Precious Metals: The Status of NH's Metal Truss Bridges

Woodsville is the perfect place to witness the evolution of bridge construction. Perched above the junction of the Ammonoosuc and Connecticut Rivers, the village grew like gangbusters after the coming of the railroad in 1853 and the relocation of the Grafton County seat there in 1889. Its brick blocks and Victorian homes speak to these decades of prosperity. And if the wind blows just right, it’s not too difficult to smell a scent that speaks to the area’s bucolic landscape: manure.

Standing downtown today, there are three bridges within a few minutes’ walk. Most covered bridge lovers will recognize the Haverhill-Bath Covered Bridge off of Route 135. Built in 1829, it’s purported to be the oldest covered bridge in America. In 1999, the bridge was closed to vehicles and relegated to foot traffic only. The NH Department of Transportation (DOT) bypassed the historic bridge with the steel stringer and concrete deck variety, the kind of bridge that blends so well into the roadscape you don’t always notice you’re crossing it.

If you feel like venturing across the Connecticut River, though, Route 302 takes you through a 1923 trussed arch bridge. Painted Lady Liberty green and resembling a larger-than-life-sized Erector Set, the Veterans Memorial Bridge is of a variety even rarer today in New Hampshire than the 1829 covered bridge.

Vietnam Memorial Bridge, Woodsville. 

Vietnam Memorial Bridge, Woodsville. 

It’s true. There are 54 historic covered bridges (including four railroad ones), with an additional 17 constructed since 1957. Today, the DOT counts 51 metal truss bridges, excluding the recently demolished Lilac Bridge in Hooksett and one in Wentworth. Subtract from that list planned demolitions of metal bridges in Lancaster, Newport, and Henniker, and only 48 remain. (It’s worth noting that the metal bridge list from DOT does not include railroad trusses.)

The alarming rate at which metal bridges were coming down prompted their placement on the Preservation Alliance’s Seven to Save list in 2008.

Perhaps no metal truss bridge put up a bigger fight for survival than the Arch Bridge between Walpole and Bellows Falls, VT. Built in 1904 and the first of its kind to combine the suspension and arch configuration, the single-spanned behemoth’s planned demolition drew 4,000 spectators in 1982. The first two attempts to implode the "structurally-unsound" bridge failed. According to a Christian Science Monitor article, “Absolutely nothing happened. Like an actor who has forgotten his exit cue, the bridge stood frozen - anticlimactic and sound.”

It took two more days, two more blasts, and a crew with blow torches to weaken the Arch Bridge. In the end, the bridge’s admirers didn’t know what to think. Part of them mourned the loss of the remarkable bridge, but another part of them celebrated the bridge’s defiance.

Arch Bridge between Walpole and Bellows Falls, VT. Demolished (not without a fight) in 1982. HAER image, Library of Congress.

Arch Bridge between Walpole and Bellows Falls, VT. Demolished (not without a fight) in 1982. HAER image, Library of Congress.

While the loss of metal bridges has worried some for decades now, it's largely been a silent phenomena. “It’s easy to love a covered bridge. It’s a bit harder, it seems, to grow attached to the successor of the covered bridge,” wrote former State Architectural Historian Jim Garvin in a 1998 article

Why are metal bridges not loved like their wooden, covered brethren?

Part of it is the perception of rarity. New Hampshire once had over 400 covered bridges, and while some were lost to ice jams and fire, most were razed with the same rationale we use today with metal bridges: they’re obsolete, expensive, ugly. But with rarity comes appreciation. As time passes, we are more likely to reconsider what is a community asset with historical value. Remember there are fewer metal truss bridges in New Hampshire today than covered bridges. They are rare!

Another part is expense. Jill Edelmann, Cultural Resources Manager with DOT, says that “Maintenance is huge. Painting and cleaning metal bridges takes time given all the surface area.” To boot, metal in salty environments like our winters does not hold up well. Many metal bridges are also owned by towns, which have an increasingly difficult time paying for infrastructure like bridges. Some communities have negotiated that metal bridges remain for pedestrians, but such a use without a maintenance funding plan can lead to demolition by neglect.

The 1937 Justice Harlan Fiske Stone Bridge in Chesterfield was bypassed by the larger bridge (right) in 2003. A nonprofit group formed to beautify and maintain the pedestrianized bridge, but it dissolved in 2016.

The 1937 Justice Harlan Fiske Stone Bridge in Chesterfield was bypassed by the larger bridge (right) in 2003. A nonprofit group formed to beautify and maintain the pedestrianized bridge, but it dissolved in 2016.

The truth is, however, that many covered bridges are also owned by towns, and maintenance isn’t cheap for them either, but we acknowledge their importance and treat them accordingly. Imagine blowing up the Windsor-Cornish Covered Bridge. When arsonists succeeded in destroying Plymouth’s Smith Bridge, Swanzey’s Slate Bridge, and Newport’s Corbin Bridge in the early 1980s, they were all reconstructed because their loss was considered too great.

Lastly, metal bridges simply don’t conjure up romantic notions like covered bridges do. They’re on our postcards, Christmas cards, postage stamps, calendars, and Currier and Ives lithographs. A quick search on Instagram and Flickr reveals that covered bridges have nearly thirty times the number of photos as metal truss bridges. You don’t have to be an engineer to find the beauty in metal bridges, but clearly these endangered structures have yet to convince the general public of their magnificence.  

Ironically, many of the metal bridges now endangered replaced covered bridges during the “Good Roads” movement across America starting in the late 1800s. In Wentworth, a 1909 Warren through-truss bridge replaced a covered bridge, only to be replaced itself with a covered bridge in 2016 (in fact, the former Goffe’s Mill Covered Bridge from Bedford). Some saw the newest replacement as picture-perfect, while others lamented the loss of the metal bridge which had come to define the village for nearly a century.

In 1963, NH passed a law recognizing covered bridges as historic and eligible for state aid for rehabilitation. Public hearings are required for any covered bridge’s proposed demolition. Since the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966, thirty-three (or about two-thirds) of our covered bridges have been listed to the National Register of Historic Places. That push in the 1960s, aided by bicentennial fervor, helped shape our modern-day perception of covered bridges.

We need that attitude now for metal bridges.

The Meadow Bridge in Shelburne was added to the National Register in 2003. The next year, it was moved to shore, where it still sits. The other National Register metal bridges include the Piermont-Bradford Bridge, Orford-Fairlee Bridge, and Chichester's Pineground Bridge.

The Meadow Bridge in Shelburne was added to the National Register in 2003. The next year, it was moved to shore, where it still sits. The other National Register metal bridges include the Piermont-Bradford Bridge, Orford-Fairlee Bridge, and Chichester's Pineground Bridge.

Our task, then, is to appreciate our surviving metal truss bridges. We can learn about the types of trusses that exist. We can get more listed to the National Register of Historic Places – only four are currently listed. We should create a numbered marker program like the covered bridges and celebrate those still standing. Laura Black at the NH Division of Historical Resources (DHR) recommends that you let your selectboard and DOT know your feelings toward the preservation of your community’s metal truss bridges. Make noise to make sure they’re maintained regularly and provide alternatives to demolition. Starting in September, the DOT is hosting nineteen public hearings for the next ten-year transportation plan. If you have a favorite metal truss bridge, consider attending a meeting.

Meanwhile, an update to New Hampshire’s Historic Bridge Inventory is currently being developed by DOT in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the DHR. The products of the update will provide FHWA, DOT, DHR, municipalities, and the preservation community with more concrete understanding about the status of our state’s stone, covered, and metal bridges and how to best steward and manage them in balance with current transportation needs.

Back in Woodsville, the Vietnam Memorial Bridge is here to stay for a while, after rehabilitation in 2003. It now holds the distinction of being the oldest extant steel arch bridge across the Connecticut River. Let’s make sure it stays that way. 

 

New Brown Family Stewards Historic Brown Property in Wolfeboro: Third of the 52 Barns

Brown’s Ridge Family Farm in Wolfeboro has a wonderfully typical example of a c. 1820 New England barn. The 40' x 100’ gable-front barn is the main barn on the property, which also includes an 18thcentury farmhouse, stables, and several other small outbuildings.  Justin Brown secured an assessment grant from the Preservation Alliance, made possible by the 52 Barns in 52 Weeks campaign, to map out a plan for the barn’s repair and conversion to a new use.

We’re highlighting this barn and farm as the third of our 52 Barns in 52 Weeks because of the significance of the place, and the owners’ commitment to the stewardship of their historic building as they use the old barn to augment their business plan.

The current owners have traced the history of the property to some of the area’s earliest settlers, the Browns, who established a tavern on the site and later built the current house around 1770. The property was in the Brown family until the mid-20th century. After changing hands four times between 1954 and 2016, it is now owned and cared for by another Brown family.

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These new Browns have established Brown’s Ridge Family Farm, a small-scale working farm and educational center. Visitors come regularly to meet the farm’s donkey, goats, horses, alpacas, sheep, bunnies, ducks, bees and chickens. Other activities on the farm include summer camps, and pony and hay rides.

Preservation progress at the Brown Barn

Preservation progress at the Brown Barn

The Browns are looking to add to the visitor experience by restoring the barn and offering it as an educational and recreational center, where visitors can learn about agricultural history in the region, and about farming in the 21st century. The barn will serve as visitor’s center and function hall for private farm-themed parties or public events, as well as workshops on topics such as sheep shearing and blacksmithing.

Realizing that before rehabilitating the barn they would need to understand it better, the Browns applied for an assessment grant from the Preservation Alliance. They were awarded a grant to have a preservation contractor do a site visit and prepare a working document that will help the owners map a plan for the barn’s preservation, repair and conversion to new use. Oliver Fifield of Canterbury conducted the assessment, and noted the barn’s good condition. “The frame really is in great condition. It's nice to know the Browns will continue its use as an agricultural building,” he said. Fifield, a graduate of North Bennet Street School's Preservation Carpentry Program, works on his own and with his father, master carpenter Steve Fifield. He is committed to the use of traditional materials and techniques.

 This barn is the third to be highlighted as part of the Preservation Alliance's 52 Barns in 52 Weeks campaign. The goal of this 2017 initiative is to help at least 52 barn owners across the state with assessment grants, assistance in securing tax relief, and educational opportunities to help save their historic barns. Throughout the year, barns and their owners will be showcased by the Preservation Alliance to celebrate good work and offer practical information and inspiration to others. 

We are grateful to all of our donors to date, and encourage others to add their support with an investment in the 52 Barns in 52 Weeks campaign so we can do more!

You can follow and encourage the restoration of the barn and the Brown’s Ridge Family Farm events on Facebook, Instagram, and on their website, http://www.brownsridge.com.

The Brown family

The Brown family

Preservation Leader Leaves Great Legacy in Belmont, Wallace Rhodes Died July 17, 2017

Long-time history advocate and preservation leader Wallace Rhodes has died, leaving a tremendous legacy of revived buildings, publications and archives.  His multi-year effort with architect Christopher Williams, attorney Carolyn Baldwin, planner Jeff Taylor and others to save the Belmont Mill in the 1980s is considered a milestone of the modern preservation movement.

Wallace P. Rhodes was born in 1934 to a prominent Belmont family, who cared passionately about community heritage. He was a graduate of the Gale School in Belmont and the University of New Hampshire. As an historical researcher and author, his pride in detail and accuracy adhered to the same standards as his first career in New York with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and for the State of New Hampshire, some 32 years in the Banking department as senior examiner and manager. 


Tribute in Concord Monitor here.


Mr. Rhodes wrote and edited “Reminiscences of a New Hampshire Town” published as part of a year-long 1969 Belmont Centennial celebration. Mr. Rhodes was a charter member of the Belmont Historical Society and President at the time of his death. As its Historian, and longtime officer, he oversaw a major exterior restoration of the 1792 Province Road Meeting House. 

He also served his beloved community in many other roles including Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Heritage Commission, Save the Gale School Committee, and citizen consultant to New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources Section 106 reviews.

The Belmont 1989 Town Report was dedicated to him as catalyst of the Mill project, including his major personal contribution. Over the years, that adaptive reuse and rehabilitation was also recognized by the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, New England Chapter of the Victorian Society of America, and New Hampshire Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), among others. Four years ago, the story of the Belmont Mill was added to a New Hampshire Historical Highway marker on Route 140 – still another local history initiative he led. 

In 2010 Mr. Rhodes was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Historical Societies of New Hampshire, and in 2015 with a Community Heritage Award from the Belmont Board of Selectmen and Heritage Commission. On that latter occasion he was conferred the title of Town Historian Emeritus. 

For decades he researched his extended family and traveled yearly to investigate out of state cemeteries and other archival sources. His collection of local photographs, artifacts and Belmont history is unmatched. His consummate kindness and gift of time in passing on Belmont history to students of all ages will be remembered along with his generous spirit, said Linda Frawley, chair of the heritage commission following Rhodes.

The family suggests that his memory be preserved by joining the Belmont Historical Society or contributing to the Province Road Meeting House campaign to restore the interior for community use and Belmont Historical Society collections. Write to the BHS at 229 Dutile Road, Belmont NH 03220. 

Historic Building Named for its former Commissioner

A historic building that houses two divisions of the Department of Cultural Resources was named for its former Commissioner, Van McLeod at a ceremony this week a year after his death.  Ironically. Commissioner McLeod was born at 19 Pillsbury Street when it served as the maternity annex for Margaret Pillsbury General Hospital. Built in 1927, it is the last remaining structure from the MPGH complex.

As commissioner, McLeod led a department and its four divisions for 24 years, each of which supports different aspects of culture in New Hampshire: arts, film and television, historical resources and libraries. He understood how important each of these elements is to our state’s identity, and the profound impact they have on our economy and our quality of life.  A tireless promoter, Commissioner McLeod knew the importance of “telling the story” of New Hampshire, of our culture, our organizations and our people. He knew that stories are how people connect, and that strength and success come from that connection.

While he won many awards and accolades throughout his career, perhaps the award he cherished most was the recognition that he was universally liked and respected. The very words, “A great guy,” are etched on a stone dedicated to him at Loon Mountain Ski Resort, in the White Mountains that he loved so much.

Governor Chris Sununu signed the legislation naming the building in McLeod’s honor after tributes by the bill sponsors’ Rep. Steve Shurtleff and Senator Dan Feltes as well as State Librarian Michael York and Director of the Division of Historical Resources Elizabeth Muzzey.  The event was also an opportunity to recognize that several divisions are now united under the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, with the leadership of Commissioner Jeffrey Rose.

Governor Sununu signs the legislation into law with (from left) State Librarian Michael York, Senator Feltes, Representative Shurtleff,  Van’s daughter Chelsea and wife Joan Goshgarian. Courtesy: NH the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

Governor Sununu signs the legislation into law with (from left) State Librarian Michael York, Senator Feltes, Representative Shurtleff,  Van’s daughter Chelsea and wife Joan Goshgarian.

Courtesy: NH the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

Summer Painting Tips

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 It's time to dust off the paint brush! Commonly viewed as a dreaded laborious task, using these tips will result in a professional-looking, longer-lasting paint job, after which you can hang up your ladder and not need it again for many years!

Do an extensive assessment. Are there specific problem areas? What is causing the paint to peel within a year or two of painting—moisture problems, decayed wood, improper prep? Correct these issues before you correct the symptom (the peeling paint).

Preparation is the key to a durable paint job. Do a thorough prep job, including scraping (to remove all loose or flaking paint to the next sound layer), sanding (to feather the edges where there is paint buildup and to dull gloss finishes), and washing (to remove, dirt, dust and mildew). Closely follow all recommendations for handling lead paint.

Allow ample time for the surface to completely dry before painting.

Repair or replace any rotten or damaged wood. Back prime new wood. Re-nail loose clapboards with stainless steel ring-shank nails. Powerwashing and sandblasting are not recommended paint removal techniques. (They damage the wood’s surface.)

Apply a good quality oil-based primer to all bare wood within 48 hours of scraping. If applying a latex top coat over oil paint, apply a complete coat of oil primer to all surfaces. After priming, fill holes, caulk cracks, butt joints and recaulk around doors and windows where necessary. Do not caulk the undersides of the clapboards.

Latex or oil? Basically, it depends on the material being painted and the environmental conditions. Latex is desirable if a breathable surface is required. Oil is used when adhesion is an issue, moisture is not, or when covering a previous oil coat. Buy the best quality paint you can afford. High quality paints are more chalk resistant and have better color retention and durability. Never paint when temperatures are below 45˚ F. Latex should not be used below 50˚ F. It is best to paint in the shade. Direct sun causes rapid drying time often resulting in lap marks and leveling problems. Do not paint on foggy, damp or high humidity days.

Make sure the weather forecast is clear until the paint is completely dry. Only paint clean dry surfaces. The two top coats (preferably the same brand as the primer) should be applied immediately after the primer has dried. Keep your painted surfaces clean and mildew free to extend the life of your paint. A quality paint job can be expected to last 5 – 8 years or longer.

Be environmentally conscientious when disposing of excess paint and empty paint cans. Oil paints should be disposed of on hazardous waste days at your town’s sanitation facilities. Latex paint cans, once dried out, can be recycled.

Enjoy your beautiful paint job!

Note that as a homeowner doing your own painting, you are exempt from the requirements of the new Renovation, Repair and Painting Law. But, you should be very familiar with the best handling practices for lead paint.

More here:  https://www.nps.gov/TPS/HOW-TO-PRESERVE/briefs/10-paint-problems.htm

From Ruins to Redemption Barn Success Story in Lee, NH

The roof and walls of the original barn collapsed after a heavy snowfall.

The roof and walls of the original barn collapsed after a heavy snowfall.

When the weight of a record-breaking February snowfall collapsed the center of Charlie and Anne Jennison’s beloved barn in 2015, the owners and community members felt like much more than a roof and side walls had been lost. The barn had been in Charlie’s family for six generations and stood on a designated scenic road. While Anne and Charlie are not active dairy farmers as their forefathers were, they are gardeners and have made regular use of their barn. Beyond the damage to the barn, the family lost historic family photos and documents that had been stored in the barn.  “Losing the barn and the family history felt like losing a member of the family,” said the Jennisons.

Thanks to their hard work and dedication, and some assistance from the Preservation Alliance, their family farmstead has a new lease on life. We are showcasing this place as one of our 52 Barns in 52 Weeks to recognize the Jennisons for their impressive stewardship and to provide information and inspiration to others.

Preservation Timber Framing team repaired the barn frame in their shop in Nottingham.

Preservation Timber Framing team repaired the barn frame in their shop in Nottingham.

The Jennisons called the Preservation Alliance for advice after the collapse, which led to an assessment by Arron Sturgis of Preservation Timber Framing, Inc. Sturgis confirmed that much of the barn was a complete loss, and he helped the Jennisons negotiate their successful insurance claim to rebuild the barn.  The new old barn was re-erected on a new foundation using an appropriate frame from South Berwick, Maine and the old barn. [Both frames have hewn timbers and exhibit the English tying joint; more info on the barns’ history and contruction here. ] Formerly called the Piper Farm, now the Hummingbird Farm, the original barn was built in 1803 with an addition in 1849 that nearly doubled its size. The Jennison/Piper family acquired the property in 1888 and operated it as a commercial dairy farm from 1888 - 1968.

The new old barn was raised by Preservation Timber Framing during the 250th anniversary celebration of Lee.

The new old barn was raised by Preservation Timber Framing during the 250th anniversary celebration of Lee.

This visible local landmark has meaning not only for the Jennisons, but also for their friends and neighbors.   “Many of our neighbors in Lee contacted us when our barn roof caved in, to express their sympathy over the loss.  These same folks have followed, with interest, our progress throughout the entire process of reconstructing our barn – many coming by to visit on the day in May 2016 when the repaired and reconstructed barn frame was raised up on site,” said the Jennisons. “And we’ve had neighbors who live further down our road, whom we had not yet met, stopping by to introduce themselves and tell us how happy they are that we were able to rebuild the barn,” they said.

This year, the Jennisons took another important stewardship step. With the encouragement from the Preservation Alliance, they applied for the barn tax incentive program under RSA 79-D. RSA 79-D authorizes towns and cities to grant property tax relief to barn owners who can demonstrate the public benefit of preserving their barn or other older farm buildings, and agree to maintain them throughout a minimum 10-year preservation easement. The program started in 2003 and now has 89 municipalities participating with over 500 barns enrolled. In May of this year, Anne and Charlie were pleased to get the news that the Lee Board of Selectmen had approved their application.  

The Jennisons’ new old barn in Lee

The Jennisons’ new old barn in Lee

Charlie and Anne are both educators and performing artists.  Charlie is a performing jazz musician (saxophones and keyboard) and jazz educator who also teaches music at Phillips Exeter Academy, while Anne is a professional storyteller who specializes in giving performances of Native American stories.  Anne also demonstrates how to make various northeastern Native American crafts on Fridays at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth.  Future plans for their new barn run the gamut from more prosaic use as storage for their organic gardening tools and supplies to making plans for future use of the space as a three-season venue for music lessons, storytelling workshops, and “the occasional house concert”.   

This barn is the first in the seacoast to be highlighted as part of the Preservation Alliance's 52 Barns in 52 Weeks campaign. The goal of this 2017 initiative is to help at least 52 barn owners across the state with assessment grants, assistance in securing tax relief, and educational opportunities to help save their historic barns. Throughout the year, barns and their owners will be showcased by the Preservation Alliance to celebrate good work and offer practical information and inspiration to others. 

We are grateful to all of our donors to date, and encourage others to add their support with an investment in the 52 Barns in 52 Weeks campaign so we can do more!

In Praise of the Porch

The Brick Store in Bath illustrates the power of the porch for business.

The Brick Store in Bath illustrates the power of the porch for business.

That first whiff of summer air lures most of us outside. We roll down car windows, pry up our house windows, and wipe off the lawn chairs. Invitations to BBQs appear in our inboxes and neighbors linger longer at the dump, now that it’s warm enough to do more than wave hello. We start looking for ways to spend our time outside, or in the most liminal of spaces: the porch. 

In New Hampshire, porches – or what we now call porches – grew in popularity with the availability of leisure time. It also helped that pattern books by A.J. Downing and others espoused the idea that porches epitomized domesticity and identified entranceways for strangers.  Austere Georgian, Federal, and sometimes Greek Revival houses grew Italianate or Victorian porches by the turn of the twentieth century. Just in case people struggled to locate the front door on a porch-less five bay house, the porch now made it easier.

If we all had porches like this, there’d be no need for a house. Rand House, Canaan Village. Courtesy Canaan Historical Society.

If we all had porches like this, there’d be no need for a house. Rand House, Canaan Village. Courtesy Canaan Historical Society.

In almost any neighborhood, we can name favorite porches: the one with split granite columns; the Connecticut River Valley porch, tucked into a gable end; that one with exuberant spindlework; the two-story Greek Revival portico; the Colonial Revival triple decker in Manchester.

The former Amos Shepard Bed and Breakfast in Alstead Center boasts an enormous porch.

The former Amos Shepard Bed and Breakfast in Alstead Center boasts an enormous porch.

These porch neighborhoods appear instantly welcoming. Maybe because of the porch, we spend more time outside the house. That compels us to garden more, or to plant shade trees, or to watch children play. In a society that seems increasingly inward-looking or anti-social, porches encourage us to interact with neighbors and pedestrians. When not filled with firewood or bikes or the perennially free sofa, porches are designed for card games and impromptu entertainment. They are perfect for people watching, beer drinking, thunderstorm listening, rocking, and – when not screened-in – bug biting.

And of course, porches are not just good for us social creatures. Some were designed to be salubrious additions to our state’s grand hotels and sanatoriums. The New Hampshire State Sanatorium at Glencliff (in Benton) opened in 1909 to aid in healing tuberculosis patients. Its complex of Neoclassical buildings boasted enormous porches – or piazzas or verandas – that opened right onto the wards’ beds. The White Mountain air was also thought to be a panacea for hay fever and urban ailments, which explains why our former grand hotels included grand porches.

This summer, consider the power of the porch. Maybe clean it off and paint it, but definitely spend time on it.   

Need more than just cleaning and painting? Check our old house resources here, and Directory of Preservation Products and Services.

Nationally Recognized Orford Landmark to be Revived

Historic view of Rogers House, courtesy Orford Social Library

Historic view of Rogers House, courtesy Orford Social Library

The N.H. Preservation Alliance recognized the Town of Orford and others for their efforts to protect a significant New England landmark on May 19.  This gathering was an important opportunity to welcome the new owners and thank everyone who made this preservation project happen, said Jennifer Goodman, executive director of the N.H. Preservation Alliance.

In February, the Town sold the historic c.1817 Rogers House, located on Main Street/Route 10 in Orford, to Elise and Jared Hemingsen. Elise Hemingsen’s grandfather and grandmother, Roberto and Edith Alonso, immigrated from Cuba and settled in Orford in 1960. [Roberto worked for Equity Publishing Company and in 1962 Elise's mother, Vanessa, was born at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital. Vanessa would marry David DeSimone and move to New Jersey, where Elise was born in 1990. David and Vanessa then returned permanently to Orford in August 2007.  Jared and Elise were married in the Orford Congregational Church in July, 2016].

Presentation of 200-year old office sign of Attorney and Rogers House builder, John Rogers.  Left to right, John Adams, Chair, Orford Selectboard; Carl Schmidt, Orford Historical Society; new Rogers House owners, Jared and Elise Henningsen; Paul Goundry, Selectboard member; Anne Duncan Cooley, former Selectboard Chair; David Smith, Selectboard member.   Photo by Ted Cooley.

Presentation of 200-year old office sign of Attorney and Rogers House builder, John Rogers.  Left to right, John Adams, Chair, Orford Selectboard; Carl Schmidt, Orford Historical Society; new Rogers House owners, Jared and Elise Henningsen; Paul Goundry, Selectboard member; Anne Duncan Cooley, former Selectboard Chair; David Smith, Selectboard member.   Photo by Ted Cooley.

Working together, the Town’s Selectboard, the N.H. Preservation Alliance and an ad-hoc citizen group led by long-time preservationist Carl Schmidt of Orford, met the goal of finding the preservation buyers and protecting the house for future generations with an easement held by the N.H. Preservation Alliance. The preservation easement was completed at no cost to the Town thanks to generous donors.  The Selectboard worked swiftly, with citizen input, to get the property back on the tax rolls and preserve the integrity of the historic “Ridge” neighborhood of Orford.

The Rogers House is second from right in this photo by Peter Randall

The Rogers House is second from right in this photo by Peter Randall

The Rogers House is one of Orford's seven Ridge Houses, built in a row on the east side of Main Street between 1804 and 1838. These homes are one of the most outstanding examples of rural Federal residential architecture in the United States.  Built by local attorney John Rogers, the Rogers House has been listed since 1977 on the National Register of Historic Places as part of a recognized Historic District.  Over the past years, the property has had a series of owners, including a couple who in 1916 made extensive enlargements to the rear of the house and its gardens.