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20 Things You Never Knew About New England

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new england lighthouse
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New England Trivia

New England is a fascinating and colorful corner of the country, a region steeped in history punctuated by the legendary events of the Colonial times. It's also a place known for its picturesque coastline, mountains, and vibrant cities. And while much of New England's history and highlights are well known, there's always more to learn about the rich and diverse region that encompasses Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

Camden, Maine harbor
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It's Only Slightly Bigger Than the State of Washington

Though New England is home to a half-dozen states and about 14.8 million people, its total area of 71,991.8 square miles means it is only slightly larger than the state of Washington.   

Boston Subway
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Boston's Subway Was the First in the Western Hemisphere

Caught up in a famous rivalry with New York City, which was busy constructing its own subway around the same time, Boston emerged as the first city in the Western Hemisphere to start operating a subway in 1897. The Tremont Street subway replaced the city's horse-drawn cars on rail.   

Maine
DenisTangneyJr/istockphoto

Maine Has More Coastline Than California

Though it may seem hard to believe, the New England state of Maine actually has more coastline than California. Maine boasts 3,478 miles of coastline. When you include all of Maine's islands it has more than 5,000 miles of coast. The Golden State on the other hand has 3,427 miles of coastline.

aerial shot of maine
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Maine Is Nearly as Big as the Other Five New England States Combined

Maine's size can be deceptive. In addition to all of that coastline, the New England state has a total area of 33,215 square miles. That means it's almost as big as all of the other five New England states put together, which cover 36,293 square miles.

Hartford Courant
Hartford Courant by Sage Ross (CC BY-SA)

Connecticut Is Home to the Oldest Continuously Published Newspaper

In an age when the media is constantly under attack and newspapers closing is hardly unusual — here's a legacy worth celebrating. Connecticut is home to the oldest U.S. newspaper still being published.  "The Hartford Courant" was first published in 1764 out of a tavern in Hartford, Connecticut. Printer Thomas Green began the paper with a mission of informing the world about the important events of his time.

Boston Common, Boston
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Boston Common Is the Country's Oldest Public Park

Sure, Boston is steeped in history. That's hardly any surprise. But few may realize that among its many historic claims to fame is the fact that Boston Commons is the country's oldest public park. The open space dates back to 1634 when Puritan colonists used it as a pasture to graze local livestock and it was referred to as the "Common Land." Later the space was used for Puritanical punishments (yikes) and included a whipping post. Everyone from pirates to murderers and witches were hanged from a tree in the park. Today of course, it is used for much more pastoral purposes.

Related: The Best Things To Do In Boston

YES it's Shark Week
YES it's Shark Week by Richard Elzey (CC BY-NC-ND)

New England Has Made Many Hollywood Cameos

With its stunning and varied scenery, it's no surprise that a long, long list of Hollywood movies have been filmed in New England. Some of the most well-known include "Jaws," "The Perfect Storm," "Mystic River," "Love Story," "On Golden Pond," and the legendary and award-winning action film about the notorious Irish-American organized crime scene in Boston: "The Departed,"  starring Jack Nicholson.

Related: 50 Iconic Movie Locations You Have to Visit

Dunkin’ Donuts | Best Coffee Shop For Uploading Large Files
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Dunkin' Donuts Hails from New England

Though it's famous around the nation (and the world) now, the popular coffee and donut shop traces its roots to New England and more specifically, to Quincy, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1950 and then in 1955 the first Dunkin' Donuts franchise was launched. Fast forward to today and there are more than 12,400 locations in a mind boggling 46 countries.

Related: Dunkin' vs. Krispy Kreme: Who Has the Better Tasting Doughnuts?

Brand-Name Schools
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Harvard Served as a Military Barracks During the Revolutionary War

A legendary Ivy League institution, Harvard University played a unique role during the Revolutionary War. The Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus was turned over to the American army in 1775 to house some 1,600 soldiers (which was greater than the entire population of Cambridge at the time). Students were transferred to a campus in the nearby city of Concord, which is about 20 miles away.  

John F. Kennedy home, Brookline, Massachusetts
John F. Kennedy home, Brookline, Massachusetts by Carol M. Highsmith (None)

There Are Presidential Birthplaces Galore

New England has given birth (literally and figuratively) to its fair share of U.S. presidents. Eight of the country's commanders in chief were born in New England. The first were John Adams and John Quincy Adams, who were born in Massachusetts. Next up: Franklin Pierce, whose homestead is in New Hampshire. Presidents Chester Arthur and Calvin Coolidge were both born in Vermont, while John F. Kennedy and George H.W. Bush were born in Massachusetts, and George W. Bush was born in Connecticut.

Mark Twain
Mark Twain by United States Library of Congress (None)

New England Is and Has Been Home to Many Authors of Note

It's hardly any secret that countless famous people have been born in New England, but the region has been a particular hot spot for legendary authors over the course of time, including those who lived there or were inspired by the region. Mark Twain had a home in Hartford, Connecticut (during a time when Hartford had the highest per-capita income in the United States, no less). Emily Dickinson had a home in Massachusetts, and Robert Frost had a farm in New Hampshire.

Related: 19 Virtual Tours of Famous Homes

Scoville Memorial Library
Scoville Memorial Library by Gary Miotla (CC BY)

Connecticut Is Home to the Country's Oldest Public Library

It should probably come as no surprise that a region of the country known for attracting so many intellectuals would be home to the oldest publicly funded library in the country. The Scoville Memorial Library in Salisbury, Connecticut, was created in 1771 with 200 books that had been brought from England and funds pitched in by 39 people. Today the library's collection includes more than 30,000 items.

The Trapp Family
The Trapp Family by Conrad Poirier (CC BY-SA)

The Von Trapps Called Vermont Home

Who among us is not familiar with the movie "The Sound of Music," which retells the story of the Von Trapp family's famous escape from Austria during World War II? Starring Julie Andrews, the movie is a classic. But far fewer people likely are familiar with what happened after the family escaped Austria. The answer is they settled in New England. The family moved to Stowe, Vermont, which apparently reminded them of the home country they had left behind.

Related: 21 Famous Movie Homes That Will Bring Back Memories

Mount Washington
Mount Washington by wwoods (CC BY-SA)

A New Hampshire Mountain Held World-Record Wind Speeds

New Hampshire's Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States. But that's not the only claim to fame for this New England landmark. The mountain also has a larger-than-life reputation thanks to its brutal and erratic weather. In fact, it was once the location of the fastest wind speeds on Earth not attributable to a tornado or cyclone. In 1934, winds atop the towering mountain reached 231 mph, which was a world wind speed record until 1996. "The weather on Mount Washington in New Hampshire is well-documented. The mountain tops out at 6,300 feet, high enough to be on the receiving end of some wild New England weather," says Paul Johnson, founder of the North Outdoors. "The combination of its vertical rise and its positioning on multiple storm tracks creates a bit of a 'perfect storm.'"

Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine
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Maine's Island Paradise Was Once Very Busy

There are nearly 5,000 islands off the coast of Maine, putting it not far behind the number of Greek islands, where there are 6,000. And as James Kaiser, author of "Acadia: The Complete Guide," points out, in the late 1800s, more than 300 of Maine's islands were inhabited year-round. "Back then, the islands were the best places to live because they were close to coastal shipping routes — the equivalent of interstate highways today," says Kaiser. "As trains and trucks made coastal shipping less important, people abandoned offshore islands. Today just 15 islands are inhabited year-round."

women at ocean
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Women Outnumber Men

Fun fact: There are more women than men in New England. According to 2017 data, women make up 51.3 percent of the population. Overall, women make up about 50.8 percent of the U.S. population.

Rhode Island
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Rhode Island's First Name Was Providence Plantation

Rhode Island was first named Providence Plantation by its founder Roger Williams, who established the state in 1636. Williams wanted to create a place where religious liberty and the separation of church and state were acknowledged.

 First Baptist Church in America in the 1800s
First Baptist Church in America in the 1800s by Unknown (None)

Rhode Island Had Multiple Religious Firsts

After founding Rhode Island, Roger Williams went on to create the country's first Baptist Church, a congregation that is still in existence today. The First Baptist Church in America, as it is known, has been around for about 384 years. Rhode Island is also home to the first Jewish synagogue in America, which was dedicated in 1763 in Newport.

Boston
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Boston Is the Biggest in More Than One Way

Of all the cities in New England, Boston is the largest by more than one measure. It is both the most populous in New England (710,195 residents) and it also has the largest metropolitan area of the 15 metropolitan cities in the region.

New Hampshire State House
New Hampshire State House by AlexiusHoratius (CC BY-SA)

Oldest State Capitol Where Both Houses of Legislature Still Meet

If you haven't gathered by now, New England oozes history. There are countless historic landmarks and noteworthy old buildings. But New Hampshire's state house has a particularly unique claim to fame. Opened in 1819, it is the oldest state capitol in which both houses of the legislature continue to meet in their original chambers.