In my last post, “Manchester: A city with an identity crisis,” I wrote how Manchester lacks an identity and that it has always seemed to run away from what has made it the city that it is today. We are all a product of our past – whether or not we exhibit all of the traits that we were taught or that have been passed down, our past has shaped us and in part helped make us what we are today. We either demonstrate these traits or do the opposite, but either way our past is a part of us. (In many cases I have done the opposite; guess I’m a rebel like that). This also holds true for communities.
(While I fully acknowledge that some things from the past are negative and better off left behind, these often negative – and sometimes very painful – events become learning opportunities that help us move forward).
Manchester had pretty much run away from its past – and thereby lost its identity – by either destroying or otherwise eradicating buildings and objects of our past, many times in the name of “progress” or “urban renewal,” (e.g. Granite Square, Union Station, Notre Dame Bridge, McGregorville), or things would be neglected to the point that they had to be covered, (e.g. the canals). In addition, instead of honoring the past the city would tie its identity directly to Boston by claiming itself to be a “bedroom community” of the city. Boston is a cool city, and very important to the New England region, but each community needs its own identity. (For the record, these decisions were made or otherwise advocated for by elected officials and various stakeholders).
Moving Beyond the Generic
There seems to be a renewed push to honor our past as we build for the future; to first preserve what we have and try to repurpose instead of “demo and build.” And when repurposing isn’t feasible, people are asking for better designs that reflect the character of our neighborhoods and our great city as well as the inclusion of design elements of the former structures.
Since writing my last post I have been thinking of a way to better express and articulate what Manchester is. I really wanted to focus on the city’s character as well as what has made us what we are today and what we will be in the future. I wanted to find something that people could see or hear and think of Manchester and not just another generic slogan. Manchester ROCKS! (Well it can, and no, that’s not the slogan).
After thinking for a few days I realized that the answer was actually part of the question. What is unique about Manchester? Everything! So that’s when it hit me … Uniquely Manchester!
(I’m not a marketing person but am now going to try to describe “Uniquely Manchester”).
The definition of “unique” is “very special or unusual,” or “belonging to or connected with only one particular thing, place, or person.” A synonym for unique is “individual.” I’m not necessarily looking at what makes Manchester one of a kind but rather things or aspects of the city that make it “uniquely Manchester.” What makes one know that we are in Manchester? Sometimes it’s a feeling, which is often hard to describe, but many times the things that help us know are tangible.
For example, Manchester has mills. That in itself is not unique at all, many communities have them, but in Manchester one can work at a high-tech firm in one mill and walk to a nice restaurant in another, or take a walk to the river or even walk up to Elm Street and eat or do a little shopping during lunch. That is uniquely Manchester. Can something like that be done in other cities? Maybe, but it’s not the same as it is in Manchester. Other things include being able to swim or let the kids play at Livingston then enjoy a homemade ice cream across the street at The Puritan, or being able to be down by the river and a half-hour later be looking at the city from atop Rock Rimmon … uniquely Manchester. Our history, the people, the small town feel within a city… uniquely Manchester. How we can enjoy the natural beauty of Lake Massabesic or tubing down McIntyre and then within minutes be in a busy downtown area enjoying some local food … uniquely Manchester (Like I said, I’m not a marketing person but hope that you get the basic idea of “Uniquely Manchester”). We can think of many examples that make the place we love uniquely Manchester.
I have heard from many people who have moved away and want to come back because even though the city has issues, (like any other … but not as bad), there is nowhere like Manchester. Uniquely Manchester.
We are…uniquely Manchester!
Manchester, NH, was modeled after Manchester, UK, primarily because our namesake was an industrial powerhouse and Samuel Blodget saw the potential for us to be one too, (“The Manchester of America.”) But we should not confuse being a model with lacking an individual identity. Manchester, New Hampshire, is not Manchester, United Kingdom. Manchester was a planned city that became a company town, (which is why the layout of most of the city is good), but it is its own community and needs to honor its unique history and embrace its unique identity. Uniquely Manchester…
As a side note, I have always wondered why we are not a sister city of our namesake on the other side of the pond. I think that having such a relationship would be beneficial to both cities and would help us better understand our history and origin as well as the community that we were modeled after.
For the Love of Manchester posts will cover a range of topics with a focus on the author’s vision of Manchester becoming a more vibrant, people-friendly, and economically stable city that honors its history and embraces its identity while building for the future. He believes that anything can be accomplished if people are open to new and different ideas and work together towards a common goal.
About the author: Brian Chicoine is a New Hampshire native who moved to Manchester from Raymond in 1980 at the age of 8. He attended Gossler Park Elementary, Parkside and Southside Junior High, and West High, from which he graduated in 1990. After attending Notre Dame College in Manchester, Brian completed his undergraduate degree at Rhode Island College in Providence. Brian and his wife Jackie then came to Manchester in 2004 and were involved in various outreach organizations. Their two boys were born in Manchester during this time. After his position was eliminated in 2009, Brian and his family returned to Rhode Island. They have been living in Providence since 2010. Brian and his family love Manchester and are planning on returning within the next few months. Brian is currently working at helping the city move forward by connecting with other stakeholders and becoming involved with like-minded groups. Brian is also laying the foundation for an organization that will help strengthen the city and help it move forward.
Brian earned a Bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College and a Master of Public Administration degree from Grand Canyon University. Brian currently works at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is also founder of a Facebook Group, Manchester Forward. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.