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Published: 07/28/2006    print this story   email this story  

Merrimack Valley


The Merrimack Valley includes 15 central river towns in Massachusetts and 13 in Southern New Hampshire. Once the textile center of the world and an important shoe center, it is now a hub of technological and bio-technological manufacturing.


The Valley's population is approximately 467,572, including Lawrence, Andover, Methuen and North Andover on the west and Haverhill, Groveland, and Newburyport and Plaistow, N.H., on the east.

Telephone area codes: 978, 617, 781, 508 and 413 in Massachusetts; 603 in New Hampshire. All Massachusetts calls require 10-digit dialing. For information, see New Hampshire ( and Massachusetts ( Web sites with links to all towns. Also see Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council Inc. ( and Merrimack Valley Planning Commission (


The seacoast towns of Salisbury, Mass., and Hampton Beach, N.H., although not geographically part of the Merrimack Valley, hold strong emotional appeal for residents here, many of whom own summer beach houses. Salisbury holds concerts every Friday night during the summer starting at 7:30 p.m. For information, contact Salisbury Beach Chamber of Commerce, 978-465-3581, or Hampton Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, 603-926-8718.


Rail: Commuter rail service (MBTA) to Boston's North Station from Haverhill, Bradford, Lawrence, Andover and Ballardvale in Andover.

Bus: Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA) and Council on Aging provide para-transit services for the elderly and disabled. From July through September, MVRTA runs buses from Lawrence, Methuen and Haverhill to Salisbury and Hampton beaches.

MassRIDES is a matching program run for commuters, through the state Executive Office of Transportation. In partnerships with many businesses, it offers bilingual van- and ride-matching services. For information, call 1-888-4commute.

Airport: Manchester (N.H.)-Boston Regional Airport, N.H., is a convenient alternative to Logan. The airport, off I-93 in Manchester, is serviced by Air Canada, Delta, Comair, Continental/Continental, Continental Express, Northwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines/United Express, US Airways/US Airways Express.


Police, fire and ambulance: Enhanced-911 in most Massachusetts and New Hampshire towns. E-911 relies on a database that can pinpoint a caller's geographical location. Street address and name of caller will appear on the computer screen in the caller's public safety dispatcher office.

For highway emergencies call 911.

Child Abuse Hotlines: 800-792-5200. Outside of Massachusetts, call 1-800-4-A-CHILD. In New Hampshire, 1-603-271-6556 or after hours, 1-800-685-8772. Children's Alliance, 603-225-2264. NH Helpline, 603-225-9000. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse, 603-224-8893.

Elder Abuse Hotline: 1-888-243-5337

Poison Control: Massachusetts, 800-222-1222; New Hampshire, 800-222-1222 or 603-650-8000.

Suicide: Samaritans of Merrimack Valley, from Lawrence to Newburyport, phone 978-688-6607 or 866-912-4673.

Women's Resource Center: Lawrence, 978-685-2481; Haverhill, 978-373-4041.


Essex Arts Center, 56 Island St., Lawrence, 978-685-2343. Artists create and display their work and teach young people and adults.

Join a bagpipe band: Clan MacPherson, a 30-member authentic band, was begun in Lawrence in 1921 to keep alive the tradition of Scottish music and customs. Open to men and women interested in continuing the tradition of piping and drumming, the band trains teens from 12 on to play. Meets every Monday night at Veterans of Foreign Wars Lodge, Route 125, North Andover. Contact Pipe Major and Band Manager Bob Johnston, 978-470-1680.

Quannapowitt Players is the grandfather of community theaters. Now in its 68th year, the Players perform in their own playhouse at 55 Hopkins St., Reading. The first production of the fall is, "Getting Away With Murder," opening in September. QP performs four productions a year. Playhouse information and ticket line, 781-942-2212.

Andover Choral Society, contact Liz Fortino at 978-682-0196; Box 633, Andover, MA 01810. From September to May the group rehearses every Monday at 7:20 p.m. at Christ Church, 25 Central St., Andover. Allen Combs, musical director. Call 978-688-6353 for ticket information.

Sweet Adelines, women's barbershop, Ellen Gioe, director. Merrimack Valley Chorus is "where the harmony flows." Open rehearsals every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Arts Council Building, Route 62, Wilmington. For information, contact Kate Cooper at 978-692-1843.

Treble Chorus of New England, classical chorus for young singers formed in 1975. A32 Austin Hall, 315 Turnpike St., Merrimack College, North Andover, MA 01845. In residence at Merrimack. Offers choral training for children ages 5 through 18. Now under the direction of Darren Dailey, . 978-837-5462.

Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Society, 978-685-3505, Box 512, Lawrence, MA 01842. In its 46th season, performances at the Rogers Center at Merrimack College, North Andover.


Sixty-six percent of Merrimack Valley mothers with children under 6 are working, the same as the national average. Parents searching for competent day care may call the Child Care Circuit, with a database of Greater Lawrence day-care centers, including location, cost, contact, number of openings. Call 978-686-4288 or 1-877-823-2273. Fees are on a sliding scale. The circuit also offers training for providers and classes and groups for younger children.


Girl Scout Spar and Spindle Council, North Andover, 978-689-8015; Boy Scouts, Yankee Clipper Council, Middleton, 978-777-4333, Boy Scouts of America, Amesbury Road, Haverhill, 978-372-0591.


Merrimack Valley Bird Club, Al Retelle, president, 978-475-4412; or contact Kitty Tremblay 978-462-3917. The club sponsors bird walks 12 months of the year, including the Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count.

Merrimack River Watershed Council, 600 Suffolk St., Fifth Floor, Lowell, MA. 978-275-0120. MVRWC is a nonprofit citizens' organization working for clean water and wise use of natural resources associated with the river which extends from Laconia, N.H., to Plum Island. Monthly canoe and kayak trips.

Massachusetts Audubon Society has two North Shore facilities for public use: Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, 87 Perkins Row, Topsfield, 978-887-9264; and Joppa Flats Visitors Center, 1 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport, 978-462-9998. Both open Tuesday through Sunday and Monday holidays. Ipswich River has regular schedule of programs. Joppa Flats offers nature center and viewing areas.

Volunteer Environmental Monitoring Network, a hands-on citizens group that monitors river water quality. Coordinated by the Merrimack River Watershed Council, 978-275-0120.

Trustees of Reservations, 572 Essex St., Beverly, 978-921-1944 manages 99 Massachusetts reservations. The Stevens-Coolidge Place, 137 Andover St., North Andover, historic house and 94 acres of formal gardens, fields and woods. Call 978-682-3580. The Charles W. Ward Reservation, 695 acres of woods and open space in Andover and North Andover. Weir Hill in North Andover, wooded hill on Lake Cochichewick.


Reservations for state parks. To make reservations in Massachusetts, call toll free 1-877-422-6762 (1-877-I-CAMP-MA). Campers can make reservations up to six months ahead and reserve up to four sites at a campground each night. No more than 14 nights can be reserved during any 30-day period at any park between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Credit cards except American Express accepted.

To reserve at any of the 17 New Hampshire campgrounds, call central reservations at 603-271-3628 or visit the Web ( Reservations are recommended, although not required. There is a 14-day maximum stay at the parks.

Lawrence Heritage State Park, 1 Jackson St. in downtown Lawrence, an urban park and tourist center with art and historical exhibits about Lawrence's history. Next door, the Heritage Visitors Center park is an oasis for picnicking, a rest in the sun or listening to concerts. Admission is free, 978-794-1655.

Harold Parker State Forest, Andover and North Andover, entrance off Route 125 in Andover. Office, 978-475-7972 or . 978-686-3391. Camping (91 sites), fishing, hiking, canoeing, biking. Camping reservations: 1-877-422-6762.

Salisbury Beach State Reservation, off Beach Road, is open mid-April to mid-October. . Lifeguards on duty daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Memorial Day until Labor Day. Inexpensive camp sites for tenters or mobile-home owners. Reservations, 1-888-422-6762. Information, 978-462-4481.

Hampton Beach RV State Reservation, offers 28 sites, from May 26 to Oct. 8. Must be able to hook up to water, sewer and electricity. Call central reservations at 603-271-3628.


Greater Lawrence Community Boating Program, Eaton Street, 978-681-8675.

Programs start in June and continue to the end of August. With 120 watercraft in the fleet, including small Sunfish sailboats, canoes, rowing shells, kayaks, and Mercury and larger sailboats. Membership fees for classes and use of the boats for the summer range from approximately $50 to $150 for individual, youths, senior citizens and families. Open daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. New rowing program going strong.


March: Lawrence St. Patrick's Day Parade, sponsored by the Lawrence Celebration Committee, held the Sunday nearest March 17. Call organizer Marie Gosselin at 978-683-4792.

May: Sheepshearing Festival, second Sunday after Mother's Day. Sponsored by the North Andover Festival Committee, annual festival attracts an estimated 10,000 people from all over eastern Massachusetts. Shearing and border collie sheep herding demonstrations, a juried crafts fair, pony rides, plant sale and more. Wide range of food for sale. Admission and events free. Old North Andover Town Common, Andover Street and Mass. Avenue, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parking available at Franklin School on Andover Street, with free shuttle service to and from the festival. Information, call Sharon 978-946-2178. Crafters call 978-685-1568.

Memorial Day: Celebrated the last Monday in May by veterans groups who decorate graves and organize parades in all communities. A most elaborate service is found in Andover, attracting 7,000 celebrants to the parade and old-fashioned patriotic ceremony. A Marine or Army band concert and a well-coordinated jump by the U.S. Army parachute team, the Golden Knights, is a dramatic conclusion.

June: Hispanic Week, Lawrence-style, is held mid-month, bringing together a dozen Hispanic cultures for music and food on the city's Campagnone Common and other venues.

July 4: Independence Day begins with quiet, hometown celebrations, parades and chicken barbecues which end at dusk with fireworks. Each community plans its own fireworks celebration on either July 3 or July 4. Check with the community for details.

September: On Labor Day weekend, Lawrence, the City of Immigrants, celebrates its history of labor struggle with three festivals. First, The Feast of the Three Saints, a three-day celebration, the Friday, Saturday and Sunday before Labor Day, honors three brothers martyred by Roman emperor Decius and includes music, parade and Italian delicacies at Corpus Christi parish at Holy Rosary Church, Common and Union streets. This year the feast opens on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. and features a free concert on the common. Headliner this year is Michael Amante.

Second, enjoy the Mahrajan, a Middle Eastern festival of song, dance and homemade ethnic food at St. Anthony Church, 145 Amesbury St., Lawrence. And third, the 21st annual Bread and Roses Heritage Festival on Labor Day, which attracts top-name entertainment to Campagnone Common, Lawrence, for ethnic food, music, historical performances, trolley and walking tours, petting zoo and pony rides. Free. Sept. 5, noon to 6 p.m.

Bel Esprit Arts and Cultural Events, replacing the Mill City Festival, is a two-day festival celebrating Manchester's (N.H.) cultural institutions on Sept 9 and 10 at Victory Park and Veterans Park on Elm Street. Music, fine and traditional arts, cultural activities, trolley rides to cultural institutions, ethnic food and kids' activities. Information, call Jane Beaulieu at 603-203-8440.

17th Annual Seafood Festival and Sidewalk Sales Day in Hampton Beach, Sept. 8, 9, 10. More than 50 restaurants cook for this event. Continuous entertainment, music on two stages, fireworks, on Saturday at 8:15 p.m., street performers, Kiddie Land, demonstrations and crafts. Skydiving on Sunday. Admission fee; children free. Free parking around town with shuttle service to the festival. Information, 603-926-8717.


Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy campus, off Chapel Avenue, Andover, 978-749-4015. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Closed Monday, the month of August through Labor Day, Christmas Eve and national holidays.

Andover Historical Society, 97 Main St., 978-475-2236. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m.; closed all of August except by appointment. Find scholarly research of the town's 350-year history and tours of the 1819 Amos Blanchard house and barn.

Buttonwoods Museum/Haverhill Historical Society, 240 Water St., Haverhill. Essex National Heritage Area visitors' center with displays of Native American settlements to the present, a story of life in the Merrimack Valley; John Ward House, the Duncan House and the Daniel Hunkins Shoe Shop.. Open April 1 to Oct. 30, Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed for tours Nov. 1 to March 31, but open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Information, 978-374-4626.

Lawrence History Center: Immigrant City Archives and Museum, 6 Essex St., Lawrence. This Historical Society is available to all citizens researching family history and scholars studying the model factory town of the American Industrial Revolution. Open Tuesday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Closed Monday. Research by appointment only. Information, 978-686-9230.

Lawrence Heritage State Park, 1 Jackson St. State-funded building and grounds with films and exhibits of the city's history, tourist information for city and surrounding towns and green space to relax. Open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information, 978-794-1655.

North Andover Historical Society, 153 Academy Road, 978-686-4035. See one of the oldest complete houses in the area, the Parson Barnard House built in 1715. Open every Sunday and the first and third Saturday, May to October, 2 to 4 p.m. The Historical Society is attached to the Johnson Cottage, open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. Please call for dates and times of tours for either site. E-mail:


Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, 264 Essex St., Lawrence, 978-686-0900 ( Promotes business relocation, expansion, workforce development and tourism for the region. For companies seeking a building, land or space, check the Web site (

Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce, 224 North Broadway, First Floor, Salem, N.H., 603-893-3177. Promotes business and tourism for the region. Serving Atkinson, Hampstead, Pelham, Salem and Windham.

Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, 87 Winter St., Haverhill, 978-373-5663. Promotes business and tourism in Haverhill region.

Greater Derry Chamber of Commerce, 29 W. Broadway, Derry, N.H., 603-432-8205. Promotes business and tourism for the region. Visitors center in historic Adam's Building open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.


The New Hampshire Office of Travel and Tourism, 1-800-FUN-IN-NH (1-800-386-4664), offers a 226-page guidebook. To speak to district staff call 603-271-2665. Write the office at Box 1856, 172 Pembroke Road, Concord, N.H., 03302.

The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, 1-800-227-MASS (1-617-973-8500). Free getaway guidebook.

Auto Club of Merrimack Valley, 155 Parker St., Lawrence, 978-681-9200. Serves Greater Haverhill, Lawrence and Lowell.


Andover Memorial Hall Library, Elm Square, 978-623-8400. Part of the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium of 30 cities and towns in northeastern Massachusetts. Patrons have 24-hour computer access to the catalog of more than 2.5 million volumes. Library offers wired and wireless access to the Internet. MHL open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Open Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Closed Sunday during the summer. Questions answered at or Web site.


Christa McAuliffe Planetarium, 2 Institute Drive, Concord, N.H., 603-271-7827. Educational programs for schoolchildren and the general public, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with shows at 11 a.m. and 12:30, 2 and 3 p.m. Sunday open noon to 5 p.m., with shows at 12:30, 2 and 3 p.m.


Crimeline of Southern New Hampshire, 1-800-498-4040. People who call the 24-hour hot line to provide tips on crimes receive a reward for tips leading to arrests and prosecutions.


ValleyWorks Career Center, Heritage Place, 439 South Union St., Building 2, Lawrence and 80 Merrimack St., Haverhill, 978-722-7000. One-stop career centers offer a wide range of services to job seekers. Its mission is to build and promote a workforce for the area. File unemployment claims at the centers, get career counseling, and use the center's computers to look for jobs in-state or throughout the country and put together resumes and cover letters. To file a claim, 978-687-5400.

Merrimack Valley Workforce Investment Board, 60 Island St., Lawrence, 978-682-7099. The oversight and policy-making body for federally-funded employment and training services for Greater Lawrence east to Newburyport. The board develops partnerships with local government, education, business and labor leaders.

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