Peterborough to host Thornton Wilder Society conference

Union Leader Correspondent
November 26. 2017 11:20PM
Peterborough's Grove and Main Street intersection is dubbed Grover's Corner by the town as a nod to its connection to the play 'Our Town.' (Meghan Pierce/Union Leader Correspondent)

PETERBOROUGH — This town is on track to be the location of the third Thornton Wilder Society Conference.

Tuesday night, historian Tracey Messer of Peterborough met with the Peterborough Board of Selectmen and talked about his work arranging for the conference to be held in Peterborough in July.

“The Thornton Wilder Society Conference is going to be an exciting opportunity to showcase Peterborough, the Monadnock Region and the state of New Hampshire,” Messer said. “It’s going to be held here in Peterborough from Thursday the 12th of July through Saturday the 14th of July and will attract over 100 attendees from across the world — all Thornton Wilder scholars.”

Wilder’s 1938 play “Our Town” tells the story of the residents of the fictional small town of Grover’s Corners between 1901 and 1913.

Peterborough was the inspiration for Grover’s Corners, and Wilder wrote a portion of “Our Town” while a fellow at the MacDowell Colony — an artists’ colony on High Street in Peterborough.

“It’s very much connected to our historical identity,” Messer said of the play. “It’s an excellent opportunity to showcase our local history and our businesses.”

Keene State College is being approached to assist with housing conference attendees, he said.

Messer said he has spent over 100 hours organizing this conference, and he is working to get business partners locally to take over the work so he can shift his focus to enhancing the Explore Peterborough Walking Tour App to coincide with that part of Peterborough’s history.

Messer created the walking tour app for the town in 2014 for the celebration of its 275th anniversary.

Tuesday night he gave the Board of Selectmen an update on the app’s usage and informed them that he has founded Time Travel Tours as a way of expanding the app.

Messer said he is working on a walking tour of Grover’s Corners in which a character and the narrator of the play the “Stage Manager” introduces and highlights historical places in Peterborough that tie into the fictional Grover’s Corners in Wilder’s masterpiece.

Selectman Barbara Miller asked Messer if it is true Peterborough is the only town in New Hampshire with a walking tour of its downtown.

Messer confirmed Miller’s question, saying “We are groundbreakers; we’re the first.”


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