Lyme Historians Working to Save a Local Landmark - one of 52 Barns in 52 Weeks

In Lyme, a group of enthusiastic and dedicated locals is working to restore an early 19th century English barn attached to the Churchill-Melvin House, at 15 Main Street, in the center of Lyme Plain Village. The Lyme Historians, which was organized in 1961 as a historical society and currently has nearly 300 members, purchased the landmark property in 2016 to serve as their new public museum. The group secured an assessment grant from the Preservation Alliance to map out a plan for the barn’s repair and conversion for educational use. The grant was made possible by donors to the 52 Barns in 52 Weeks campaign.

The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance is highlighting this barn and this community project as one of our 52 Barns in 52 Weeks because of the visibility and significance of the place, and the group’s commitment to preservation “best practices” as they incorporate the old barn into their plan for expanded program space.

The house was apparently built as the law office for Judge D. C. Churchill around 1850 (his home was across the Common). The first hundred years of owners—Churchills, Melvins, and Wests—were prominent citizens of this small town and also proprietors of the general store next door.  Diaries indicate that nearly all of the locals shopped at the store, and photographs show a line of hitching posts along the boundary with the Churchill-Melvin House.  The house and its barn have long been prominent buildings in town. 

The attached barn adds to the idyllic landscape of this small New Hampshire village. Its close neighbors include the Old Cemetery, an historic line of horse sheds, the former town jail, and the white-steepled 1812 church on the well-used and beloved Common. The barn and house are contributing structures to the Lyme Common Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

38. RT, LD, LW TT, Ray Clark outside E wall -- GOOD.JPG

At present, structural and practical issues limit the options for using the barn to its full potential. Once rehabilitated, the Lyme Historians plan to use it for educational purposes, both as a good example of an early 19th century barn, and for exhibits or demonstrations of vintage farm-related items, as well as an event venue. The group received a mini-grant from the Preservation Alliance that provided for an evaluation by Richard M. Thompson of Sunrise Woodworks, of Cornish. Mr. Thompson gave them an oral report on his findings at the time of his visit, followed by a written summary as a guide for planning and restoration. 

The attached, three-bay, modified English style (eaves entrance) barn, measures 30’ x 40’.  The barn held horse stalls, and in the cellar, had stalls or pens for pigs or sheep and storage.  Close inspection during Thompson’s assessment dates the barn to ca. 1810 (pre-dating the house). This means it was probably moved and attached to the new house around 1850, a time when bank barns became popular. Moving a barn was not uncommon at the time. Thompson was impressed by the massive, hand-hewn first floor beams that are well-preserved after 200 years.

The goal of 52 Barns in 52 Weeks 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 2017, barns and their owners are being 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!

Check out the Lyme Historians’ website for hours and information on visiting the site or to follow the restoration progress: http://lymehistorians.wordpress.com.  The Lyme Historians are being deliberate about their restoration planning, and the visibility of the project in the center of the village will serve as a “good practices” example.

2017 Seven to Save Profile: Grafton Center Meetinghouse

It’s impossible to drive through Grafton on US Route 4 and not notice this burned-out shell of a former meetinghouse. Fraying tarps attempt to keep the elements out from the interior’s chestnut pews and paneling. Purple paint, rainbow fences, vinyl siding, and a fiberglass spire all speak to how various congregations have used the 1797 building, which stands prominently at the head of Grafton Center’s common.

Some history: the meetinghouse was constructed by Congregationalists who didn’t want to use the existing meetinghouse in town, co-built by the Baptists. After the passage of the Toleration Act of 1819, which separated church and state, the town and church finally divided the floors of the building. The church took the second floor and added a bell tower, while town business occurred on the first floor. This relationship remained until 1963, when the meetinghouse became the sole property of the church. In 2010, the church was sold into private ownership, whereupon it became home to the Peaceful Assembly Church. Following a property tax dispute with the town, the building sustained severe fire damage in January 2016. The fire claimed the life of the resident minister, John Connell.

Graftonites feared that after the fire, the building would be demolished and the town would lose its meetinghouse. Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of volunteer fire departments and the building’s massive timber frame structure, the building still stands and can be restored. This is great news to a town of 1,200. It’s easy to see how its loss would be catastrophic to the identity of Grafton and to the generations of Graftonites who have voted, worshiped, married, and mourned the passing of loved ones here. 

The property is privately owned and the daunting rehabilitation project requires immediate structural stabilization and weatherization. Saving the meetinghouse will take a lot of patience, money, community buy-in, and…money. But those in Grafton know it’s worth it. 

For more information, contact the Preservation Alliance at 224-2281.

2017 Seven to Save Profile: Bartlett's St. Joseph Catholic Church

The former St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church was built in 1890 to accommodate the religious needs of Bartlett’s growing immigrant population. Bartlett, being a logging and railroad hub by the late 1800s, boasted a significant number of French Canadian, Italian and Irish families who did not identify with their Congregational and Baptist neighbors. So, this humble church was constructed under the direction of Father J. N. Plante, from Lancaster, who recognized that the 34 mile train ride to his home parish was just too far.

St. Joseph’s was the first Catholic church built in the Mt. Washington Valley and it cost the then princely sum of $2,732.28 to build. For more than 100 years, St. Joseph’s was the epicenter of Catholic life in Bartlett as well as drawing from other areas of the valley. After a regional consolidation that closed the parish in 1999, the Bartlett School District purchased the building from the Diocese with the intention of using it for expanded education space. That plan was thwarted by high costs related to the need to abate asbestos, lead paint and mold. The building then was basically used as a storage facility.

Mounting deferred maintenance costs as well as the environmental hazards ultimately led to discussions of demolition. Members of the Bartlett Historical Society (BHS), along with a group of like-minded townspeople entered the scene and ultimately convinced the school district to delay any major decisions until it could be determined if there was sufficient interest in saving the building. The society took the lead in offering to rehabilitate the building and transform it into a historical museum, headquarters for the society and a genealogical and research center. With a long-term lease from the district in place, they started a capital campaign to raise $450,000 to preserve and restore the building. In a little over a year of actual fund raising, the BHS has raised over $130,000 towards this cause.

It is anticipated that Seven to Save designation will bring added attention to preserving this important building. The BHS looks forward to giving this 127-year-old landmark new life under their stewardship. 

For more information, visit the Bartlett Historical Society website. You can also contact Phil Franklin (BHS secretary) at 603-374-5023 or phil@BartlettHistory.org or Norm Head (BHS president) at normiejoe@gmail.com or 603-986-6278.

2017 Seven to Save Profile: Lancaster's Parker J. Noyes Building

Parker J. Noyes was an enterprising pharmacist and inventor who made a name for himself and Lancaster with products like the sugar coated pill. His company was later responsible for developing the first precision food pellet for laboratory animal use. Thanks to Noyes, by the turn of the twentieth century, Lancaster was an epicenter of pharmaceutical manufacturing, allowing the company to expand and invest in its research, advertising, and Main Street presence. The company also felt strongly about the Lancaster community. During the Great Depression, the Noyes Family constructed a brick oven used to bake bread to donate to neighbors and townspeople.

Following a postwar nation-wide trend, the Parker J. Noyes Company left Main Street for Lancaster’s outskirts in the 1960s. The building was converted into mixed-use, but stayed in the hands of the Noyes Family, who continued to care for and maintain it. Today, the building is in need of rehabilitation and a plan to return its three floors to good use. Lancaster is seeing reinvestment along Main Street and the Parker J. Noyes Building is poised to complement the ongoing efforts of other developers and small business owners.

Because this imposing Italianate block forms the northern gateway into the village, its future is critical to the health of Lancaster. Main Street has lost several buildings – some from fire, others from demolition for Family Dollar. The town has since passed form-based zoning and RSA 79-E, but Seven to Save momentum for this building will be important as the current owner and town look toward their next steps.

For more information, contact Ben Gaetjens-Oleson (Lancaster town planner) at 603-788-3391 or planning@lancasternh.org

2017 Seven to Save Profile: Moultonborough's French-Taylor House

When the Town of Moultonborough voted to acquire the French-Taylor House with five acres at the center of Moultonborough's historic village in March 2014, the property with its structures was seen as an asset and as a placeholder for future community uses. Since then, the vacant house  has languished without planning, and deteriorated without proper attention and maintenance. In March, Storm Stella winds tore large shingle sections off the house and barn, leading to new water infiltration. Now, some are pushing for demolition of these buildings, claiming that the visibly neglected historic house has ‘no value’ to the community.

However, this community landmark is significant both for its history and for its architecture. As noted by James Garvin, the French-Taylor House is a valuable local example of a broad-gabled Greek Revival dwelling. Built c. 1840, the house was expanded in the early 20th century by James French, the longtime state legislator who was one of Moultonborough’s most prominent citizens. Later, it was the residence of Adele Taylor, the town's longest-serving librarian. The intact interior features beautiful hardwood floors, woodwork, and original hardware and lighting fixtures.

The Taylor House, as it is known locally, stands at the center of the Village, directly across from the Moultonborough Grange Hall, owned by the Moultonborough Historical Society and listed to ‘Seven to Save’ in 2012. Loss of either or both of these buildings at the core of the historic village would severely impact Moultonborough's unique character, streetscape, and sense of place. In early September, the Village lost a key community landmark when the former Country Fare Inn was demolished, soon be replaced by a rural strip mall. The historic village area is now hemmed in on both ends by out of scale commercial developments.

The Heritage Commission was given the go-ahead to evaluate the French-Taylor House in May, focusing attention on its future community use. In June, the house received a determination of eligibility for the State Register of Historic Places, the pre-requisite for state-funded study and repair grants. The Commission then successfully applied for a Building Condition Assessment study (report forthcoming). Two well-attended community open houses were held at the property in July, where members of the public voiced their support for re-use of the building.

84% of respondents to the Town’s 2014 ‘Village Vision’ survey agreed that “When planning for the future, it is important to preserve and encourage the use of historic buildings in the ‘village’ area.” The French-Taylor House's potential for public or commercial use has yet to be fully explored with a community input and planning process. It is hoped that Seven to Save status and visibility will convince naysayers that Town heritage and remaining historic village buildings do matter, and thus help shift the conversation from demolition to resuscitation.

For more information, contact Cristina Ashjian (Heritage Commission Chair) at 603-476-8446 or cristina.ashjian@gmail.com

2017 Seven to Save Profile: Canaan's B&M Freight Shed

When the Northern Railroad came to Canaan in 1847, its depot in East Canaan transformed the town. Canaan immediately prospered from increased connection to the wider world. Its freight yard bustled with dairy farmers, loggers & overall makers and, in time, passenger trains brought summer residents and skiers. 

A devastating fire wiped out downtown in 1923; within three hours, two lives were lost, forty buildings burned, and one million dollars in damage was done. The depot and freight shed were total losses. The heat was so intense the rails warped.

Planning and rebuilding began quickly using Colonial Revival architecture to unite commercial and public buildings. The depot and freight shed were built first, and both reflected the new downtown. The freight shed included a slate roof, pedimented ends with lunette windows, and 6/6 windows – original design and materials that exist today. The freight shed ceased being used in the 1930s, and the depot closed in 1958. Since then, the building has seen little maintenance and its condition has worsened over time.  

Today, the freight shed’s neighbor is the busy Northern Rail Trail, the state’s longest rail trail at 60 miles in uninterrupted length. It welcomes bicyclists, runners, walkers, skiers, horseback riders, and snowmobilers through downtown Canaan. The location makes it an ideal candidate for a thoughtful reuse strategy.

It is hoped that the Seven to Save designation will help highlight New Hampshire’s historic, but disappearing, railroad infrastructure and also position this remnant of Canaan’s history to be re-imagined to once again boost the vitality of the village. For the first time in decades, maybe the freight shed will be on the right track.

For more information, contact Judith Kushner at 603-523-4337, or judith.kushner@gmail.com

2017 Seven to Save Profile: Belmont's Gale School

Generations of Belmont residents received their schooling in the Gale School classrooms. Built in 1894 and named after Napoleon Gale, who bequeathed $10,000 to the Town, the distinctive Stick-style school sat prominently in downtown Belmont. This prominence faded over the years as the Gale School yard became home to additional school buildings: a brick high school in 1937, then a middle school in 1955, then additions to the high school in 1971. A new elementary school in 1985 and a new high school in 1997 finally ended the Gale School’s usefulness by the school district.

Since the 1980s, the school district has had conversations about what to do with this significant building, with ideas ranging from school administrative offices to a town library or affordable housing.  While taxpayers have consistently supported preserving the building, it turns out that moving a 125-ton building from a lot sandwiched between an uphill ball field and a campus of sprawling school buildings is not easy…or cheap.

The Shaker Regional School Board issued a request for proposals this summer, looking for an organization to either move the building from the site or salvage its parts. The Save Our Gale School committee (SOGS), a 501c3 organization dedicated to saving the school, submitted the sole proposal, and as of this past Tuesday's School Board meeting, received the green light to move ahead with a plan to relocate and rehabilitate this historic building. Some hurdles remain, however. SOGS must gain voters' approval at School District meeting in March, and they must raise the money to supplement the district’s $70,000 moving credit. The building must be moved by August 2018. Without these two critical pieces, the building will be lost.

Seven to Save designation comes at the perfect time. It gives the project needed credibility and public recognition, along with the support and assistance of the NH Preservation Alliance, to fundraise and solicit in-kind donations.

The project consists of two phases:

Phase One includes purchasing the lot for the Gale School, clearing and shaping that lot, constructing a driveway and pad for the building, providing water and sewer utilities and excavating and constructing a foundation  and then moving the building to that lot.  Already SOGS has Belmont-area businesses that have committed to $50,000 worth of donated services, including site work, excavation, and tree removal.  Remaining items include securing commitments for purchasing the lot and raising additional funds for moving the Gale School and constructing its new foundation.

Phase Two will involve renovation and re-purposing of the Gale School. To date, SOGS has had preliminary discussions with the Laconia Area Community Land Trust about having them take the reins after the building is successfully relocated. Other community service organizations have also expressed interest in using the Gale School. Then, once again, this unique, impressive and valued old school building can be used and appreciated and continue to contribute to its community, as it had for many generations.

For more information, visit the Save Our Gale School website. Or contact Diane Marden, SOGS president at 603-290-4143 or dmarden@belmontnh.net. 

Broadcast Journalism Project on The Gale School - Belmont NH By Nina Gordon and Megan Bailey

2017 Seven to Save Profile: Hinsdale's Hope Engine Co. No. 1 Engine House

Hinsdale – located at the very southwestern corner of New Hampshire – was once a manufacturing hub for paper, woolens, and machinery. This development along the banks of the Ashuelot River prompted the town to invest in fire fighting services by the 1850s – including the construction of the Hope Engine Company Number 1 station. This small post and beam building housed horses, hoses, and ladders that could be called upon to contain the fires that threatened mills and foundries downtown. To raise funds for their work, the Hope Engine Company hosted dances and firemen’s competitions.

The rest of the story is something with which we’re all familiar. Changing technology rendered the small engine house obsolete by the 1900s and it was eventually turned into tire storage for an adjacent automotive garage. But somehow it survived.

Enter Donna Suskawicz, who had returned to her hometown a few years ago. Over lunch one day, someone told her that this former engine house would be demolished if a plan couldn’t be developed to save it. Her friends, however, were about to leave for Florida or were too busy to save it themselves. And so, Donna developed a plan to save it. With help from the owner, Michael Foerster; neighbors; the fire department; and Catlin and Petrovik Architects, the Friends of the Hope Engine Co. No. 1 devised a plan to temporarily relocate the engine house to a different lot on Main Street until further restoration could begin in earnest.

Seven to Save designation will help increase public awareness of this historic building – a building that many people in town did not initially think was worth saving. Its faded and peeling paint, small size, and simple architecture did not lend the appearance of a typical preservation project. Some in town only wanted to save the faded sign on the front which reads, "Hope Engine Co. No. 1." Its lack of maintenance was deceiving, though. As Donna quipped at the Seven to Save announcement, "imagine how we'd all look after 150 years of little maintenance."

The plan for its new use is still in flux, but Donna hopes to see it pay tribute to the town's firefighting history. But that's putting the engine cart before the horse. First, the building must be moved and a new home for it secured on Main Street. Then, restoration on the small building can commence. 

For more information, read newspaper articles published by the Keene Sentinel and Brattleboro Reformer. Also, contact Donna Suskawicz at 603-336-5575 or zolacenter@juno.com