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Keene, New Hampshire

Keene, New Hampshire
Central Square in downtown Keene
Central Square in downtown Keene
Official seal of Keene, New Hampshire
Nickname(s): Elm City
Location in Cheshire County, New Hampshire
Location in Cheshire County, New Hampshire
Country United States
State New Hampshire
County Cheshire
Settled 1736
Incorporated 1753 (town)
Incorporated 1874 (city)
 • Mayor Kendall W. Lane (R)[1][2]
 • City Council Janis O. Manwaring
Sheryl A. Redfern
Mitchell H. Greenwald
Bettina A. Chadbourne
David C. Richards
Terry M. Clark
Robert J. O'Connor
James P. Duffy
Philip M. Jones
Thomas F. Powers
Kris E. Roberts
Carl B. Jacobs
David R. Meader
Emily P. Hague
Randy L. Filiault
 • City Manager John A. MacLean
 • 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 (2010)
 • Total 23,409
 • Density 620/sq mi (240/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
Website .us.nh.keene.ciwww
  • Year settled is from the following page

Keene is a city in Cheshire County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 23,409 at the 2010 census.[3] It is the county seat of Cheshire County.[4]

Keene is home to Keene State College and Antioch University New England, and formerly hosted the state's annual Pumpkin Fest.


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
  • Climate 3
    • Climate chart 3.1
  • Demographics 4
  • Government 5
  • Media 6
    • Print 6.1
    • On-line 6.2
    • Radio 6.3
    • Television 6.4
    • Weather information 6.5
  • Education 7
  • Culture 8
    • Religion 8.1
    • Festivals 8.2
      • Pumpkin Festival 8.2.1
      • Keene Music Festival 8.2.2
    • Keene in popular culture 8.3
    • Music and theatre 8.4
    • Sports 8.5
    • Images 8.6
    • Free Keene 8.7
    • International outreach 8.8
    • Sites of interest 8.9
  • Notable people 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


The community was granted as Upper Ashuelot in 1735 by Colonial Governor Jonathan Belcher to 63 settlers who paid five pounds each and whose properties were assigned by lot.[5] Settled after 1736, it was intended to be a fort town protecting the Province of Massachusetts Bay during the French and Indian Wars. When the boundary between Massachusetts and New Hampshire was fixed in 1741 Upper Ashuelot became part of New Hampshire.

During 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,[6] 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.

In 2011, the radical fathers' rights activist Thomas Ball immolated himself on the steps of a courthouse in Keene to protest the court system. [7]


Keene is located at (42.9339, −72.2784).[8]

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.[9]

State highways converge on Keene from nine directions. New Hampshire Route 9 leads northeast to Concord and west to Brattleboro, Vermont. Route 10 leads north to Newport and southwest to Northfield, Massachusetts. Route 12 leads northwest to Walpole and Charlestown and southeast to Winchendon, Massachusetts. Route 101 leads east to Peterborough and Manchester, Route 32 leads south to Swanzey and to Athol, Massachusetts, and Route 12A leads north to Surry and Alstead. A limited-access bypass used variously by Routes 9, 10, 12, and 101 passes around the north, west, and south sides of downtown.

Keene is served by Dillant–Hopkins Airport, located just south of the city in Swanzey.


Keene is located in a humid continental climate zone. It experiences all four seasons quite distinctly. 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 often 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, New Hampshire
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: [10]


Freight Yards in 1907

As of the census of 2010, there were 23,409 people, 9,052 households, and 4,843 families residing in the city. The population density was 627.6 people per square mile (242.3/km²). There were 9,719 housing units at an average density of 260.6 per square mile (100.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.3% White, 0.6% African American, 0.2% Native American, 2.0% Asian, 0.004% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, 0.5% some other race, and 1.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.6% of the population.[3]

There were 9,052 households, out of which 23.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.1% were headed by married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.5% were non-families. 31.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.6% consisted of someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26, and the average family size was 2.83.[3]

In the city the population was spread out with 16.6% under the age of 18, 24.1% from 18 to 24, 20.6% from 25 to 44, 24.0% from 45 to 64, and 14.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34.0 years. For every 100 females there were 88.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.8 males.[3]

At the 2000 census, 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.


Keene's government consists of a mayor and a city council which has 15 members. Two represent each of the five city wards, and five serve at-large, representing the entire city.[13]


Several media sources are located in Keene. These include:


  • The Keene Sentinel
  • The Monadnock Shopper News
  • The Equinox, student newspaper of Keene State College
  • Parent Express
  • FPP News



The city has several radio stations licensed by the FCC to Keene. The stations are:

  • WZBK 1220 (Sports)
  • WKBK 1290 (News/Talk), formerly WKNE. Simulcasted on W281AU, 104.1 FM.[14]
  • WEVN 90.7, operated by New Hampshire Public Radio[15]
  • WKNH 91.3, operated by Keene State College[16]
  • WKHP-LP 94.9, a low power FM operated by the Keene FourSquare church[17]
  • WSNI 97.7 (Adult Contemporary, Sunny 97). WSNI changed its city of license from Swanzey to Keene in September 2009.[18]
  • W256BJ 99.1, (Classic Hits, "Classic Hits 99.1", //WKNE-HD2)[14][19]
  • W276CB 103.1, (Oldies, "Oldies 103.1", //WKNE-HD3)[14][20]
  • WKNE 103.7 (Hot Adult Contemporary, 1037 KNE FM)
Syndicated programming
  • Free Talk Live, nationally syndicated radio talk show based in Keene


Keene is part of the television market.[24] Time Warner Cable is the major supplier of cable television programming for Keene. Local stations offered on Time Warner include most major Boston-area and New Hampshire stations (including WEKW), as well as WVTA, the Vermont PBS outlet in Windsor, Vermont.

Weather information

  • Keene Weather[25]


Public Library c. 1920

Keene is often considered a minor college town as it is the site of Keene State College, whose 5,400 students make up over 1/4 of the city's population, and Antioch University New England.

At the secondary level, Keene serves as the educational nexus of the area, due in large part to its status as the largest community 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.

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 was Grace United Methodist Church, also known as the "Brick Church", but is now a new church, Crossway Church (having no affiliation with Grace United Methodist).

Keene is the seat of the Metropolis of Boston.

The town's synagogue is the Congregation Ahavas Achim.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building is home to the Keene Ward and is part of the Nashua, New Hampshire Stake.


Pumpkin Festival

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

Every October from 1991 to 2014, Keene hosted an annual Pumpkin Festival. The event set world records for the largest simultaneous number of jack-o'-lanterns on display several times, and the tally from the 2003 festival stood as the record until Boston took the lead in 2006, but Keene reclaimed the world record in 2013, with a total of 30,581 pumpkins, according to Guinness. Besides the pumpkins stacked on massive towers set in the streets (see photo at right), thousands of additional pumpkins would line the streets of the city. Face painting, fireworks, music, and other entertainments were also provided. Over 80,000 people from around the world attended the event annually. During the 2014 festival, students in nearby neighborhoods caused property damage, overturned a car, and exhibited other behavior disruptive to the community. As a result, the city council declined to grant the festival's sponsors a license to hold a 2015 event. Several communities came forward, and Laconia, New Hampshire hosted the 2015 festival.[26]

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 popular culture

  • The 1949 movie Lost Boundaries, starring Mel Ferrer, tells the true story of a black Keene physician who passed as white for many years. The film won the 1949 Cannes Film Festival award for best screenplay.
  • 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 painted for the film. That artwork was subsequently scarred by graffiti, but soon after was professionally restored to its original condition. Later the sign served as a focal point for the sidewalk location of a temporary Robin Williams memorial in the days following the actor's death on August 11, 2014.

Music and theatre

In 1979, First Lady Rosalynn Carter dedicated the bandstand in Central Square as the E. E. Bagley Bandstand, after the noted composer of the National Emblem March who made Keene his home until his death in 1922.[27]

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

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

The Monadnock Pathway Singers are an all-volunteer hospice group based in Keene whose members come from many different towns within Cheshire County. They sing in nursing homes, hospitals, assisted-living centers and in private homes throughout Cheshire County.

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, and The Putnam Arts Lecture Hall on the campus of Keene State. Keene Cinemas is the local movie theater located off of Key Road.


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 four-time league champions (2000, 2003, 2011, and 2013). They are consistently at the top of the NECBL in attendance, having led the league in 2002, 2004, and 2005.

The Elm City Derby Damez roller derby league, members of USA Roller Sports (USARS), call Keene home while playing their officially sanctioned bouts in nearby Brattleboro, Vermont. The compete against many other women's flat track leagues around the northeastern United States.

The Monadnock Wolfpack Rugby Football Club now calls Keene its home. They play in NERFU (New England Rugby Football Union) division IV at Carpenter Field, on Carpenter Street. They finished tied for 1st in the division in the fall of 2014.


Free Keene

The city has become home to an active voluntaryist protest group known as Free Keene, which is associated with the Free State Project.[28][29] Some Free Keene activists have been arrested for video recording in court rooms as an act of civil disobedience, in violation of the state's wiretapping law. In 2009, Keene's Central Square Park had become the center of daily 4:20 pm smoke-ins which advocated the legalization of marijuana.[30][31] One widely publicized case happened in 2010 when Andrew Carroll, who moved to Keene through the Free State Project, stood in Railroad Square, made a short speech, and held out a bud of marijuana cupped in the palm of his hand. He was arrested and convicted by a judge but refused to pay the $420 fine, defending his action as an instance of civil disobedience. Joined by decriminalization supporters, he walked 13 miles to the jail to turn himself in and spent 9 days there.[32]

Free Keene has encountered opposition from other Keene residents.[28] In February 2011 the movement was the subject of a report on WMUR-TV which focused on the high number of Free Keene arrests due to civil disobedience and their effect on Keene's image and economy. In the piece, one government official complained about the cost of restraining and jailing the civil protestors, while another worried about the effect the activists might have on the community's image.[33] While some of the activists' techniques can be relatively confrontational—the WMUR report mentions a tongue-in-cheek drinking party at a government building to protest open-container laws—others are significantly less so. For example, a common act by some Free Keene activists involves paying money into expired parking meters, in order to help other citizens avoid parking tickets, which has created conflict between the meter pluggers and the parking enforcement officers. The Free Keene members would video their encounters with the parking enforcement officers and suggest the PEO's should refrain from writing tickets and get a different job. The close encounters with the "Robin Hooders" resulted in one PEO resigning his position and a lawsuit filed by the City of Keene citing harassment of their employees.[34] In December 2013, the judge overseeing the case dismissed the city's arguments against the "Robin Hooders" on first amendment grounds, citing the public sidewalks' role as a traditional public forum.[35]

In November 2014, the group was lampooned in an episode of The Colbert Report. The segment focused mainly on the poor treatment by "Robin Hooders" of the parking enforcement officers.[36]

International outreach

Einbeck, in Germany, is a partner city.[37]

Sites of interest

  • Horatio Colony House Museum & Nature Preserve
  • Wyman Tavern

Notable people


  1. ^ "Mayor". City of Keene. Retrieved 17 September 2015. 
  2. ^ Trefethen, Sarah (9 August 2011). "Lane wants to be mayor". Sentinel Source. The Keene Sentinel. Retrieved 17 September 2015. Kendall W. Lane, a Republican who represents Ward 4 
  3. ^ a b c d "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (DP-1): Keene city, New Hampshire". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved July 9, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 173. 
  7. ^ "Dad leaves clues to his desperation". 
  8. ^ "Topo Map: Keene, New Hampshire, United States 01 July 1984".  
  9. ^ Foster, Debra H.; Batorfalvy, Tatianna N.; Medalie, Laura (1995). Water Use in New Hampshire: An Activities Guide for Teachers. U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Geological Survey. 
  10. ^ Keene, NH, New Hampshire, United States: Climate, Global Warming, and Daylight Charts and Data
  11. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  13. ^ CIty Council website
  14. ^ a b c "CDBS Print". Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  15. ^ "New Hampshire Public Radio". Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  16. ^ "FCCInfo Facility Search Results". Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  17. ^ "FCCInfo Facility Search Results". Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Application Search Details". Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Homepage – Keene Classics 99.1 – WKNE-HD2". Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Homepage – WKNE-HD3 – Saga". Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Cheshire TV". Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  22. ^ "FCCInfo Results". Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  23. ^ "What's On – Main TV Schedule – NHPTV". Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  24. ^ Per Zap2it, zip code 03431.
  25. ^ "Keene Weather". Retrieved June 10, 2010. 
  26. ^ Sexton, Adam (April 24, 2015). "It's official: Laconia will host this year's pumpkin festival".  
  27. ^
  28. ^ a b Morales, Andrea (4 May 2014). "Libertarians Trail Meter Readers, Telling Town: Live Free or Else". New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  29. ^ Free Keene website
  30. ^ "Pot Smokers In Keene Protest Drug Laws". WMUR-TV News 9. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  31. ^ "4:20 Cannabis Celebration Makes Sentinel Front Page Again!". Free Keene. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  32. ^ Schlessinger, James B. "The Growth Operation for Freedom". Cannabis Culture. Retrieved April 8, 2011. 
  33. ^ "Is Keene Turning Into a Battleground for Activists, Police?". WMUR-TV News 9. February 21, 2011. 
  34. ^ Robin Hooders' face lawsuit for plugging parking meters"'". WHDH-TV News 7. May 14, 2013. 
  35. ^ Judge Cites First Amendment in Dismissing Keene Case
  36. ^ The Colbert Report ~ Difference Makers - The Free Keene Squad
  37. ^ "Partner City Committee". City of Keene. Retrieved November 1, 2010. 
  38. ^ "John Bosa". Pro-Football Retrieved 6 January 2014. 
  39. ^ "Francis B. Brewer". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 6 January 2014. 
  40. ^ "Jonathan Daniels". Alabama Humanities Foundation. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  41. ^ "John Dickson". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  42. ^ "DINSMOOR, Samuel, (1766 - 1835)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved January 11, 2014. 
  43. ^ "Barry Faulkner". New Hampshire Historical Society. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  44. ^ "Salma Hale". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  45. ^ Memorial of Samuel Whitney Hale, Keene, N.H. Born April 2, 1822; died October 16, 1891""". Internet Archive. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  46. ^ "Ernest Hebert". Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  47. ^ "David G. Perkins". Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  48. ^ "Heather Wilson". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  49. ^ "Isaac Wyman". Retrieved 7 January 2014. 

External links

  • City of Keene official website
  • Keene Public Library
  • New Hampshire Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau Profile
  • Historical Society of Cheshire County
  • "Upper Ashuelot: a history of Keene NH" (entire book in pdf format)
  • "A History of the Town of Keene from 1874" by S.Griffin
  • Historical Society of Cheshire County: Keene, New Hampshire: 1890–1930
  • Historical Society of Cheshire County: Josiah Fisher Killed By Indians in Keene

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