1913 Boscawen Library

The 1913 Boscawen Library (Seven to Save 2013) is making headway towards this landmark’s re-use thanks to the focus and tenaciousness of members of the Committee to Save the Old Boscawen Library. The Preservation Alliance has been pleased to help local leaders with recognition and coaching over the last few years. 

Designed by famed Boston architect Guy Lowell, who also designed Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and the NH Historical Society’s building, this 1913 Colonial Revival building was the first public library in Boscawen.  Frank Lawrence Gerrish donated land at the junction of Routes 3 and 4, and John and Charlotte Kimball and Benjamin Ames Kimball donated the money to build the library.  The elegant classical revival exterior is complemented by an open floor plan, dark wood paneling, and a beautiful engraved and inscribed wooden mantel over the main fireplace.

Listed to the National Register in 1981, it was closed in 2006 when the Town moved its library resources to a new Municipal Complex, an adaptive reuse of the Old Main Street School building.  A leaking roof and foundation drainage issues led to moisture-related damage and an uncertain future. 

Committee to Save the Old Boscawen Library is making progress with a phased plan to save and restore the building as a multi-use facility.   The first steps were roof repair, improvements to drainage, and exterior work to make the building safe and ready for interior repairs and improvements with help from an LCHIP grant and private donations. The Town has agreed to provide a basic maintenance budget to keep the building heated and lights on along with matching funds for money raised by the Committee. The basement is being renovated to provide some moisture-free space for storing nonprofit documents, and some additional work is out to bid.

Possible future uses include storage of historical records and Historical Society displays, space for local artists’ demonstrations, or lease to a business. 

Additional thoughts regarding ways that the Committee has expanded public awareness and engaged the Town from Committee member Lorrie Carey:

·       I think our "Seven to Save" designation has really helped raise community awareness.

·       We made the 1913 library's birthday a part of the Old Home Day celebration.

·       We had elementary kids making homemade hearts for Valentine's Day to show how much they love their library.

·       There must be plenty of room for numerous volunteers to float ideas and feel engaged.

“It is one thing to save a historic resource,” said Carey. “It is another to maintain the building for future generations to use. Both the current and future condition of the building must be considered as the plans to save a historic resource come together.”

Kensington Town Hall Success

The rehabilitated Kensington Town Hall reopened in September 2016 after an eight year process that featured mold problems and demolition conversation yielding to effective outreach and “win-win” rehabilitation solutions.

This simple Greek Revival building was purpose-built in 1846 exclusively for use by town government.  It replaced the original meeting house on the site, reusing its massive timbers in the construction.  Since that time, it has also been a primary venue for Kensington’s socials, dances and lectures.  It is one of the three iconic buildings that define the center of Kensington.

During the Mother’s Day floods of 2008, ground water infiltrated the offices that were created in 1981 in the basement of the town hall, and mold was discovered growing in boxes of books and under file cabinets.  Town employees became ill and the selectmen commissioned mold studies.  As a result, the office spaces were gutted and rebuilt, and new offices were added in the historic stage area of the auditorium.  But the mold issues persisted, and after a lawsuit was filed, the selectmen relocated the town offices and police department to other quarters.  Then they considered their options for the condemned building.  Gut it “to the studs” and reconfigure the office space?  Demolish the “old” town hall and construct an entirely new building?  

 The Friends of the Kensington Town Hall came together to raise awareness of the plight of the historic building and assist with preservation options.  They bartered for a report from Tim Nichols, a local engineer, to analyze the issues and offer an alternate opinion and options for preservation.  At the same time they prepared a NH Division of Historical Resources (DHR) inventory form and were offered State Register listing for the Town House.  When the selectmen refused to sign the letter allowing the listing, the Friends prepared a nomination for listing to the National Register of Historic Places.  When that recognition was received, a bronze plaque was placed on the building.  Later in 2011, the Friends advocated for and won a coveted spot for the building on the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance’s Seven to Save list.

The Friends then launched a town-wide initiative to change public opinion and bring the town hall back into productive use for the town in a safe condition at a reasonable cost to taxpayers.  Strategies included a broad-based email network, a Facebook page, a postcard-writing campaign, web-based and printed information, and colorful posters, brochures and buttons.  The Friends kept the public informed and kept the pressure on the selectmen with a series of articles in the local newspapers, and raised private contributions from dozens of townsfolk to fund their work.

 The Friends’ challenge was to do what earlier efforts had not accomplished: determine the source of the moisture infiltration, make a plan to correct it, remediate all adverse existing conditions, and assure that the problems would not recur.  They wrote a warrant article and the town voted $10,000 to remediate the mold and other conditions that had made town employees sick, campaigned for it and got it passed at the March 2012 town meeting despite vocal dissent from the selectmen.  (Citizens requested and got an informal vote of approval and a standing ovation at the deliberative session!).  The article passed by a large margin at the polls.  In contrast, the selectmen backed a $1.5 million plan to build a new municipal complex and this was soundly defeated.  When it came time for the work, however, this effort ended up costing $17,360 and the Friends found themselves short.  They were saved by an emergency grant of $4,000 from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, an award that also helped strengthen their local credibility.  The remainder was paid by donations from over 35 townspeople totaling $3,360.

The remediation of the mold accomplished, in 2014 they wrote another article for $52,000 to complete the repair of the Town Hall, and it passed by a large margin.  Work included the installation of proper drainage and gutters, sealing the foundation, and using non-porous materials to replace some of those that were removed in the remediation process.  When the work was accomplished, air-quality testing showed that the building was mold-free and completely safe for occupancy.

A new board of selectmen is now in place who are extremely supportive of the effort to return town offices and police to the town hall.  They wrote an article for the 2015 warrant requesting $40,000 for the services of a preservation architect to study and design a modest addition that would house new offices for the police and town employees at the historic Town Hall.  It passed by a large margin, prompting the selectmen to confidently ask the Preservation Alliance to remove the Kensington town hall from the Seven to Save list. 

The Kensington Town Hall opened in September 2016 with a 2,000-square-foot addition that respects the history of the 1846 structure and allows town departments to serve residents more efficiently with fully modern capabilities and equipment. The project included correcting a problem with mold, and the Board of Selectmen did it without raising taxes and with local labor whenever possible to bring new life and usefulness to this historic town hall meetinghouse.

Town Meeting Season

With Town Meeting season upon us, we looked back a couple years to find advice along with the struggles. Here’s an inspiring  profile of the recent Wolfeboro Town Hall project that is scalable to projects of all size. Commendable persistence and a strong public-private partnership helped revive the civic heart of this downtown.

Built in 1890, the Romanesque Revival Brewster Memorial Hall was designed to house town offices along with three commercial storefronts that would generate income for the building’s upkeep.  The large second floor hall hosted town meetings, movies, concerts and dances until the 1980s when it was closed due to lack of code compliance.
 
In 2007, the town hired an architect to fully rehabilitate the aging building, but voters rejected the $6.7 million price tag, as well as a subsequent less expensive version.  The Friends of Wolfeboro Town Hall supported an incremental approach, and they hired new experts, hosted community forums, got funding to restore the tower clock, raised pledges of nearly $1 million and got out the vote for a third –and successful--warrant article request in March 2014 for just $4 million.  The group meet every Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. to maintain momentum. 
The slate roof was repaired and masonry repointed.  Office layouts were improved, energy upgrades were made, an elevator was added, all interior woodwork was preserved, and major staircases were retained and rehabilitated.  Removal of the 20th century dropped ceiling in the Great Hall revealed a handsome wood truss system and dormer windows,
Since the re-dedication in late 2015, this well-loved building is also very well-used, bringing new appreciation for historic preservation and a renewed sense of community pride and vitality.

Town of Wolfeboro
Rehabilitation of Brewster Memorial Hall
With partners:
Friends of Wolfeboro Town Hall
Conneston Construction, Inc.
Northeast Collaborative Architects

N.H. Preservation Alliance barn assessment grant deadlines February 1 and May 1 - Part of 52 Barns in 52 Weeks campaign

Barn owners interested in a professional evaluation of their historic barn should consider applying for a small assessment grant. Winners of the competitive grants are matched with experienced contractors that provide owners a “road map” for repair after a site visit. The grants do not cover the costs of repair or restoration. Upcoming deadlines for submission are February 1 and May 1. Please go to our website for further details.

The information gathered from the assessment often helps owners better understand the history and evolution of their barns, prioritize and budget to address critical needs, find out what work they can do themselves, and be better clients for work done by contractors. 

In addition to the barn grants are two other proven programs to meet the goal: educational programs for barn owners and enthusiasts, and expanding use of a state barn easement program that can offer tax relief to property owners who preserve their historic agricultural structures.  Barns are part of the landscapes and communities that attract businesses and visitors according to project leaders.  

We are grateful to donors of this initiative,  and are seeking additional financial support for the program.   To learn more about the 52 Barns in 52 Weeks initiative, or to make a donation, go to nhpreservation.org. 

You can also email barns@nhpreservation.org to receive information and updates about the program.  Upcoming events include a February 17 lecture on in-town barns at the Farm and Forest Expo in Manchester.

Photo:  Daniel Ayers, a Northumberland barn owner, secured one of our barn assessment grants and used it to create a road map for the stabilization and repair of his 1880s barn. Dan purchased the “fantastic place” to preserve the land and buildings which are such an integral part of town history. The local landmark stands across from the 1799 Meeting House, is on the site of Fort Wentworth and the old muster grounds, had been owned by the same family for 5 generations and is part of an old stage coach stop.  Not only did he preserve the barn, he “paid it forward” by giving the Alliance the same amount as his grant to support our activities and help other barn owners.