By John Hirtle, Beach News Staff
Beach News, Thursday, July 28, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of Beach News]
[Beach News photo by John Hirtle, taken from the "Hood" airship in 2001.]
If you’re seeking for the oldest spot in New Hampshire, try Odiorne Point on Route 1A in Rye New Hampshire. For this was the site of the first recorded European settlement in New Hampshire. In 1623 Pannaway Manor, the first European settlement in New Hampshire was established on Odiorne Point as a base camp for trading with local Native Americans, and to explore the uncharted interior. A few of the first industries -- drying fish and making salt -- were practiced here, and without relief supplies of fish sent from Pannaway to Plymouth, there might have been an unhappy ending to the Pilgrim’s story.
Eventually Pannaway was abandoned. Little Harbor, which edges Odiorne Point, was too small, and shallow, and a far better anchorage was found further up the Piscataqua at Strawbery Banke - now known as Portsmouth.
For the next few centuries anything left of Pannaway fell into disrepair and was plowed under as the area became used for farmland. The most exciting thing that might have happened to the spot for the better part of two centuries might have been the occasional smuggler using the back channels of Little Harbor to avoid the taxes imposed by the customs officers guarding Portsmouth Harbor.
In the early 20th century, the farmland was sold, and seven homes were built on the flat seacoast landscape. This was a short-lived period of change as the winds of war all but swept those houses away. All that is left are a few stone walls to attest to the resort homes - and the sole survivor, which is now part of the Seacoast Science Center.
The occupants were evicted quite swiftly in 1942 by the U.S. Army which decided to build Fort Dearborn, the last of the forts constructed to defend Portsmouth Harbor and its vital navy yard.
Three artificial hills were mounded up to protect the gun emplacements of the fort. The largest hid two 16 inch guns, which were test fired just before the end of the World War Two.
The lessons of that war resulted in the end of the coastal fortifications which had defended America’s shores. A determined invader could easily bypass static fortifications. Odiorne point, and the 137 acres of land attached to it was given to the state of New Hampshire in the 1950’s, and became Odiorne Point State Park, and eventually, the Seacoast Science Center.
There are two entrances to the park to use. The Seacoast Science Center is easily accessible from the southern entrance of Odiorne Point State Park. The recently refurbished facility includes exhibits on the local ecosystems, live aquarium exhibits a tidepool touch tank, fishing and aquaculture. Local history exhibits highlight the first settlers at Odiorne Point, the Squalus submarine rescue, and a section of hull from the Lizzie Carr, a tall ship that sank off Concord Point in Rye. The center offers ongoing programs for children and adults, concerts, and walking tours of the park.
The Science Center is open 10-5. Admission. (603) 436-8043. Odiorne Point State Park itself offers 137 acres of park and marshlands.
The South Entrance also offers easy access a playground, picnic facilities, and rest rooms. Overgrown walls and gun mount foundations can be viewed from the many trails that go into the thickly forested park. One bunker, hidden from view by its hilly camouflage is easily viewed from the parking lot.
The largest bunkers for two 16 inch coastal artillery pieces are located deep inside the park.
The North Entrance has a small boat launch and has a trail leading to the sandy beach on Little Harbor. Limited restroom facilities.There is no overnight camping available at this park. The park is open 8 a.m. to dusk. Admission is charged. (603) 436-7406
Ocean Wok, a great place to eat at the beach.
O'Donnell's Imports, which has something for everyone.