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.
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.