Meredith, NH: The Fine Arts Museum of the Lakes Region

Lago Restaurant, Meredith, NH
Meredith, NH is charming and brimming with activity during the holiday season! Pictured here is the entrance to “Lago” restaurant, a great place to dine or share an appetizer with friends.

Recently I had visitors from Boston, family friends who had come up for the day to walk and talk for a couple hours. The destination Pat and Virginia chose was Meredith. As we meandered about the buildings, public docks, and streets, I would have expected comments like “charming” or “lovely.”  But instead, Pat’s reaction took me by surprise. “I came all the way from Boston to come to the Fine Arts Museum of Meredith.” Now why would she say such a thing, I wondered? A few days after their visit I retraced out steps and considered her perspective.

The first thing on my guests’ agenda had been a to visit the inn at Church Landing – not to eat or book a room, but simply to admire the atmosphere and wander through the lobby and reception rooms, much as one would browse through the sections of an art museum. They exclaimed over the birch tree beams, the massive stone fireplaces, the cozy furniture, and enduring colors. The design of Church Landing is in keeping with Adirondack art. The building has features of an Adirondack “great camp” with logs, branches, and bark incorporated into its architecture. The décor throughout is wilderness ornamentation and art. The furniture is classic lodge furnishing with solid with simple lines.

We moved on from Church Landing and walked towards Chase House, another one of Meredith’s fine lodging options. Mill Falls at the Lake includes four hotels, seven restaurants, a full-service spa, and a conglomeration of interesting shops. Pat and Virginia made a beeline to what is their favorite type of collection – the textile and ladies adornment “exhibits.” Their first stop was the one-of-a-kind boutique Lady of the Lake. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston may have jewelry collections from ancient Egyptian broadcollars to contemporary studio jewelry and its Department of Textile and Fashion Arts with everything from American needlework to haute couture fashions, but my two Bostonian friends found more than enough within Lady of the Lake and the other shops within Mill Falls to amaze and entertain them. All the “exhibits” took a considerable amount of time to examine, probably longer than it would take someone to peruse the textile and jewelry exhibits at the Museum in Boston. In Meredith too, there is the advantage of being able survey as well as purchase from the “exhibits.”

Time was running short so we made our way to Innisfree Bookshop to find more mementos of their “day at the museum.” Pat and Virginia’s visit to Meredith was drawing to a close but they knew they would return soon because there was much more they wished to explore. Before leaving for their drive back to Boston, they selected from the dining options in Meredith. The Museum of Fine Arts has its Bravo Restaurant and Taste Cafe, but these can not compare with the selection in Meredith. There is authentic Old World dining at Lago, New England cuisine with world fusion at Lakehouse, upscale comfort food at Camp, “just good food” at George’s Diner, classic summer favorites at the Town Docks, festive Italian fare at Giuseppe’s Show Time Pizzeria & Ristorante, hearty selections at Frog Rock Tavern, classic favorites at locally-owned Hart’s Turkey Farm, which is a piece of much-admired local history itself…just to name a few.

Another popular “exhibit” in Meredith includes the artisan crafts at the League of NH Craftsman where you can find pottery, fiber art, jewelry, stained glass, wrought iron, mixed media, garden art and much more. A short way up Route 25 brings you to Parkledge Antiques and the Etcetera Shoppe. Here you discovery art, pottery, glass, furnishings, memorabilia, clothing, and jewelry. At Adornments & Creative Clothing in the Mill Falls building, the sparkle of silver, semi-precious stones, and handcrafted accessories is striking. Country Carriage and Great Northern Trading in Mill Falls display their wares on antique furniture and rustic counters that are brimming with exciting finds – reminiscent of the Boston Museum’s “Made in America” exhibition but arguably more enticing.

With its fine art and craft fairs, Meredith is also a gathering spot for artists. The annual Lakes Region Fine Arts and Crafts Festival is an outdoor event abounding in handmade items including paintings, sculpture, quilts, clothing, jewelry, ceramics, and countless tchotchkes. The Festival takes place among the Meredith Village Shops and the Mill Falls Marketplace. Main Street is closed to vehicle traffic and the entire area become one enormous gallery.

The Town Docks, Meredith, NH
The Town Docks, Meredith, NH

In truth, Meredith can not compete with the Museum of Fine Art’s world-renowned collections and extensive exhibits. But there is one way the Museum cannot match what Meredith has to offer. Recently at Sotheby’s in New York, a Norman Rockwell painting sold for 46 million dollars. It was entitled “Saying Grace” and depicted a small town scene in a local café. The day to day sights in Meredith – boats bobbing in the harbor, people milling about the brick sidewalks and boardwalks to shops, ice fishing and hockey games on the frozen bay – are Norman Rockwell scenes come to life.

Meredith truly is a fine arts museum of sorts. Its beautiful village is the reflection of the life of the early settlers melded with the life of the present day townspeople. Here the artists you admire are the old and new architects, artistic visionary Rusty McLear, builders, bricklayers, landscapers, merchants, innkeepers, and restaurateurs who create a stimulating and magical environment with historic buildings, attention-grabbing street signs, colorful shops, quaint restaurants, welcoming inns, and even a cascading waterfall – living art that gives credence to the premise that art is simply an imitation of life. Yes, in hindsight I see Pat was right. Meredith is a fine arts museum.

This post was written by Mary O’Neill.

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