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

Salem's Stonehenge is oldest man-made structure in Americ


By Chris Young
Correspondent

America's Stonehenge attracted 35,000 visitors to Salem, N.H., last year, and more than 1,000 on a solstice weekend.

This local collection of ancient man-made granite chambers, walls and ceremonial meeting places is as mysterious and intriguing as the original Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England.

Stonehenge means "stone circle," said Pat Stone, whose family owns America's Stonehenge, 105 Haverhill Road, which is thought to be the oldest man-made structure in the United States, built by either Native Americans or wandering Europeans, at least 4,000 years ago.

"The stones are set up as a calendar, marking the solstice, the equinox and the cross quarter days," which traditionally mark the start of spring, summer, autumn and winter, she said.

"The nice thing about our site is that you can get close to our stones. Stonehenge in England is fenced off from the public."

Formerly called Mystery Hill, Stone's father-in-law, Robert Stone, changed the name to American Stonehenge in 1982. Robert bought the 105-acre site in 1935 to protect it from further destruction or development and called in expert help to research the history of the place. He also organized the New England Antiquarian Research Association to explore this and others of the 300 ancient sites around New England.

Pat Stone, her husband, Dennis, and son, Kelsey, have assumed the care since Robert retired.

They know that the area was once quarried.

"We think that some stones ended up in buildings and bridges in Lawrence and Lowell," Stone said.

American Stonehenge, 135 Haverhill Road, is open year round. From June 19 through Labor Day it opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. From Jan. 1 to June 19, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. In winter, visitors are invited to ski or snowshoe the wooded trails. Admission for adults is $9; seniors, $8; children, $6; under 5, free. Phone 603-893-8300. stonehengeusa.com

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