Odiorne Point State Park is a beautiful park tucked into the seacoast of New Hampshire. Many people come here to picnic or to explore the tide pools at the waters edge. There are many reasons Odiorne is a paradise by the sea. Yet there is also so much more to discover here. Odiorne Point has many layers of history. This was the summer home of Native Americans. It also became the home of colonists, tourists and military personnel in World War Two. Whether you’re walking through the remnants of Fort Dearborn or learning about our Colonial past, Odiorne Point is a great place to live history.
The landscape of Odiorne Point is very diverse. It has beautiful sweeping tracts of oceans, and intimate tiny harbors. I admired the shoreline as I made my deliberate way along. On a clear day you can look out over the water and see out to the Isle of Shoals. The first people to inhabit Odiorne Point were the Abenaki and the Penacook. These tribes came to know this place as Pannaway. They came to take advantage of the plentiful resources in the area. During their stay, they took time to fish the plentiful waters off the coast. They would also comb the beaches for Mussels and Clams. They lived off the land in a very simple, yet sustainable way. As I walked the shoreline, I wondered what Odiorne had looked like when they had been here. Back when it was an unsettled stretch of land, it must have been very different from today.
Walking down the paths that skirted the beach, I came upon a granite marker. The sun glinted off the meticulously polished granite. As I studied it I noticed the dates and the words inscribed on it. The lone marker commemorated the landing of the first English settlers in New Hampshire. In 1623 Englishmen came here to fish and trade with the natives. Later, in 1660 John Odiorne joined the settlement that would later bear his name. He bought land and made his living on the point. The family continued to live here, generation after generation until World War II. Many families came here and made a living against this harsh landscape. This beautiful place holds an important place in our state’s history. I came here so many times during my childhood. Yet only in the last few years have I begun to realize Odiornes historical significance. Every visit my appreciation for its importance grows.
The ocean dominates the landscape of Odiorne Point. Much of the history that surrounds the point includes the ocean. Those that settled here depended on fishing and trading, and Odiorne was situated perfectly for both of these occupations. The colony thrived, and created a base for further exploration of this area. In the 1700’s the settlement was booming and the area was growing as well. The establishment of Portsmouth would not have been possible, had Odiorne not thrived. Also Odiorne Point supported Portsmouth as it grew. Portsmouth would later go on to become a sizable port. To this day, Portsmouth Harbor has significance within the region. The growth of New Hampshire would not have been possible without that first successful settlement at Odiorne.
After the Civil War, Odiorne became home to many summer visitors. In its heyday the property was home to dozens of cottages. Affluent families from all over came to Odiorne to enjoy the summer. Even to this day, there are reminders of the rich history. The Seacoast Science Center was built around what had been a summer cottage. Stand in the right place, and you can still see part of the buildings stone and mortar structure. All over the park there are subtle signs of the history. Near the parking lot, a wide lawn spreads out beyond the trees. It is surrounded by a meticulously built stone wall. Stonewalls crisscross the entire property. There are posts that mark things that are gone, and staircases that lead to nowhere. As I made my way towards Battery Seaman the trail opened up. It flattened out and on either side, large trees had been planted. In the middle of the woods, the trail had turned into a forgotten country lane. At Odiorne, the forgotten moments of the past surround you.
Later on in the day, I parted from the sea following the trails into the woods. Minutes later, I came upon the large underground bunkers. During World War II, The property was turned into a military base. The Bunkers that make up Battery Seaman once housed the two 16” guns. In 1942 the federal government bought all of the property and transformed the point into a major coastal defense. The grand summer homes were replaced by bunkers and gun batteries. The idyllic place of summer homes became the main defense for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Thankfully, the war never came this far, and the huge guns were never fired. Yet the face of the property was changed forever. Even to this day there are signs in all corners of the park that point to its military past. When you come into the park, you are greeted by Battery 204. Near the beach there are old mortar rings where gun placements used to sit. Further back the bunkers of Battery Seaman sit buried. Everywhere at Odiorne you are given the opportunity to walk among this past.
Odiorne Point is unique because it is the home to hundreds of years of colorful history. From the summers when the Abenaki fished these shores, to the Bunkers on the point, Odiorne is home to a wide spectrum of history. The amazing thing is it all comes together perfectly. They coexist side by side, creating a beautiful mosaic. Together these intersecting reminders serve as sentinels to the rich history of New Hampshire. Odiorne is a great place to get outside and discover an integral part of our history.
Click Here to view the trail map that shows where some of these historic site are within the park.