New Hampshire is quite proud of its enduring “first in the nation” tradition. On January 10, 2012, New Hampshire citizens will choose a Republican or a Democrat ballot for the first Presidential Primary of the season that ends on Election Day, November 6th.
The ‘first in the nation’ tradition is based on the fact that the NH Presidential Primary is still the first on the calendar; but it’s also based on the fact that the voters in the tiny town of Dixville Notch gather right before midnight on the eve of Election Day, cast their ballots at one minute past midnight and report the results so New Hampshire delivers the “first in the nation” ballot count. What few people know is that the town of Dixville Notch is basically encompassed by The Balsams resort hotel. And the votes are cast in The Ballot Room at the hotel, which is filled with photos and memorabilia from elections past. While its fate was in some doubt, this tradition, too, is secure with the news that two North Country businessmen have purchased The Balsams — a 15,000-acre four season resort in “The Great North Woods” of New Hampshire that encompassed two golf courses, mountain bike and hiking trails, a ski resort, lake for fishing, and grand dining. Although extensive renovations are planned, the Ballot Room will be ready in January and November.
On the opposite end of New Hampshire, on the Atlantic Coast, Portsmouth (settled in 1623) has the distinction of being the only city/town in America that helped a US President earn a Nobel Peace Prize. Most people associate Theodore Roosevelt with the expression “speak softly but carry a big stick.” Actually, he was an extraordinary diplomat. In 1905, the Governor, US Navy and people of New Hampshire hosted Russian and Japanese diplomats on behalf of President Theodore Roosevelt for the peace conference to end the Russo-Japanese War (a modern, bloody war fought in Korea and Manchuria, and now referred to a “World War Zero” because of the international balance of power at play). The result was the Treaty of Portsmouth, for which Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize, presented on December 10, 1906. For the 100th anniversary in 2005 and the 100th anniversary of TR’s Nobel in 1906, Portsmouth created an exhibit, “An Uncommon Commitment to Peace: Portsmouth Peace Treaty 1905” housed in the Portsmouth Historical Society museum and a Portsmouth Peace Treaty Trail (offered as a guided or self-guided walking tour.) Visitors can stay at Wentworth By the Sea Hotel where both Russian and Japanese delegations stayed in 1905. Portsmouth, New Hampshire was designated a 2008 National Trust for Historic Preservation Distinctive Destination thanks to its many historic sites, charming atmosphere and visitor amenities. For more on the Portsmouth Treaty, go to www.PortsmouthPeaceTreaty.org
All Presidential candidates file with Secretary of State Bill Gardner to be on the ballots in New Hampshire. The Daniel Webster desk in the special registration room is located on the second floor of the Statehouse in the capital city of Concord. The Visitors’ Center in the Statehouse has a great display of political memorabilia, as does the New Hampshire Historical Society Museum across Main Street..
And then there’s the homestead of the only American President who came from New Hampshire, Franklin Pierce. He was President just before the American Civil War and was friends with many of the men of letters of his age, including Thoreau, Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Located in Hillsborough, Pierce’s boyhood home, is open daily in the summer months before the Presidential Election 2012.