Ambrose Swasey was born in Exeter, NH, on December 19, 1846.
This Exonian became a mechanical engineer, inventor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He made his fame and fortune with the Warner & Swasey Company, which he founded with his partner, Worcester Warner, in 1880 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Warner & Swasey Company specialized in designing and building astronomical observatories.
Ambrose maintained a home in Exeter and spent many summers there over the course of his life.
In August of 1929, Ambrose presented the town with an offer to provide all the funding needed to turn the town dump, located near downtown and running along the banks of the Squamscott River, into a park. The Olmstead Brothers, landscape architects from Brookline, Massachusetts, were hired to draw up the plans and work was begun in the summer of 1930.
The Exeter Shore Parkway was officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 10, 1931. Ambrose was in attendance. The people of Exeter were so pleased with the gift of this beautiful half-mile long jewel that now graced their town and riverfront that they soon decided to rename the park as the Swasey Parkway.
Here’s a photo I took on Swasey Parkway in September, 2020.
To this day, Swasey Parkway is the highlight of downtown Exeter. It is a wonderful place to take a walk, sit for a spell on one of its many benches and, during the summer months, hear some live music.
The Exeter Parks & Recreation Department has hosted a summer concert series in Swasey Parkway for quite some time. Back in the 1990’s, then-director Doug Dicey frequently invited me to be on the roster and I have many fond memories of singing out across the green lawns of Swasey on a warm July evening with the Squamscott River flowing quietly behind me.
In the late Fall of 2020, I was walking on Water Street in downtown Exeter when I spotted a poster in the window of a coffeeshop. The poster announced the beginning of a local music profile TV show called “Sounds of Swasey.” Any local musician interested in being featured on the show was encouraged to contact Darien Castro at ExeterTV.
Given the way things were going in the Fall of 2020, my mental note to look into “Sounds of Swasey” promptly fell through the cracks.
However, in January of 2022, I received an email from Todd Hearon, my friend, colleague and a fellow songwriter, singer and guitarist. Todd had gotten a spot on “Sounds of Swasey” and said that Darien was looking for folks to be on the next season of the show. Could he send my contact info on to her? I eagerly replied in the affirmative.
Darien contacted me in February and finally, on the afternoon of Monday, June 20, she, videographer Garret Pray and I met on the covered stage in the heart of Swasey Parkway. Singing, playing, conversation and filming soon commenced.
Thanks to the additional extensive efforts and skills of ExeterTV’s executive producer Bob Glowacky, my episode of “Sounds of Swasey” went live on YouTube on August 24.
Here it is for your viewing and listening pleasure.
The songs I performed – all originals – were: “Dancin’ In The Kitchen,” “Cherish These Moments,” “A Little Song,” and “There Are (Songs To Be Sung).”
The original promo video for “Sounds of Swasey” aired on YouTube on January 26, 2021. Darien Castro and the folks at ExeterTV produced a total of 16 episodes, all available on YouTube. They are well worth checking out.
PS: Ambrose Swasey passed away in Exeter on June 15, 1937.