fewer piers than the existing bridge.

Sarah Long Bridge Approach from NH – Roger Wood photo

In addition, faster and fewer openings of the bridge due to its increased height for marine traffic means there is less disruption to the traveling public. There is a state of the art vessel collision system to reduce damage if ships strike the piers as well as a mechanical system driving the towers that reduces long term maintenance needs.

In early September, a $25 million TIGER Grant (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) was awarded to both states to fund the rail portion of the bridge that will serve as the key component to moving nuclear material out of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Construction of the new Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is slated for late 2014 with the new bridge expected to open to motorists in August of 2017.

 

 

 

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Public Servant Inheritance Gets Controversial

He’s been in the State Senate, served for years on the Portsmouth, New Hampshire City Council, and, after a long hiatus, won the job of Assistant Mayor in his native city.  He’s also a lightning rod in a continuing controversy over an inheritance bequeathed to a police officer.

Portsmouth Police Department Headquarters

A short video introduction and podcast follow.

I interviewed Jim Splaine in front of City Hall, where he sits in Council Chambers, sometimes at meetings that last beyond midnight. You can listen by clicking the arrow below or the download link, depending on your device.

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The 3 member Portsmouth Police Commission has taken a stand against a mediation of the dispute which would have given the officer, Sgt. Aaron Goodwin over $400 thousand dollars.

Portsmouth City Hall and Municipal offices

Originally, the deceased woman’s estate awarded the officer nearly $2 million dollars plus her house and car.  The issue will now go to probate court, where the outcome is uncertain.

 

 

 

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USS Submarine Albacore Honored by Visit from Charles Momsen Granddaughter

It was 1939 when the USS Squalus submarine sank off Portsmouth New Hampshire.  Many of the crew died when part of the vessel was flooded.

USS Squalus Memorial Plaque-Roger Wood Photo

But a newly invented diving bell, never tested, rescued 33 of them.  Charles Momsen, who also invented the Momsen Escape Lung, brought his newest invention, the diving rescue bell to the scene of the sinking.

Momsen Rescue diving bell replica – Roger Wood photo

And,  despite a snag at the end of the incident, saved many lives.  He also developed the “Teardrop” design for submarines, which increased their underwater speed.  One of the subs was the USS Albacore, which set a world speed record for diesel submarines and still figures in the design of modern nuclear underwater vessels.  Helen Momsen, his granddaughter was on hand for the annual Submarine History Day event at Albacore Park in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

 

John Maier, Executive Director of the Portsmouth Submarine Memorial Association, oversees the operation of the sub, now on dry land, along with its adjacent education center and gift shop.

USS Albacore at Portsmouth, NH – Roger Wood photo

I was on hand in 1985, when the submarine was brought up the Piscataqua River, and floated in, to eventually land at its present location.  I spoke to Maier about that occasion and the Albacore Museum in this podcast below.  You can listen to the interview by clicking on the arrow, or the download link below, depending on your device.

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The Albacore is open for public tours for a modest admission charge.  Their phone number for information is 603-436-3680.

 

 

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