Keene, New Hampshire: Wikis


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City of Keene
—  City  —

Nickname(s): Elm City
Location in Cheshire County, New Hampshire
Coordinates: 42°56′01″N 72°16′41″W / 42.93361°N 72.27806°W / 42.93361; -72.27806Coordinates: 42°56′01″N 72°16′41″W / 42.93361°N 72.27806°W / 42.93361; -72.27806
Country United States
State New Hampshire
County Cheshire
Settled 1736
Incorporated 1753 (town)
Incorporated 1874 (city)
 - Mayor Philip Dale Pregent
 - City Council Charles H. Redfern
Arnold H. Bailey
Pamela Russell Slack
Paula-Ayn Phillips
David C. Richards
Nathaniel M. Stout
Kendall W. Lane
Philip M. Jones
Cynthia Georgina
Joseph W. Bendzinski
Ruth R. Venezia
James Duffy
Margaret A. Lynch
Mitchell H. Greenwald
Kris E. Roberts
 - Total 37.6 sq mi (97.3 km2)
 - Land 37.3 sq mi (96.6 km2)
 - Water 0.2 sq mi (0.6 km2)  0.67%
Elevation 486 ft (148 m)
Population (2007)
 - Total 22,893
 Density 613.8/sq mi (237.0/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 03431, 03435
Area code(s) 603
FIPS code 33-39300
GNIS feature ID 0867823
*Year Settled is from the following page

Keene is a city in Cheshire County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 22,955 at the 2000 census. The estimated population was 22,834 in 2007, according to the State Data Center.[1] It is the county seat of Cheshire County.[2]

Keene is home to Keene State College and Antioch University New England, and hosts the annual Pumpkin Fest.



The community was granted as Upper Ashuelot in 1735 by Colonial Governor Jonathan Belcher to soldiers who had fought in the war against Canada. Settled after 1736, it was intended to be a fort town protecting the Province of Massachusetts Bay during the French and Indian Wars. When New Hampshire separated from Massachusetts in 1741, the border between the two shifted south, and Upper Ashuelot became part of New Hampshire.

During King George's War, the village was attacked and burned by Indians. Colonists fled to safety, but would return to rebuild in the early 1750s. It was regranted to its inhabitants in 1753 by Governor Benning Wentworth, who renamed it Keene after Sir Benjamin Keene, English minister to Spain and a West Indies trader. Located at the center of Cheshire County, it became county seat in 1769. Land was set off for Sullivan and Roxbury, although Keene would annex 154 acres (0.62 km2) from Swanzey (formerly Lower Ashuelot).

Boston and Maine railroad yard in Keene, circa 1916

Timothy Dwight, the Yale president who chronicled his travels, called the town " of the prettiest in New England." Situated on an ancient lake bed surrounded by hills, the valley with fertile meadows was excellent for farming. The Ashuelot River provided water power for sawmills, gristmills and tanneries. After the railroad arrived in 1848, numerous other industries were established. Keene became a manufacturing center for wooden-ware, pails, chairs, sash, shutters, doors, pottery, glass, soap, woolen textiles, shoes, saddles, mowing machines, carriages and sleighs. It also had a brickyard and foundry. Keene was incorporated as a city in 1874, and by 1880 had a population of 6,784.

New England manufacturing declined in the 20th century, however, particularly during the Great Depression. Keene is today a center for insurance, education and tourism. The city nevertheless retains a considerable inventory of fine Victorian architecture from its flush mill town era. An example is the Keene Public Library, which occupies a Second Empire mansion built about 1869 by manufacturer Henry Colony.

Notable inhabitants


Keene is located at 42°56′01″N 72°16′41″W / 42.93361°N 72.27806°W / 42.93361; -72.27806 (42.9339, -72.2784).[3]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 37.6 square miles (97.4 km2). 37.3 sq mi (96.6 km2) of it is land and 0.2 sq mi (0.5 km2) of it is water, comprising 0.67% of the town. Keene is drained by the Ashuelot River. The highest point in Keene is the summit of Grays Hill in the city's northwest corner, at 1,388 feet (423 m) above sea level. Keene is entirely within the Connecticut River watershed, with all of the city except for the northwest corner draining to the Connecticut via the Ashuelot River.[4]


Keene is located in a temperate climate zone. It experiences all four seasons quite distinctly. The summers can get very hot. The average high temperature in July is 82, and the record high for Keene is 102. As with other cities in the eastern U.S., periods of high humidity can raise heat indices to near 110. During the summer, Keene can get hit by thunderstorms from the west, but the Green Mountains to the west often break up some of the storms, so that Keene doesn't usually experience a thunderstorm at full strength. The last time a tornado hit Cheshire County was in 1997.

The winters in Keene can be very harsh. The most recent such winter was 2002-2003, when Keene received 112.5" of snow. The majority of the snowfall in Keene comes from nor'easters, areas of low pressure that move up the Atlantic coast and strengthen. Many times these storms can produce blizzard conditions across southern New England. Recent examples are the blizzard of 2005 and the blizzard of 2006. Keene is situated in an area where cold air meets the moisture from the south, so oftentimes Keene gets the jackpot with winter storms. Aside from snow, winters can be very cold. Even in the warmest of winters, Keene usually has at least one night below zero. During January 2004, Keene saw highs below freezing 25 of the days including five days in the single digits and one day with a high of zero. Overnight lows dropped below zero 12 times, including 7 nights below -10. The record low in Keene is -31. In addition to the cold temperatures, Keene can receive biting winds that drive the wind chill down below -30.

Snow can continue to occur right through the end of April, but on the other end, 80-degree days can begin in late March. Autumn weather is similar. Keene's first snowfall usually occurs in early November, though the city can also see 60-degree days into mid November. Significant rain events can occur in the spring and fall. For example, record rainfall and flooding with the axis of heaviest rain (around 12") near Keene occurred in October 2005. Another significant flood event occurred in May of the following year.

Climate chart

Climate data for Keene, NH
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 32.2
Average low °F (°C) 9.9
Source: [5] 2008-07-17


Freight Yards in 1907

As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 22,955 people, 9,013 households, and 5,118 families residing in the city. The population density was 611.2 people per square mile (233.5/km²). There were 9,295 housing units at an average density of 249.2/sq mi (96.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.66% White, 0.39% African American, 0.20% Native American, 0.68% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.22% from other races, and 0.82% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.76% of the population.

There were 9,013 households out of which 26.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.8% were married couples living together, 9.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.2% were non-families. 31.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.86.

Stone Arch Bridge c. 1906

In the city the population was spread out with 19.6% under the age of 18, 18.9% from 18 to 24, 24.7% from 25 to 44, 21.6% from 45 to 64, and 15.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 88.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,033, and the median income for a family was $49,935. Males had a median income of $32,720 versus $25,488 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,544. About 5.2% of families and 10.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.7% of those under age 18 and 5.6% of those age 65 or over.


Several media sources are located in Keene. These include:



The city has several radio stations, including some which are licensed by the FCC to nearby towns but based in Keene. The stations are:

  • WKNE 103.7 (Hot Adult Contemporary, 1037 KNE FM)
  • WSNI 97.7 (Adult Contemporary, Sunny 97). WSNI changed its city of license from Swanzey to Keene in September 2009.[7]
  • WEVN 90.7, operated by New Hampshire Public Radio
  • WKNH 91.3, operated by Keene State College
  • WKHP-LP, 94.9, the newest station in Keene, a low power FM operated by the Keene FourSquare church
Syndicated programming
  • Free Talk Live, nationally syndicated radio talk show based in Keene with over 65 broadcast affiliates


  • Cheshire TV, located on Winter Street, providing local area programming to cable users



Public Library c. 1920

Keene is often considered a minor college town as it is the site of Keene State College, whose 6,400 students make up over 1/4 of the city's population, and Antioch University New England. Keene also hosts a branch of the New Hampshire Community Technical Colleges and a satellite campus of Franklin Pierce College.

At the secondary level, Keene serves as the educational nexus of the area, due in large part to its status as the primate city of Cheshire County. Keene High School is the largest regional High School in Cheshire County, serving about 1,850 students.

Keene has one middle school, Keene Middle School, and five elementary schools: Jonathan Daniels Elementary School, Fuller Elementary School, Franklin Elementary School, Symonds Elementary School, Wheelock Elementary School. The town also is the host of one juvenile corrections school, the TNT School.

Keene is part of New Hampshire's School Administrative Unit 29, or SAU 29.



Keene has over 20 churches and one synagogue. A significant landmark in downtown Keene is the United Church of Christ at Central Square, colloquially known in town as the "White Church" or the "Church at the Head of the Square". A second church on the square is Grace United Methodist Church, also known as the "Brick Church".

Keene has two Roman Catholic churches, St. Bernard's (which is the Parish seat for several churches in Cheshire County) and St. Margaret Mary's. Keene is within the see of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester. Keene has one Episcopal church, St. James, which is within the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. Keene also has one Greek Orthodox church, St. George's under the see of the Metropolis of Boston.

The town's synagogue is the Congregation Ahavas Achim.


Pumpkin Festival
A few of the tens of thousands of pumpkins on display at the 2000 Keene Pumpkin Festival

Every October, Keene hosts an annual Pumpkin Festival. This event has set world records for the largest simultaneous number of jack-o'-lanterns on display several times [1], and the tally from the 2003 festival stood as the record until Boston took the lead in 2006. Guinness [2]. Besides the pumpkins stacked on massive towers set in the streets (see photo at right), thousands of additional pumpkins line the streets of the city. Face painting, fireworks, music, and other entertainments are also provided. Over 80,000 people from around the world attend this event annually.[citation needed]

Keene Music Festival

In late August or early September the city hosts the Keene Music Festival. Several stages are located throughout the downtown area during the day's events, which are free to the public and sponsored by locally-owned businesses. Visitors, mostly from the local community, roam the city's sidewalks listening to the dozens of bands.

Keene in the movies

  • Much of the 1995 movie Jumanji, starring Robin Williams, was filmed in Keene (in November 1994) - the movie's fictional town of Brantford. Frank's Barber Shop is a featured setting; as well as The Parish Shoe sign, which was temporarily painted for the film, was removed and then repainted as a reminder of the film.
  • Because Keene State offers a B.A. in Film Studies, Keene is also the location of many student films. A student film festival is usually hosted in the Mabel Brown Room in the Student Center at the end of each school year.

Music and theatre

Many community groups perform on a regular basis, including the Keene Chamber Orchestra, the Keene Chamber Singers, the Keene Pops Choir, and the Keene Jazz Orchestra.

The Cheshiremen Chorus, a local chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, meet every Tuesday at 7pm at the United Church of Christ on Central Square.

Every year, the Keene branch of the Lions Clubs International performs a Broadway musical at the Colonial Theatre (a restored theatre dating back to 1924), to raise money for the community. Other theatres and auditoriums include the new Keene High School Auditorium and the county's largest auditorium, the Larracey Auditorium at Keene Middle School. Keene Cinemas is the local movie theater located off of Key Road. The Putnam Arts Lecture Hall located on the campus of Keene State is also an excellent place to see films ranging from mainstream movies to brilliant obscure films.


Keene is home to the Keene Swamp Bats baseball team of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL). The Swamp Bats play at Alumni Field in Keene during June and July of each summer. The Swamp Bats are two-time league champions (2000, 2003) and are consistently near the top of the NECBL in attendance, having led the league in 2002, 2004, and 2005.

Sister city


External links

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