State House will open for tours on three upcoming Saturdays

  • The newly unveiled of portrait of Marilla Marks Ricker, upper right, hangs in the hallways of the New Hampshire Statehouse in Concord, N.H., Monday, May 16, 2016. Ricker was the first New Hampshire woman to file papers to run for governor and was the first woman to practice law in the Granite State and the ninth to be admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, Pool)

Monitor staff
Published: 9/7/2016 3:24:55 PM

It’s official: The State House will be open to the public on three upcoming Saturdays to test a plan to make the building more accessible for tourists.

That’s after the Joint Committee on Legislative Facilities approved a memorandum of understanding drawn up by the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

Chamber President Tim Sink said the State House “is essentially a working museum,” because of its history and the artifacts it holds, but people who visit it on weekends have been disappointed to learn it’s closed.

The State House hasn’t been open on weekends for more than a decade, Sink said, when a similar effort ended because of poor financing and publicity.

So Sink reached out to local business owners to see if they’d help pay the roughly $1,500 a day cost for security and tours – and they did.

“I got a very positive response and managed to cover that cost quite quickly,” he said. “We see it both as a cultural amenity that exists in the state capital that should be accessible, but also a visitor attraction that helps boost tourism in the state.”

The first open Saturday will begin at 11 a.m. on Sept. 24, immediately following a 10 a.m. ceremony outside celebrating the State House’s history. Guided tours will leave roughly every 20 minutes until 3 p.m.

On the following two Saturdays – Oct. 1 and Oct. 8 – the tours will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sink said this pilot program will help the chamber determine how popular the idea is and work out the kinks before a potentially longer spanning version next year. He said ideally the State House would be open on Saturdays from the beginning of summer to Columbus Day, which is the second Monday of October.

“If things go smoothly this year, that lines us up nicely to expand it next year,” he said.

These tours were made possible when House Bill 1531 passed this spring, allowing legislators to enter an agreement with a private entity to open the State House to the public. That seemed like a “long shot” at first, Sink said, because of the high level of concern for the irreplaceable artifacts inside.

But the bill passed and the agreement was reached Tuesday, clearing the two major hurdles out of the way. Now, Sink said, he’ll wait and see how popular the pilot program is.

Sink said the sponsors for the pilot program were Northeast Delta Dental; Cleveland, Waters & Bass; The Duprey Companies; Marshall’s Florist; Nobis Engineering; the New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association; The Barley House; and Sanel Auto Parts. Their donations totaled about $4,500 to pay for three days of tours and security.

The State House visitor’s center staff will conduct the tours with the help of volunteers from Granite State Ambassadors.

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