Woodman Institute Museum
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Written by GOseacoast



You do not want to miss this seacoast treasure in Dover, NH. Packed with fascinating exhibits and artifacts, the Woodman is a museum frozen in time. Kids and adults can’t help but enjoy the wildlife, oddities and rare historic finds in room after room and building after building.



LOCATION: 182 Central Ave, Dover, NH 03820
BUILT: 1818 as treee-story brick residence
COLLECTION: rocks & minerals Indian artifacts, mammals & marine life, birds & butterflies, shells, snakes & turtles, dolls, military museum, maps & documents
CAMPUS: Four buildings including colonial Damm Garrison, Senator JP Hale House, and the Keefe House
PHONE: (603) 742-1038  

The Seacoast’s Best Kept Secret

We could not love a museum more. This "curiosity shop" of exhibits covers all the bases from natural history to architecture to wars, fashion and early American life. The Woodman Institute is truly a museum within a museum. Founded in the Early 20th century, it remains much as its founder imagined it – a place where children and adults can see the wonders of the world in their own backyard.

In recent years, under the direction of volunteer president Thom Hindle, the Woodman has become increasingly professional without losing its oddball appeal and local charm. Who could not love a museum where a nine-foot polar bear welcomes you to a display that includes a two-headed snake, four-legged chicken, giant lobster, rare minerals, Abraham Lincoln’s saddle and the oldest surviving garrison house in the state.


On January 7, 1915 Annie Woodman "passed to a higher life" according to a report in the local newspaper. Five days later, Dover citizens were surprised to learn that she had bequeathed an astonishing $100,000 for the creation of an institute to promote local education in science, history and the arts.

wmi00c.jpgThe good fortune was just beginning. At the same time the former Christie brick mansion on Central street became available as did the home of the famous NH abolitionist Senator John P. Hale next door. The first Woodman trustees of the Institute purchased the adjoining brick buildings. When a local resident donated the structure of the oldest surviving garrison (1675) in the region, the building was moved between the two properties and a protective shelter put over the old colonial structure forming a complete museum campus.

The opening of the Woodman on July 26, 1916 was a momentous day for the Garrison which found itself host to a world-class little museum. One speaker referred to Dover as "almost the oldest city in America." The redesigned home of the town's most famous lawyer Daniel Christie had become a showplace for over 800 relics of colonial history and natural history.

Largely unchanged to this day, the Woodman Institute is often called "a museum within a museum" and remains one of the state's best, but least known scientific treasures. The first floor contains an extensive collections of minerals, plus exhibits of mammals, shells, fish and reptiles, a moose, a polar bear, alligator and hippopotamus. Here visitors also find a display of Native American items, contemporary and prehistoric.

The second floor includes a large exhibit of birds, moths and butterflies in their original turn-of-the-century display cases. There is a collection of dolls, many pictures, maps and books, posters and more. The top floor houses the War Memorial Museum. Among the many items of interest are one of the ten known "Napoleon" Civil War canons complete with its original caisson. Another well-known item is the saddle used by President Abraham Lincoln while reviewing the troops just prior to his assassination. Lincoln was a frequent visitor to the seacoast NH area.

Photographs by Thom Hindlre © Woodman Institute. All rights reserved.






Photos by THom Hindle (c) all rights reserved









All photos (c) Thom Hindle. All rights reserved