Thar she blowsRoute 1, Portsmouth, NH

Yoken's whale sign sketch by Chandler O'Leary

If you ever have to ask for directions in New England, beware. Folks there have a tendency to reference landmarks that no longer exist (this quirk is bred into me, too—sorry to anyone I’ve ever confused). “Turn left where the pizza place used to be.” “Go just past where the old highway ran through before they put in a rotary.” “It’s across the street from Bob’s old shop, but it’s called something else now—can’t remember what it is.” If you don’t already know a place like a local, it can be maddening.

Yoken’s is the perfect example: a regional landmark that absolutely everybody in the area knows well, but that is long defunct (ten years now). The sign is still there, though, and is even in the middle of being restored. Thank goodness—and I don’t just mean for anyone giving directions in Portsmouth. Even more so than its brother down the road in Massachusetts, this thing is an absolute masterwork of design.

Long live the Yoken’s whale, the Queen of Route One—may she be a guiding landmark for decades to come.

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