2019's Seven to Save List Announced

The list features a new group of endangered historic structures, from top left to right: Willing Workers Hall in Warren, Gothic Cottage on the Chesterfield common, First Baptist Church in Gilmanton, Ossipee Depot, Marion Blodgett Museum in Stratford, former home of poets Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon, and general stores statewide.

The list features a new group of endangered historic structures, from top left to right: Willing Workers Hall in Warren, Gothic Cottage on the Chesterfield common, First Baptist Church in Gilmanton, Ossipee Depot, Marion Blodgett Museum in Stratford, former home of poets Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon, and general stores statewide.

The Blazing Star Grange Hall in Danbury was at capacity Tuesday night as the newest Seven to Save properties were revealed. “We need these places to survive and thrive,” said Jennifer Goodman, executive director of the Preservation Alliance, “These landmarks are the hearts and souls of our daily life.”

The resources listed this year varied from small town landmarks facing decades of deferred maintenance to unique properties on the market to general stores statewide. Of the individual properties listed, six of New Hampshire’s ten counties are represented, in towns with populations from 680 to 4,300.

Seven to Save designation will help shine a light on these properties, as well as provide special services from the Preservation Alliance. In the past, Seven to Save properties have benefited from the statewide media attention, receiving “bonus points” on LCHIP grant applications, getting special services like listing to the NH State Register of Historic Places, and/or planning studies.

This year’s list brought the total number of listees to 99. Of the previous listees, about half are considered safe, several have been lost, and many are stalled or in the process of rehabilitation.

This year’s list includes:

Marion Blodgett Museum, Stratford

Originally built in 1850 as a Greek and Gothic Revival meetinghouse, this church continues to define the Stratford Hollow village. The Cohos Historical Society took on the building when the congregation folded in 2001. Short-term, it needs to raise $50,000 for structural work, a new roof, storm windows and exterior painting. Long term, it will need $250,000 in restoration work so that it can once again become a gathering spot for this North Country town. 

Glencliff Willing Workers Society Hall, Warren

This small, early 20th century social hall in the village of Glencliff serves as headquarters for an organization that does good deeds for neighbors in need. The century-old organization continues to use the hall as it was intended: for card games, dances, holiday parties, and suppers. The group needs a boost to balance a long list of maintenance needs with their charitable mission, however.

Eagle Pond Farm, Wilmot

The farm buildings and its acres of fields and forest that stretch from the foothills of Ragged Mountain to the shores of Eagle Pond inspired U.S. poet laureate Donald Hall and his wife, poet Jane Kenyon. Support for the Don and Jane Project’s sustainable plan is needed to preserve the house/barn/farm as both local and national landmark and provide a place where established writers can be in residence and do their work.

Marsh House (former Chesterfield Town Offices), Chesterfield

Built in the 1850s, this high style Gothic Cottage sits on the common of Chesterfield and for decades served as the town offices. Vacant since 2007, local stakeholders are eager for new investment and a use that will add vibrancy to the village.

Lower Gilmanton Baptist Church, Gilmanton

A local group of community advocates hopes to build on their success with a nearby one-room schoolhouse as they prepare to tackle major structural deficiencies in this landmark building, one of the Lakes Region’s best preserved Greek Revival churches.

Ossipee Depot

This 1871 landmark needs a preservation buyer. Historically, it was part of the development of recreation and business markets throughout the Lakes Region - and with the right buyer - could once again add vibrancy to the Ossipee area. 

General Stores, Statewide

A village staple for the majority of New Hampshire towns, the venerable general store has struggled in the past decade to compete with slimmer margins and creeping costs of gas pumps, kitchen equipment, and property taxes. In the past few years, stores in Brookline, Francestown, Hill, Danbury, Cornish, Bath, Grafton, and West Canaan have closed. Some have re-opened, others may re-open, but several remain closed.

2019 Seven to Save: Glencliff Willing Workers Hall

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The Glencliff Willing Workers Hall dates to 1920 when women and their “better halves” (according to a letter from the first president!) gathered to build a social hall to further their mission of helping each other through hard times. The women knitted, quilted, cooked, and crafted to raise funds to support children, elderly, and sick residents. In the 1930s, they raised enough additional money to add a rear kitchen and bathroom addition.

 The hall became the epicenter of village life in Glencliff and surrounding towns. Regular fundraisers included card parties, dances, suppers, concerts, original plays, holiday parties, sing-alongs, bean-o games, minstrel shows, and traveling vaudeville performances. In 1921 – seventeen years before electricity came to the village – the hall was electrified for movie screenings. During the Great Depression, the hall served as a social outlet for nearby East Warren Civilian Conservation Corps workers. Several corps members volunteered to act in plays and help serve suppers.

 The first president, May Fifield, wrote that “The hall has provided a neat, cozy and attractive place of social and intellectual functions.” Today, the hall remains owned by the Willing Workers and the group continues to organize community events that benefit children and families in need.

 Unfortunately, though, the organization’s sign attached to the side of the building is more ironic than indicative of the organization’s good work. The building suffers from decades of deferred maintenance, and now faces a laundry list of work to be done, including a roof, foundation repair, exterior painting, and window repair.

 According to Deb Dickmann, the president of the Willing Workers, “We’re happy to have been determined eligible for the State and National Register.  Our fundraising efforts at this time are dedicated to raising money to restore our historical building.  In our effort to keep our building standing for the next century, we hope your recognition will provide the attention we need to succeed in our restoration.  We are extremely grateful.”

Seven to Save 2019: Stratford's Blodgett Museum

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Originally built as a Methodist Episcopal meetinghouse in 1850, this Stratford Hollow landmark started out as a typical Gothic and Greek Revival church. It was extensively renovated in 1896, with the congregation adding shingles, stained glass windows, pressed tin walls, and new pews. But, like many smaller congregations in New Hampshire, membership dwindled and the building became a burden. By 2000, the congregation voted to sell their home to the Cohos Historical Society.

The Society started off strong – the building received a new roof, steeple repair, electrical upgrades, and was listed to the State Register of Historic Places. But then that group tired and the Historical Society nearly went defunct.

A revival of sorts happened a few years ago and new members recommitted themselves to preserving this special North Country place. They built up their bank account and started annual fundraisers like Hollow-ween. The Cohos Historical Society recently had a Preservation Alliance-funded assessment done of the building, which shows immediate and mid-range necessary work totaling more than $250,000. “As one of New Hampshire’s poorest communities – and with a population of only 700 people – that number is a lot to digest. But we’re hopeful for an LCHIP grant this year to start important structural work and drainage improvements,” says president Jamie Davis. 

“Eventually, we plan to restore the stained glass windows – many of which were damaged in 1923, when a fire broke out next door to the church. After all is done, we’re excited about getting our community’s museum and gathering spot back open to the public.”

2019 Seven to Save: First Baptist Church, Lower Gilmanton

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Lower Gilmanton was Gilmanton's first village settled in 1761.  A Baptist meeting house was built in 1774 in a field adjacent to the Revolutionary War Training Grounds on what is now known as Frisky Hill.  After 67 years, this meeting house fell into disrepair. In 1842, Antipas Gilman and John Meserve, Wardens of the Baptist Society, deeded to the Church the land where the current church is located just south of the original location.

The church has been used continuously for nearly 180 years.  During this time, the church has served the community with Sunday services, hosting weddings, funerals, Christmas gatherings, and suppers. It has been described as one of the finest and most intact Greek revival churches in Belknap County and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Through the continued regular use and upkeep of the property, the Lower Gilmanton Community Club and fellow church members have become concerned about the deteriorating condition of the building.  In the summer and fall of 2018 when torrential rains started entering the auditorium, staining ceiling, walls, filling pews with water and stains on floors a member contacted Steve Bedard of Bedard Preservation & Restoration. Mr. Bedard’s observations discovered our steeple was not adequately supported and the structural integrity of our building was compromised.  The restoration project estimate came in around $180,000 and is financially beyond the scope of volunteers.  The time has come for members and volunteers to seek outside assistance. 

The Lower Gilmanton Community Club, used the knowledge learned from the much smaller 2016 Kelley Corner Schoolhouse project, applied for and received an assessment grant from the NH Preservation Alliance.  This grant allowed us to retain Steve Bedard for a Building Assessment.  The group has applied for a 2019 LCHIP grant and are making a plan for restoration and a capital campaign.

Says Paula Gilman (a 7th generation Gilmanton resident), “Next year, we are hopeful to start the restoration project.  Some of this work has been needed for nearly 100 years.”

2019 Seven to Save: General Stores

Courtesy Historic Harrisville

Courtesy Historic Harrisville

General stores have long been a fixture in any New Hampshire village, and our state claims several superlatives: Bath as the oldest continuously run store in America (open since the early 1790s), Moultonborough as the oldest store in America (since the 1780s), and Francestown as the second oldest continually operated store (since 1814).

Through the 1990s and 2000s, though, general stores struggled to remain economically viable, and dozens in NH were lost. In the past several years, a number of towns experienced the closure of a general store, including Brookline, Hill, Grafton, West Canaan, Cornish, Francestown, and even Danbury. Some have since re-opened to cater to tourists and no longer offer staples for the community. Others re-open with an emphasis on prepared foods. Too many remain closed.

When the private market will not re-open a store, there are models of ownership that can help keep stores open. Nonprofit ownership, like in Harrisville, South Acworth, Hooksett, and Eaton allows for stores to lower overhead costs and keep stores that operate on the margins, viable.

Read more about general stores here.

2019 Seven to Save: Ossipee Depot

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The Portsmouth, Great Falls, and Conway Railroad connected Rollinsford to Conway and reached Ossipee in 1870 after the town voted to loan the line 5% of the town’s total valuation. Four depots were constructed after 1871, two of which were nearly identical – Center Ossipee (later known as Mountainview) and this one, in Ossipee.

Many of the line’s railroad depots were distinctive, most notably the Russian-inspired North Conway Depot. But seven smaller depots shared the design details employed at Ossipee – a central spire, hipped dormers, a wrap-around awning, and plenty of bargeboard. Of these depots, Ossipee and Wolfeboro are the only two remaining.

The Boston and Maine Railroad leased the line in 1890, but by the mid-1900s, much of the passenger and freight service had ceased. This depot wound up in private hands until it sold to a voluntary association in 2015 which hoped to convert it into a museum. But a property tax dispute discouraged the museum from forming, and the property was put on the market. The current owner wishes to find a preservation-minded buyer.

Located near the village of Ossipee – the seat of Carroll County, this former depot will need a visionary new owner who has the passion and money to make a preservation project happen. If you’re all aboard, come find us after the event.

You can see the listing for the property here: https://www.wrightrealty.com/p/40-Old-Route-28-Ossipee-NH-03864/dmgid_129223954

Seven to Save 2019: Chesterfield's Marsh House

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Chesterfield is a predominantly agricultural town, with a distinct set of buildings on the common, mostly built of locally-quarried stone. But there’s also this Carpenter Gothic Cottage built in 1850 by the Marsh Family. The house, with its polychromatic slate roof, deep roof eaves, bargeboard, and wrap-around porch is practically out of a 19th century pattern book.

From the late 1970s until 2007, the house served as the town offices. A few years ago, a group in town tried to find a creative way to get new life in it. They put up a big sign on the front that read, “Own this building - $1.00!” The deal came with strings to ensure the building would be properly preserved. This got a lot of attention, but the sole response unfortunately fell through. Community surveys show that people in town want a gathering space – our village has a post office, school, and library, but there’s no place to get sandwiches or coffee.  

“And so we’re hoping that this designation ignites us to further try and save this treasure and add vibrancy to our village. We are looking at continuing to sell it, or lease it to a private or nonprofit entity that would restore and repurpose it. The alternative is the recurring vote at town meeting to spend $30,000 to demolish it,” says Jeff Scott and Barbara Girs, who represented the house at the Seven to Save event.

2019 Seven to Save: Eagle Pond Farm

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It was at Eagle Pond Farm in Wilmot that poets Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon shared a writing life, daily informed by the farm, its memories, and a deep sense of place and connection to place. This is where Don and Jane found their poetry, and here is what they wrote about.

The farm is 160 acres fronting on Route 4, descending to Eagle Pond and reaching up Ragged Mountain. The house, a cape typical of the area, is thought to have been built in 1803 and later expanded, with porch, dormers, and connecting sheds, probably at the time that Don’s family bought the farm in 1865. The intact barn is an early example of the Yankee Barn type with a lower level that incorporates an indoor silo that was quite innovative at the time of construction.

Don and Jane came in 1975, after his grandmother’s death, to live at the farm where Don had spent boyhood summers. His String Too Short to be Saved is not only a reminiscence of those summers but also a poignant narrative of place and the history of an early New Hampshire farm. Jane died there in 1995 and then Don in 2018. Both were New Hampshire poet laureates and Don was also appointed U.S. poet laureate. Both were recognized as major American poets and writers--read, appreciated, and celebrated nationally and internationally.

On learning at the beginning of May 2019 that the farm was about to be put on the real estate market and everything remaining in the house and barn would--in a week--be sold at two auctions and an estate sale, a small but powerful group came together to “do something,” says longtime friend and neighbor Mary Lyn Ray, “without quite knowing what that ‘something’ would be.” As a start, Lynne Monroe and Frank Whittemore, of Kensington, used their retirement funds to buy the farm and hold it, to provide some time to develop a preservation plan. Others in the group bought back what they could at the auctions and estate sale, so those things and their stories could be returned to the house and barn.

The intent of the group is to preserve the farm at Eagle Pond as both a local and national landmark and provide a place where a succession of writers can be in residence, immersed in the sense of place that wrapped Don’s and Jane’s days and their work. But the save has only begun. The new nonprofit will have to raise major funds to acquire the property, address physical concerns, and ensure endowment for stewardship and programs. “This is a big endeavor,” they say, “but we know that it matters. We like to think that instead of the farm leaving Don’s family, the family of the farm is growing.”