Starting at least by the 1930s, about the same time that the federal government became involved in making improvements to many state-owned park properties, a small building was erected in many towns and cities, designed to be an “Information Booth, or Rest Area.” They were placed in strategic spots where a visiting tourist or curious local might pass it and stop. The town businessmen understood the importance of these locations as a traveler’s refuge. Local organizations supported them, along with The (NH) State Planning and Development Commission. They understood the value of them in relation to tourism. Attendants at the booths answered specific questions about the town or area, and often offered personal assistance in directing people to their next stop. They provided maps and descriptive literature.
But are these ‘rest stops’ now fading away?
New Hampshire residents were considered “unofficial members of a reception committee” to our out-of-state guests. At one time Official Information Booths” were located in Berlin, Claremont, Franklin, Keene, Lake Sunapee, Lancaster, Lebanon, Littleton, Manchester, Meredith, Nashua, New London, Newport, North Conway, Plymouth, Profile, Rochester, West Ossipee, and Woodsville.
Nowadays these former “Information Booths” are called Visitor Information Centers and Welcome Centers, though they are not often in the center of the town. Today only a few of those original information booths exist. Some have been moved inside–to be included within a town’s chamber of commerce. There are new and expansive booths built within large transportation buildings, such as the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, manned by volunteers from the Granite State Ambassadors.
Welcome Centers that exist today: Coos County, Concord (Chamber of Commerce), Gorham, New London, Pittsburg, Portsmouth (Visitor Kiosk) Sunapee, Whitefield, and Wolfeboro, North Conway, North Woodstock, Conway, Hooksett, Meredith, Springfield, Canterbury, Lincoln, Lebanon, Campton, Sutton, Intervale, Seabrook and Colebrook. [Feel free to comment here or contact me if you know of more info booths not mentioned].
In some cases, when the old buildings fell down or were demolished, they were simply not replaced. Such is the case in Merrimack NH. The Merrimack Chamber of Commerce information booth at the intersection of Daniel Webster Highway and Railroad Avenue in Merrimack was left a pile or rubble on Saturday, May 26, 2013. A driver reportedly fell asleep, exited the roadway and crashed into the small building. The wreckage was removed and the building has not yet been replaced.
[Editors update of May 2016: Apparently some of the old booths still exist, but go unrecognized for a while. The old and now unused Wolfeboro NH Info Booth sits behind the Pickering House in that town.
The State of New Hampshire maintains its own series of Safety/Welcome/Rest areas along Interstate 93, the Seabrook Welcome Center on I95, Colebrook on Route 3N, Littleton on Route 18 (exit 44 off I-93), Lebanon on I-89S, Sutton on I-89S, and Springfield on I-89N. that are state-funded and quite separate from the local booths. However, they have closed some of the rest areas on smaller roads, such as the Antrim rest area on Route 9, one in Shelburne on Route 2, another in Rumney on Route 24, and one in Epsom on US 4.
With the advent of the internet, and quick access while on the road using smart phones, ipads and laptop computers, perhaps the information booth is, and should, go the way of the buggy whip. Can you find the same information there than you would get at an information booth? What do you think?