Decorative and historic weathervanes on the coastline, NH

Watch the sky over pinnacles, domes, atop barns, churches, businesses and homes. Here you will find, spinning with the wind, the functional art form known as the weather vane.

At one time, reading the weather vane told sailors, farmers, traders, pilots, and citizens how the wind was blowing, and they planned their business, planting crops, and time spent outdoors. Consequently.

A wind vane spinning dizzily meant heading inboard or battening down the hatches, a southerly wind meant warmer, wetter air was approaching, and a northerly wind meant cooler, drier air was in. road. A weather vane indicates the direction from which the wind is blowing. If the wind is blowing from the west, the arrow or character on the weather vane points west.

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This simple meteorological instrument has been used since ancient times. The oldest recorded weather vane honored the Greek god Triton. It adorned the Tower of the Winds in 48 BC. AD in Athens. In the 9th century, the Norse used weather vanes on their ships and churches. Pope Nicholas I of the Catholic Church around the same time decreed that all churches should be adorned with a weathervane in the shape of a rooster; to remind the disciples of the betrayal of Jesus by Saint Peter before Christ was crucified. Medieval archers used weather vanes to judge the direction of the wind to aid in combat. In America, the first recognized weather vane maker was Deacon Shem Drowne. He created the famous grasshopper weathervane atop Boston’s Faneuil Hall.

Weather vanes have recently taken over technology. Today they are partly useful but mostly decorative.

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Along the New Hampshire coastline there are many weathervanes, some decorative, some historic.

At the Tuck Museum of Hampton History, atop the Leavitt barn, is a saw vane. Betty Moore of the Tuck Museum states, “The original log saw is now on display in the restored barn. When the barn was restored we realized the wooden weather vane needed to be replaced with one that would last over time, protecting the historic log saw, it was replaced with a metal saw weather vane.

On the Central School lawn on Winnacunnet Road is the restored clock and bell of the Odd Fellows block in downtown Hampton. Historian Elizabeth Aykroyd says: “The bell was first rung on July 17, 1897, and last heard at 3 a.m. on January 27, 1990, when Odd Fellows Hall was engulfed. by the flames. Today, the clock strikes on time enclosed in a purpose-built structure with a replica of the original Odd Fellows weather vane atop the clock tower. The symbols of the International Order of Odd Fellows, which represent friendship, love and truth, decorate the weather vane along with other symbols of the organization. This new weather vane was built and donated by Skip Heal of Northeast Lanterns in Exeter. The location of the original weather vane is a mystery. He disappeared after the Odd Fellows block fire in 1990.

On the steeple of the First Congregational Church of Hampton is displayed a weather vane painted in gold. There, on the steeple attached to a large golden orb, the four directions spanning decorative lengths, the weather vane shines impressively on a sunny day. This weathervane does not eclipse one of its predecessors, which stood atop the steeple of one of Hampton’s many Congregational churches and is now on display in the Tuck Museum. It is believed to have come from England; a wood-based weather vane with a metal rod on the top and a weather vane and a hexagonal ball under the tree. It was used as a weather vane on the replica log cabin by the Meeting House Green Association in 1925.

The historic James House on Towle Farm Road had a rooster weathervane atop the barn as the photos tell the story. In 1996 the barn collapsed and burned down. The weather vane has been stolen. It is well known that there is a market for old weather vanes, especially if they have historical provenance. Recently, a weather vane sold for $300,000, a rooster with historic ties to Newburyport, Massachusetts. A story is told of a helicopter taking a 150 year old weather vane from a barn and replacing it with a cheap replica. When they discovered that the original had been stolen, the owners had no idea when the theft had taken place.

In North Hampton, at Hobbs Farm now known as the Throwback Brewery, a special weather vane of a donkey tops one of the cupolas of the historic barn, a pig sits atop the other cupola. The donkey represents Jericho who died in 2015 after 27 years of parade in the Hobbs Farm pasture. Jericho was a local icon. Throwback honors the white donkey with the weather vane and a beer named Donkey-Hote.

All around the coastline there are weather vanes to be seen. Uptown, the TD Bank has an eagle weather vane as does the Shaw Block. There is a weather vane at the CVS complex and a fish-shaped weather vane at the top of Tinos Kitchen and Bar.

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Look to the sky almost everywhere you will find weather vanes: animals, cars, birds, Indians with arrows, mermaids, horses, boats, butterflies and trains. The one I find most unique so far in my weather vane quest is at the Vida Cantina restaurant on Lafayette Road in Portsmouth. Their weathervane stands atop a dome painted turquoise blue with a weathervane depicting a man in overalls and a hat raking wheat. Unique I would say, but I’m just beginning to find it interesting and fun to look for weather vanes in the coastline. It’s probably best done when you’re the passenger rather than the driver.

Karen Raynes is a member of the town’s historical society.

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