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Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer has been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a weekly blog about photography in New England.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Blow-Me-Down Mill, A Welcome Photo Assignment

Blow-Me-Down Mill

Blow-Me-Down Mill in Cornish, New Hampshire is a lovely place to photograph, but what’s with the name?

I love an assignment so when Cam Mirisola, Senior Editor for New Hampshire To-Do Magazine emailed me last week about a project

Aspet House, Saint Gaudens,
Cornish, NH
for an up-coming edition, I got excited. Cam was looking for images of Cornish New Hampshire, specifically, any showing the beautiful Saint Gaudens Historic Site in the spring. I was a little disappointed that I already had pictures of the site which seemed to satisfy her request from a couple of years ago, but she also mentioned a location that was entirely new to me. At once I knew I had my assignment.
Saint Gaudens Retreat Blog

Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge
The next day I got up early to search Cornish for the intriguingly named “Blow-Me-Down Mill”. Of course I first Goggled the mill and learned that it was now part of the Saint Gaudens National Historic Site. In the morning I cruised up Route 12a along the Connecticut

Cornish-Winsor Bridge, Mount Ascutney
River stopping at the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge. The bridge was completed in 1866 and spans the Connecticut between Cornish New Hampshire and Windsor, Vermont. At 449 feet, it was the longest covered bridge in the country, until 2008 when a new concrete piered bridge was opened in Ohio. Really, 2008, Concrete, Ohio? Should that count? Anyway, the Cornish-Windsor Bridge still has the longest single span that carries vehicular traffic. On Monday morning, the sky was overcast, but I always find it difficult to pass by without grabbing a few shots with Mount Ascutney in the background.

The Cornish Art Colony
My initial directions to the mill were unnecessarily vague and sent me

Cornish Colony & Mill
off along the back roads of Cornish. After a lovely exploration, I eventually circled around and found the site, right on Route 12a, just few hundred yards north of the main entrance to Saint Gaudens. There had been a mill on this site dating back to the 1820’s, but the current structure was built on the direction of Charles Beaman in 1891. Beaman, a wealthy lawyer from New York City, had built his summer retreat in Cornish in the 1880’s and was instrumental in enticing the famous sculptor August Saint-Gaudens to build his summer home and studios nearby. Saint Gaudens was one
of the founders of the Cornish Art Colony. The Colony was renowned as a seasonal gathering place for a remarkably varied group of prominent artists of the time, including painters, sculptors, writers and actors. The Blow-Me-Down Mill was used by the community as a grist mill until its close in 1920, Now, only the restored building remains, along with a nice mill pond/wet land and a water fall.

Working the Mill
The day remained mostly overcast with only early hints of spring
foliage, but the area provided a wealth of interesting angles and I had a great time exploring the various options. My first challenge was to find a place to park the car that wouldn’t intrude on the pictures.  Despite my efforts, I still had to relocate as I moved around the site. The waterfall had good flow, and with the overcast sky, I was able to get a nice soft effect with only my polarizer and f22, but I also pulled out my variable neutral density filter to extend the exposure over several second. The compositional challenge was to find angles that included a nice balance of the mill building and the falls. From the side the building was rather flat and one dimensional so I moved down stream for better
perspective. During the summer and fall with the trees in full foliage views up the brook to the mill house would be obstructed, but on this
Four Second Exposure with Variable ND Filter
day, I was able to get a clearer look. The scene taken from the Stone
Bridge offered an especially nice perspective on the whole site. Along the edge of the brook, I used my trusty Mini Bungee Cords to pull back branches and, unlike most times, I actually remembered to retrieve the cords when I was done. In most compositions, I tried to minimize the dull sky, but I was able to bring out some of the texture in post using highlight 

Downstream with Bungee Assist

Stone Bridge/Tunnel

Stone 'Bridge"/Tunnel HDR
Downstream from the mill is an impressive stone bridge that, with the movement of the road, is now more of a tunnel. With the bright outside and dark tunnel, it was an excellent chance to apply a little HDR. In my picture I used 7 images. It was interesting how the small water drains lit up along the passage. They looked rather strange, but I decided to leave them in.

Blow-Me-Down Covered Bridge

Blow-Me-Dow Bridge over
Blow-Me Down Brook
My “assignment “ complete, I went on to explore the Blow-Me-Down Covered Bridge, which, not surprisingly crosses the Blow-Me-Down
Brook. Seriously?!  Is everything "Blow-Me Down" in Cornish?  The bridge itself was not especially unique, but then I move off to the side and discovered that it spans a spectacular little gorge("Blow-Me-Down Gorge I presume). I could have spent much more time here, but I had to get back to town. 

All-in-all it was a productive morning given the weather and the scant early spring foliage. As always I have this place recorded in my brain and in my GPS. I will return. Whether or not something gets in New Hampshire To-Do, I still have to thank Cam for a great tip and a good excuse to get away from the endless spring chores at home.


Oh, and the name. From what I read Saint Gaudens himself picked “Blow-Me-Down” as a joke. I’m not sure about that, but it is as good an explanation as any.

 Blow-Me-Down Mill:
 43° 29' 49.806" N
 72° 22' 32.544" W


  1. I think the origin of the name blow-me-down is unknown but I'm going to ask people in this area and see if I can find out
    Have a blog wwwmeriden.blogspot.com and we were in Cornish
    this week

    I'll let you know what I learn

  2. Gorgeous (pun intended) photos! Looking forward to visiting this area in a few weeks. Blow-me-down was the name of the brook on the first maps of the area, but no one is exactly sure why it was named that. The cartographers had been up in Nova Scotia before mapping Cornish, and Blomidon is in Nova Scotia, so that's one theory. As to why Charles Beaman, owner of Blow-Me-Down Mill, Farm, etc., went crazy with the name, no clue.

  3. I was young when 12-A was "upgraded". This essentially destroyed the mill and the beautiful bridge downstream, with the new road elevated and cutting through the middle of the pond upstream from the mill's dam.

  4. We used to fish on the other side of the mill.It was a relatively sizable marshy pond. Back then you could catch some of the largest “hornpout” (Catfish) to be found anywhere in the Connecticut River valley.