SUMMARY: No monument marks the spot where New Hampshire's first settlers arrived in 1623. Although this web feature is dedicated to Seacoast, New Hampshire, when it comes to monuments, there is none as famous as Plymouth Rock in nearby Massachusetts. Of course, as history tells us, the Separatists or "Saints" did not first land at Plymouth, but at Cape Cod near Provincetown in November 1620. It is extraordinarily unlikely that the rock now covered by a Greek-styled portico houses the rock on which the Mayflower pilgrims stepped. That landing site, most historians agree, is miles away. The structure houses, instead, a symbol so embedded in American legend, that the truth of the matter fades in comparison.
First described in 1741, Plymouth Rock has the distinction of being the nation's oldest historical tourist attraction. An inspiration to Revolutionary Americans, the upper portion of the world famous rock was dragged to Plymouth Town Square in 1774. The slab of Dedham Granodiorite was later placed on display at the Pilgrim Hall in 1834. Later in 1880 it was returned to the waterfront and covered in an ornate Victorian portico. That was replaced in 1921 by the Greek-style canopy seen today.
Knowing that the landing at the rock is not historically accurate has not slowed the pilgrimage of tourists. Although it has been described by one visitor as "the most disappointing landmark in America" still, as de Toqueville first discovered, it is simultaneously revered. Something about the expansive nation requires an anchor in place and time. Plymouth Rock has become that anchor. Its interpretation has led to historical tourist sites as diverse as the nearby Plymouth Wax Museum, to Pilgrim Hall and Plimouth Plantation, a fully reconstructed and active pioneer village. Today, with a reconstruction of the Mayflower nearby, visitors arrive, stare, toss pennies, laugh and pose for photographs. Despite our largely inaccurate view of the founding families, the magnetic attraction of this seven ton rock is as powerful as ever.
On SeacoastNH see also:
Outside Plymouth history links:
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