Written By: Dan O'Neill, Former Town Manager
"The Sunshine Town", Newport, NH, is a small friendly town nestled in the hills of western New Hampshire, in the scenic upper Connecticut River Valley. It is conveniently located between Interstates 89 and 91. A rural community, populated of approximately 6,500 citizens, the town is managed by a five member Board of Selectmen and a Town Manager, and is the location of the County Seat of Sullivan County. Newport’s citizens are employed in a variety of manufacturing, professional and commercial businesses within a 40 mile radius of the town. Newport’s largest employer is Sturm Ruger & Co., a manufacturing concern with branches in Southport, CT and Prescott, AZ.
In this historic part of New England, skilled labor proudly brings its Yankee ingenuity and hard work ethic to the job each day. We have access to a highly-developed educational system that includes several colleges, an Ivy League college and its business, engineering and medical graduate schools, a state technical college, two new regional vocational technical schools; affordable energy, modern telecommunications and utilities; a pro-business state government; and no state income or sales tax. Hanover’s Dartmouth College, also a significant cultural center, is just a 30 minute drive from Newport.
Success in business requires access to many key resources; skilled, affordable labor; intellectual capital to utilize and create new technologies; financial capital to grow; transportation and easy access to national and international markets; affordable and available housing; and communities that value and support business partners. Today, success may also include finding a personal balance between providing a better quality of life and balancing the increasing demands of business.
The Newport community has retained the best of its Yankee heritage — its rural New England charm, small villages, rugged independence — and combined it with the finest recreational opportunities, offering an unparalleled lifestyle. Located in the heart of a four-season-recreational area, opportunities for skiing, skating, golfing, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, biking, hunting, jogging, and horse-back riding abound. The ski areas of Mt. Sunapee, Whaleback Mountain, and Vermont’s Mt. Ascutney are all close by. Lake Sunapee also provides opportunities to enjoy water-related activities. Among its numerous parks is Newport’s Town Common, one of the largest in the State, providing space for many year-round activities and events. Throughout the summer, Farmers’ Markets are held on Fridays, flea markets and crafts fairs on Saturdays, and each Sunday evening the village green fills with people listening to outdoor concerts played on its New England bandstand. In the Winter, the Town Common has been a popular place to ice skate for the better part of this century.
A Town-owned outdoor recreational complex consists of a track, baseball and softball fields, soccer fields, basketball court, tennis courts, ski jumps, ice rinks and parks. In Autumn, the foliage season provides spectacular views, which can be enjoyed at Corbin Covered Bridge over the north branch of the Sugar River or with a walk through the Town Forest trail system. At the beginning of each year, Newport celebrates the winter season by holding a Winter Carnival, dating back to 1916, the oldest town winter carnival in the country.
The Town of Newport, incorporated in 1761, recognizes it must continually address infrastructure needs, and continually updates its sewage treatment plant and a drinking water filtration plant. The Town also has an aggressive program to build and repair its roads and bridges.
Newport has a local economic development organization. The Economic Corporation of Newport (ECON) works hand in hand with businesses and the town to promote the economic stability of our region, increasing employment opportunities, and improving the standard of living for local citizens and enhancing our community’s environment.
In recent years, Newport has also undertaken a number of programs to improve the quality of life in town by renovating and expanding its school, recreation, and town library facilities. Richards Free Library annually presents the prestigious Sarah Josepha Hale Medal to a New England author. The award was established in 1956 in honor of Sarah Joseph Hale, author of the children’s poem, Mary Had A Little Lamb, and instrumental in promoting Thanksgiving as a National holiday, she was born in Newport in 1788.
Newport has capitalized on other historical aspects of the town. Three covered bridges are located in Newport, one recently reconstructed, and two of the eight remaining railroad covered bridges in the country. The town’s historic district in the village center contains many buildings which have been maintained to keep their original appearance. The Opera House/Town Hall, built in 1886 in the center of town, continues to be the meeting place for our Annual Town Meeting. Although the town’s Revere Bell no longer tolls the start of town meeting or announces fires, the bell, one of three Revere Bells located in Newport, is on display in front of the Opera House. In the lobby at Lake Sunapee Bank is the town-owned fire apparatus, Dexter, one of the two oldest (1815) Hunneman hand pumpers in existence, used in the early 1800's in Newport. Its recent grand restoration was undertaken through the initiative of the Newport community.
Recently, Newport’s Town Hall Clock tower received a rehabilitation. The Town further invested in itself by revitalizing Main Street. This project includes replacing concrete sidewalks with brick, vintage lighting to replicate existing original lighting in front of the Opera House, and plantings of both flowers and trees. Main Street property owners not only enthusiastically support this renovation investing their private capital, there is also much support from citizens interested in preserving and restoring Newport’s historic Main Street, both in the interest of heritage tourism and economic development.
Newport is unique because of its relative position to the many recreational, cultural and education resources located in the upper Connecticut River Valley and because it is a microcosm of many New England post Industrial towns. While it is a small town, it has lots to offer. It is a community which has been recognized over and over again for its community spirit, support of the arts, and historic preservation. Newport was chosen over all New England towns and cities to host the New England Artists Trust Congress. Two of the many exciting exhibits were the Machine Tool Exhibit, celebrating the heritage that built the American machine tool industry, and the Maxfield Parish exhibit, celebrating the rich cultural heritage of our area.
Newport is fortunate to also have it’s own community television station. NCTV/10 covers local meetings and town events. It also has a up to the minute community bulletin board. The Newport community has continued to grow while protecting its traditional values and lifestyle, and it remains a very affordable area within which to work, locate a business, raise a family, and enjoy the intrinsic rewards of the outdoors right at our back door.