Town Meeting Season

With Town Meeting season upon us, we looked back a couple years to find advice along with the struggles. Here’s an inspiring  profile of the recent Wolfeboro Town Hall project that is scalable to projects of all size. Commendable persistence and a strong public-private partnership helped revive the civic heart of this downtown.

Built in 1890, the Romanesque Revival Brewster Memorial Hall was designed to house town offices along with three commercial storefronts that would generate income for the building’s upkeep.  The large second floor hall hosted town meetings, movies, concerts and dances until the 1980s when it was closed due to lack of code compliance.
 
In 2007, the town hired an architect to fully rehabilitate the aging building, but voters rejected the $6.7 million price tag, as well as a subsequent less expensive version.  The Friends of Wolfeboro Town Hall supported an incremental approach, and they hired new experts, hosted community forums, got funding to restore the tower clock, raised pledges of nearly $1 million and got out the vote for a third –and successful--warrant article request in March 2014 for just $4 million.  The group meet every Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. to maintain momentum. 
The slate roof was repaired and masonry repointed.  Office layouts were improved, energy upgrades were made, an elevator was added, all interior woodwork was preserved, and major staircases were retained and rehabilitated.  Removal of the 20th century dropped ceiling in the Great Hall revealed a handsome wood truss system and dormer windows,
Since the re-dedication in late 2015, this well-loved building is also very well-used, bringing new appreciation for historic preservation and a renewed sense of community pride and vitality.

Town of Wolfeboro
Rehabilitation of Brewster Memorial Hall
With partners:
Friends of Wolfeboro Town Hall
Conneston Construction, Inc.
Northeast Collaborative Architects

N.H. Preservation Alliance barn assessment grant deadlines February 1 and May 1 - Part of 52 Barns in 52 Weeks campaign

Barn owners interested in a professional evaluation of their historic barn should consider applying for a small assessment grant. Winners of the competitive grants are matched with experienced contractors that provide owners a “road map” for repair after a site visit. The grants do not cover the costs of repair or restoration. Upcoming deadlines for submission are February 1 and May 1. Please go to our website for further details.

The information gathered from the assessment often helps owners better understand the history and evolution of their barns, prioritize and budget to address critical needs, find out what work they can do themselves, and be better clients for work done by contractors. 

In addition to the barn grants are two other proven programs to meet the goal: educational programs for barn owners and enthusiasts, and expanding use of a state barn easement program that can offer tax relief to property owners who preserve their historic agricultural structures.  Barns are part of the landscapes and communities that attract businesses and visitors according to project leaders.  

We are grateful to donors of this initiative,  and are seeking additional financial support for the program.   To learn more about the 52 Barns in 52 Weeks initiative, or to make a donation, go to nhpreservation.org. 

You can also email barns@nhpreservation.org to receive information and updates about the program.  Upcoming events include a February 17 lecture on in-town barns at the Farm and Forest Expo in Manchester.

Photo:  Daniel Ayers, a Northumberland barn owner, secured one of our barn assessment grants and used it to create a road map for the stabilization and repair of his 1880s barn. Dan purchased the “fantastic place” to preserve the land and buildings which are such an integral part of town history. The local landmark stands across from the 1799 Meeting House, is on the site of Fort Wentworth and the old muster grounds, had been owned by the same family for 5 generations and is part of an old stage coach stop.  Not only did he preserve the barn, he “paid it forward” by giving the Alliance the same amount as his grant to support our activities and help other barn owners.