Some Thoughts on NHPR's The Exchange on Preservation, or an Hour Zooms By

From Preservation Alliance executive director Jennifer Goodman: I’m a big fan of NHPR's The Exchange, so it felt extra special to be a guest and wonderful to have the show highlight historic preservation at a special event at the Belknap Mill in Laconia last week.

 Belknap Mill in Laconia dates from 1823, and its revitalization was the first industrial building preservation project in the U.S. honored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Check out what's happening there now  here .

Belknap Mill in Laconia dates from 1823, and its revitalization was the first industrial building preservation project in the U.S. honored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Check out what's happening there now here.

I knew the hour of taping before a live audience was going to fly by, and it did. Here are four things I thought of before and after the show. Listen May 16 at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. on your NHPR station, and then available on-line.

Hooray for Laconia. The modern historic preservation movement stands on the shoulders of projects at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, Harrisville and Belknap Mill (where we met for the show). A group of citizens in the 1970s led by Peter Karagianis and Arthur Nighswander, with help from advisors like Richard Candee, overcame big odds to save the mill, and it was a flagship of industrial preservation at the time. We’re so glad that a new phase for the Belknap Mill Society is going well, and very excited about the redevelopment of the Colonial Theater and its catalytic potential. It’s not easy though. There has been a series of demolition in the City recently too, and lots of Lakes Region community have as many challenges as they do successes.

How great the live audience was. It was great to see representatives of the many elements of the preservation movement – elected officials, developers, volunteer leaders, old house owners and folks in the field at the live taping. Some next-generation folks as well as long-timers. You’ll love their questions! And I know they had a lot more.

It takes a village. It takes a movement. It was great that NHPR took the extra time and effort to produce a show away from their home base studios. I feel so lucky to have great Preservation Alliance colleagues, board members and partners like the Division of Historical Resources. One theme in the conversation for The Exchange was how smart, creative teams working together get things done -- that's how buildings get re-used and revived by private and public sector developers, and how communities secure and sustain preservation investment.

There are many ways to engage. It’s easy to feel too busy or disconnected and not help out with preservation work, but there really is something for everyone, and the rewards are huge. Check out this list, and tell your friends and neighbors to get on board!

Host Laura Knoy (second from right, photo below) discussed the opportunities and challenges with Jennifer Goodman - Executive Director (far right) of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, Jared Guilmett (far left) – Vice President of the Board of Directors, Belknap Mill Society and architectural designer at Misiaszek Turpin, working on the Colonial Theater project, Elizabeth Muzzey – Director of the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources and State Historic Preservation Officer (not pictured), and Justin Slattery – Executive Director, Belknap Economic Development Council (second from left), developer of the Colonial Theater project.

 

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2018 Preservation Achievement Award: Reuben Whitten House, Ashland

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In 1815, Mount Tambora - a volcano on an Indonesian island - erupted with tremendous force. Its volcanic ash changed global temperatures and, thousands of miles away in New England, farmers struggled with a "year without a summer."

In Ashland (then a part of Holderness), a farming family somehow managed to grow their crops. Sally and Reuben Whitten decided to share 40 bushels of their wheat with 100 neighbors who were less fortunate, an act of generosity that was later recorded on a memorial stone by their grandson, in 1911. 

The c.1800 house, however, stood more or less forgotten. It was moved in the 1870s from the hillside farm to the village for use as worker housing. In 1969 it was donated to the Historical Society, struck by a runaway truck, and moved again to a location behind the Whipple House Museum. With the 200th anniversary of the year without a summer approaching, the Ashland Historical Society decided it was time to pay it forward and embark on a rehabilitation campaign.

The largely volunteer effort was a lesson in perseverance. It took years of soliciting donations and grants, organizing work weekends, and researching the social history of the house. Thanks to a report by Jim Garvin (the former state architectural historian), the Society had a road map that guided their rehabilitation.

Work included listing the building to the State Register of Historic Places, repairing the hole in the wall created by the 1969 truck accident, repairing and reconstructing the windows, cladding the exterior with clapboards, adding a cedar shake roof, and finding a more period-appropriate door. The interior was left untouched, having retained much of its original fabric, despite a century of housing tenants.  

The result is the rehabilitation of a humble house that tells a big story. According to co-chairs of the Whitten Project Committee, Katie Maher and Susan Macleod, the house represents the layers of Ashland's history, from its farming days to its use as worker housing after the town industrialized. "This little house holds those human stories and artifacts within its walls," they shared at the Awards ceremony. 

And now the little house will reflect another story, that of a town coming together to honor the good deed of a family over two hundred years ago.

Partners included:

Ashland Historical Society

James L. Garvin

Starck Housejoiners, Inc.

Ashland Lumber / Belletetes

Sippican Partners

2018 Preservation Achievement Award: Freedom Roller Shed

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Before the days of snow plows, New Hampshire's roads were rolled. Horses or oxen would drag along an enormous wheeled contraption built of iron and wood that would compress the snow, making it easier for sleighs to travel. Several towns in New Hampshire have restored these snow rollers, including Bartlett, Canaan, Colebrook, Bow, and Alexandria. 

But only three towns still have their snow roller shed. In Freedom, this obscure building stands atop Schoolhouse Hill, adjacent to the Masonic Temple. Built in 1902, it housed the roller and until 1978, other highway equipment. The Freedom Heritage Commission grew concerned about its state of disrepair and decided to do something about it. 

In 2012, it was added to the State Register of Historic Places, which opened up the opportunity for grant funding. The Heritage Commission won a Moose Plate award for $10,000 and, with help from local carpenters and townsfolk, cut back the brush and trimmed encroaching trees, replaced rotted boards and sills, re-roofed with corrugated aluminum, and rebuilt the fire siren stand at the ridge. (The military surplus siren was added after WWII).

The Heritage Commission educated residents about the building's significance at town meeting, and as such raised the town's level of understanding and support for preservation. Their next step, according to Peg Scully, chair of the commission? Finding a snow roller to go inside.

Partners:

Freedom Heritage Commission

Town of Freedom

Michael Gaudette

Mark McKinley

N.H. Division of Historical Resources

 

 

2018 Preservation Achievement Award: High Bridge, New Ipswich

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If you've driven through the village of Highbridge in New Ipswich, you likely never realized NH Route 123 crosses the Souhegan River on the state's oldest and tallest masonry arch bridge (hence the village's name). 

This 1817 bridge measures 55 feet tall, cost $2,400 (including $100 for rum), and took just 132 days to construct. In 1957, the DOT built a modern steel and concrete bridge over the historic 1817 structure, using the historic roadbed to support the weight of the new bridge. When it came time to replace the 1957 superstructure, the DOT took a careful look at how to best reduce impacts to the historic masonry bridge - the oldest in New Hampshire.

The solution was to span the entire length with steel beams measuring 161 feet. The challenge was in engineering new abutments that could support the replacement girders, and micro-pilings were the solution. 

The historic bridge's parapet walls were reconstructed according to the Secretary of the Interior Standards, resulting in a treat for those who venture off Route 123 along the banks of the Souhegan River. 

Partners:

NH Department of Transportation

Bureau of Highway Design

Bureau of Bridge Design

Bureau of Construction

Beck & Bellucci, Inc.

JCB Colby, Inc.

2018 Preservation Achievement Award: Jackson House, Portsmouth

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Built in 1664, the Jackson House is New Hampshire's oldest timber-framed building. It's also one of only twenty-three National Historic Landmarks in the state. Its age and significance meant that needed structural and drainage improvements involved years of careful planning and just the right team.

The project involved four components, aided in part by a $90,000 LCHIP grant:

1) Archaeological investigation revealed important 17th and 18th century artifacts, providing information about trade in early Portsmouth. In total, the investigation yielded 12,000 artifacts. 

2) Improving drainage to arrest the deterioration of the building's sills. 

3) Adding structural reinforcements to the house's lean-to in the shape of tubular steel, which is reversible, minimally invasive, and allows for visual distinction from the historic fabric. 

4) Replacing the wood shingled roof and specific clapboards with in-kind material. 

The Jackson House opens back up to the public on June 2 , when admission is free. Thereafter, the house is open the first and third Saturdays until mid-October. For more information, visit Historic New England's website

Partners:

Historic New England

Independent Archeological Consulting, LLC

Woods & Co. Civil Engineering

GNCB Consulting Engineers

Safari Construction Management, LLC

Edmunds General Contracting, LLC

Curtis Earth Works, Inc.

LCHIP

2018 Preservation Achievement Award: Francestown Town Hall

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It's a problem to which many towns in New Hampshire can relate: the old town hall no longer meets code and the second floor is condemned. Years go by and the space fills with things like the recreation committee's volleyball nets and the library's unsold book sale volumes. 

In 2011, the Francestown Town Hall joined this club. The second floor was cordoned off and temporary posts filled the first floor space, rendering that assembly room less usable. 

Because the building sits at the head of the common, its usability mattered to many in town. The Greek Revival building dates to 1847 and was originally home to the Francestown Academy - which educated the likes of Franklin Pierce and Levi Woodbury. When the Academy closed in 1921, it became the town hall.  

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Making the building structurally sound and accessible was no easy (or inexpensive) task. Thanks to an LCHIP-funded planning study in 2009, the town had a road map for the building's rehabilitation. As costs exceeded the million dollar mark, a fundraising team formed to solicit grants and private donations. LCHIP contributed another $215,000 and a $100,000 donation came from a San Francisco man who grew up summering in town with his grandparents. Architect Michael Petrovick also donated his services. 

Work included structural upgrades to the second floor and attic trusses, construction of a rear stairwell and installation of an elevator, energy efficiency improvements to the envelope, window restoration, systems modernization, and installation of a sprinkler system. 

The town celebrated a job well done in November 2017.

 

Partners:

Town of Francestown

Francestown Heritage Commission

James L. Garvin

Catlin + Petrovick Architects

Dodgco

DEW MacMillan

Bruss Project Management

Winn Mountain Window Restoration

LCHIP

2018 Preservation Achievement Award: Trinity Churchyard Cemetery Fence

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Over 400 feet of iron fence separates the historic Trinity Churchyard Cemetery from NH Route 175 in Holderness. The cemetery is perhaps best known for the 1797 Trinity Church, a rare early Episcopalian church listed to the National Register of Historic Places. Yet when the cemetery trustees noticed that the fence was failing in several locations, they recognized the fence was an important historic object in its own right.

StandFast Works Forge was hired to make repairs to the existing fence, replace in-kind missing elements, and remove trees and roots that were causing misalignment along the length of the fence. Because of the sensitive environment (digging in a cemetery requires special protocol), the workers were very deliberate when it came to shoring up the granite bases. 

 1797 Trinity Church is listed to the National Register of Historic Places.

1797 Trinity Church is listed to the National Register of Historic Places.

The restoration project happened at just the right time. Had the trustees waited longer to repair the fence, the cost and damage would have been much greater, according to StandFast. But thanks to the good planning and actions of the trustees, the fence will continue to remain an important feature in the historic Trinity Churchyard Cemetery.

Upon accepting the award, trustee Pete Barnum stated that the fence is just the beginning. Future work will include drainage and structural improvements to the Trinity Church. And though the neighbors aren't talking, we can assume they're pleased with the results, too. 

 

2018 Preservation Achievement Awards: Littleton Community Center

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For nearly a century, the Littleton Community Center has welcomed an estimated two million people through its doors. The Queen Anne mansion, formerly owned by a North Country lumber magnate, was purchased by the town following WWI. The idea, hatched by local prominent residents, was to create a living monument to the fallen soldiers. 

The house was to serve as a community center, with bunks and showers in the basement for homeless veterans and an apartment for the building's caretakers. When the property was finally dedicated as a memorial, it was agreed that its public purpose should be “…the advancement of health, training for service and the social, moral, recreational and general welfare of Littleton and surrounding communities.” 

Unfortunately, the beautiful Main Street property suffered from deferred maintenance and in 2012 was listed to the Alliance's Seven to Save. In the following years, the board and the town committed to restoring the building. In 2013-15, a new roof was added, electrical was updated, and new life safety systems were installed. A new, more efficient heating system was also installed. (From the 2012 Seven to Save nomination: “The concern about the antiquated heating system is so dire that a ‘baby monitor’ has been placed in the basement so the live-in caretakers (who live three floors above) can monitor sounds of the furnace in case it shuts down.”

What really makes the cars on Main Street slow down, though, was the removal of the 1970s vinyl siding. In 2016, the vinyl came off, the clapboards and shingles were repaired and replaced where necessary, new storms were installed, and a historic paint scheme was selected.

The LCC board is now implementing a strategic plan, which includes an LCHIP-funded study on the carriage house and surveying the public about needs. A spring 2017 survey revealed that 67% of respondents felt that the preservation of the building was a top priority.

Next time you're in Littleton reveling at Main Street's success, make sure to step inside the Community Center. There, revel at the house's beautiful interior woodwork and pay your respects to Littleton's fallen soldiers.

But don't mourn for the vinyl siding. 

Partners:

Littleton Community Center

Town of Littleton

Littleton Millworks

Starr Construction

JA Corey Electric

LCHIP