Hanover and Norwich: Twins separated at birth?
By Kate Carolan, The Dartmouth Senior Staff
Published on Tuesday, February 10, 2004
Put on those Danskos, GoreTex and diamond studs -- it's time for The Dartmouth to examine two of northern New England's yuppiest towns: Connecticut River neighbors Hanover, N.H., and Norwich, Vt.
When crossing the river to Norwich, visitors are welcomed by the onslaught of signs advertising wholesome consumer opportunities that await visitors in just nine-tenths of a mile -- things like bakeries, wooden toy designers and yarn shops.
Norwich is accessible from Hanover by driving up the main road, sandwiched between the quaint shops and businesses along the left side and the puritan children's menagerie along the right.
Further to the right stands the Marion Cross School, which essentially defines the town of Norwich. There, Norwich families showcase their most prized possessions -- even more prized than their Volvo cross-country wagons with Thule carrying box: their children. Despite allegedly taking classes, children can be seen outside at all hours of the day playing a game of hockey on the ice out front or frolicking around the frozen jungle gym.
Further down the street, pedigree dogs stand watch outside their colonial homes.
Then there's the town of Norwich's message board, which advertises live music events, theatre and school board meetings. It also highlights activities taking place in the town, and classes.
How lovely that someone could potentially take a yoga or pilates class with a retired neighbor, a nordic ski companion and a rock-climbing partner! Only in Norwich -- or maybe Vermont neighbor Woodstock.
After work or school, locals can hustle over to the Thomas Emerson House -- one of the town's commercial buildings -- where they can receive both acupuncture and "body therapy" and ease their aching muscles with some herbal remedies.
Next stop: Burton House, around the corner, for a designer lunch from Alice's bakery where buying one meal each day for twelve months might well surpass the cost of a single year's room and board at Dartmouth.
Fear not, visitor, because while splurging on imported ham and an asiago cheese spread may cost a pretty penny, parking in Norwich is free, free, free (one strike against Hanover).
Finally, before leaving utopia for its near-mirror image over the Ledyard Bridge, a trip to Norwich is not complete without a trip to the legendary Dan and Whit's General Store.
At Dan and Whit's General Store, locals and visitors alike find a temporary rush in having supported a small-town, independent business complete with rustic faÃ§ade and creaking floorboards.
After the long climb up West Wheelock Street, the visitor arrives in the town of Hanover, busier, louder and much more commercial. For all intents and purposes, it is Norwich's metropolitan counterpart -- a frightening prospect indeed.
Hanover is home to several upscale clothing stores that make the Gap look like Goodwill and stores selling furniture, housewares, and other unnecessary domestic accoutrements.
Many of the Hanover stores have embraced the whole Parisian neighborhood feel of Hanover and named their businesses accordingly. Hilde's, Hanover's hair salon, is not just Hilde's, but Hilde's Salon Vienna. CafÃ© Buon Gustaio is not just your average Italian restaurant.
A French-style store even made a short appearance in Hanover and attempted to sell French cartoon souvenir-like things featuring characters like the Little Prince and Babar for some time.
There is Rare Essentials where the products are neither essential nor rare. There is Brambles where one can pay great amounts of money for strands of lights that a third grader could probably be commissioned to make for art class.
However, not all of Hanover can be classified as somewhat pretentious. There is the "alternative" corner in Hanover-- home to both Folk, a hippie-esque women's clothing store, and the Bagel Basement, where the smell of patchouli overpowers the lavender room spray featured across the walk at the Gilbert Design Center.
Many afternoons local business executives can be seen on the streets going to or coming from a quick power lunch at favorite haunts Molly's or Murphy's the new Canoe Club.
At other times, the more outdoor casual crowd can be seen hauling it up Main Street in Nordic ski boots for a Dirt Cowboy fix, either out for a lunchtime jaunt, or en route to pick the kids up from school and take them to some after-school arts enrichment program.
A rope ferry once connected Hanover and Norwich. The rope ferry is no more, and thus the towns have gone their separate ways. Some might even say the towns harbor a bit of animosity towards one another these days.
Jackie Quayle, a long-time resident of Hanover, doesn't think so. She said she has never lived in Norwich, but has many friends who do.
"I am happy that I live in New Hampshire, but there are desirable things about living in Vermont also. I would be more favorable of their politicians ... well ... usually. Not right now, though," said Quayle.
When asked which town was friendlier, she didn't think one was friendlier than the other. And when asked which town was prettier, she had no comment.
Dan Fraser, owner of Dan and Whit's, was more vocal in expressing his hometown pride.
When asked about the principal differences between Norwich and Hanover, he remarked, "The people in Norwich pay a lot more taxes than in Hanover. We're Vermonters, and they're New Hampshire people. I think we're friendlier here, and they're more pro-business in Hanover."