Portsmouth, N.H.
Sure, it's cold in New England. But that doesn't put a chill on the lure for some retirees.

There are two things you must love if you're going to live in a place like Portsmouth, N.H.: the cold and history.

This year 125 inches of snow fell on Portsmouth, and there were several long stretches when the temperature didn't rise above freezing in New Hampshire's oldest town.

Vicky and Robert Haft, 71 and 72, respectively, left a Manhattan co-op in a doorman building in 1989 for a historic two-story house with sidewalks to shovel.

But when spring comes around and they begin planting in the backyard, they unearth relics from their house's previous owners. "It's like an archaeological dig here," says Vicky.

The town grew out of a land grant from the King of England to the governor of Newfoundland 400 years ago; the land is now the site of the Strawbery Banke historical museum along the Piscataqua River. Because of the port, which is still active, the town was once a rowdy gathering place for sailors.

These days, though, you're more likely to see Dockers-wearing management types by the docks. At the height of the dotcom frenzy, more than 400 Internet companies operated from Portsmouth.

With the boom came stylish restaurants and a buzzing night life that survived the bust. And you don't even have to make the short drive down to Boston for culture: Portsmouth has a respected repertory theater, concerts at the Music Hall, more than 100 eateries and continuing education classes at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, just 10 minutes away.

Important for retirees, there also is the highly regarded Portsmouth Regional Hospital, which has recently added a cardiac unit, and the city's proximity to Boston, home to some of the world's best hospitals.

There's no income tax or sales tax, and the city's property tax rate is reasonable, at 1.9 percent of assessed value. The state sponsors a drug assistance program for seniors. Plus, New Hampshire is the safest state in the nation, according to FBI statistics.

If you're moving to Portsmouth for the history, you may be hard-pressed to find an older home in good condition in central Portsmouth. But waterfront warehouses have been converted into condo lofts (prices average about $450,000) and new developments and old farmhouses on half-acre lots are available in nearby Dover, Durham and Stratham.

And what about the snow? Enjoy it, as Joan and Donald Holroyd, 69 and 72, do. Some years they ski into Tuckerman's Ravine at Mount Washington on the Fourth of July.

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