About Wilton Road

Wilton Road (Route 101) is Peterborough's connection to:
- neighboring towns to the east and west
- the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce
- our local gas stations

Geographical Context

The Contoocook River, which defined the location of the village, flows south to north through the middle of the town, about a mile west of due center. In addition to the “Great Bridge” (later Smith’s Bridge) there were early bridges over the Contoocook at South and North Peterborough. The river was also dammed for industry in all three locations. On the south edge of Peterborough downtown, the original “Morison Bridge” was built in the early 1800s on the newly created through-road from

Wilton to Dublin (now NH 101) (Searle ca. 1805; Searle 1891). The historic bridge was replaced by the present NH 101 Bridge in 1958-59. [page 4]

In the twentieth century, Peterborough was strongly influenced by the highways that passed through it. NH 101 and US 202 intersected initially on Main Street in the downtown, and bypassed the center on the south from 1959. NH Route 101 has been the principal east-west state highway across the southern part of the New Hampshire between Keene and the Seacoast since trunk lines were created in the early 1900s. Up to the 1950s, Route 101 followed Wilton Road and Granite Street, crossed the bridge on Main Street, continuing west up Main and Union streets, through West Peterborough and then to the Old Dublin Road. The present Route 101 bridge over the Contoocook and the adjoining sections of Wilton and Dublin Roads were rebuilt in 1958-59, creating a bypass around the south edge of the village. Now access to the downtown from 101 is via Grove Street or Granite Street. [pages 4-5]

NH Route 101 defines the southern edge of the Peterborough Downtown Historic District. The present highway dates from 1958-59 when Wilton Road was widened, a new bridge built over the Contoocook and Dublin Road built to the west. Wilton Road and Old Dublin Road had long formed a key east-west route through town. The early winding route was straightened by construction of a section of Wilton Road between Pine Street and Street Road at Wilson’s Corner in 1811. The road east of Street Road dates from 1841 when it replaced the Bass Road route (Sanderson 2000:42). East-west travel was facilitated by a bridge south of the original Great Bridge built in the early 1800s, known as the Morison Bridge. The road (now Wilton Road) west of Pine Street over the bridge to the Grove Street intersection was called Bridge Street. The crossing was not exactly where the NH Route 101 bridge is now. The alignment was shifted in the 1958-59 construction. The southern end of Grove Street was historically a continuation of the village, but was severed by the expansion of the Route 101/202 intersection in the 1950s. Old Dublin Road to the west was a focus of early farm settlement. Dublin Road was built for the 1959 bypass. [page 6] 

Statement of Integrity

The development patterns and original design of the village are clearly evident. The main roads and bridge date from the town’s settlement. The street layout and road patterns developed during the 1800s and have not changed since. The one major change was the NH 101 bypass built at the end of the historic period. This severed the lower end of Grove Street and changed the character of the older sections of Wilton Road at the lower ends of Pine and Granite Streets. [page 82]

Boundary Justification

The intersection of Granite Street (202) and Wilton Road (101/202) is the edge of the historic district, on the east bank of the Contoocook, adjacent to the highway bridge. Between the southern end of Granite Street and Pine, wooded land associated with 59 Pine (U018-021) forms a physical edge to and is the southern boundary of the Peterborough Downtown Historic District. A small midtwentieth-century house set back at 38 Granite Street is outside the boundary. The Wilton Road (101/202) Bridge does not contribute to the downtown district, nor do the modern commercial properties on the highway northwest of the bridge. The district boundary follows the river and the rear (northern) lot lines of the new properties. [page 85] 

SOURCE: Driemeyer, Laura; Laprey, Kari; Monroe, Lynn; and Hill, Teresa. New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources, Area Form, Peterborough Downtown Historic District, June 2010.