New England manufacturing declined in the 20th century, however, particularly during the Great Depression. Keene became a manufacturing center for wooden-ware, pails, chairs, sash, shutters, doors, pottery, glass, soap, woolen textiles, shoes, saddles, mowing machines, carriages and sleighs. Keene was incorporated as a city in 1874, and by 1880 had a population of 6,784.

Settled after 1736, it was intended to be a fort town protecting the Province of Massachusetts Bay during the French and Indian Wars.

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The city nevertheless retains a considerable inventory of fine Victorian architecture from its flush mill town era.

Keene is today a center for insurance, education and tourism.

During King George's War, the village was attacked and burned by Indians.

When the boundary between Massachusetts and New Hampshire was fixed in 1741 Upper Ashuelot became part of New Hampshire.

New Hampshire Route 9 leads northeast to Concord and west to Brattleboro, Vermont.

Route 10 leads north to Newport and southwest to Northfield, Massachusetts.

The last time a tornado hit Cheshire County was in 1997. The most recent such winter was 2002–2003, when Keene received 112.5" of snow.