Town meeting this year resulted in several preservation victories across the state.

Here’s what we learned:

Overall, voters were generous, though articles that requested smaller amounts of money to go toward planning studies or capital reserve funds were passed more easily. Persistence also seemed to pay off for the towns of Washington and Bradford, where voters approved bond measures for substantial restoration and rehabilitation work on town-owned landmarks. Advocates noted that planning for capital projects and vigorous, strategic communication were important elements to their success.

Washington Town Hall

Washington Town Hall

Washington voters approved a $1.281 million bond for restoration and rehabilitation work at their iconic 1787 meetinghouse (Seven to Save, 2014). The measure passed 135-26. Another substantial rehabilitation will happen in Bradford, where voters approved $861,000 for their town hall (Seven to Save, 2014). That money will help match an LCHIP grant of $105,000. Bradford voters also approved $50,000 to repair the Bement Covered Bridge.

Drew Mill Dam, Wakefield

Drew Mill Dam, Wakefield

In Wakefield, voters approved $24,407 for the restoration of the remaining thirty-five windows at their town hall, an amount which LCHIP will double. Voters also put $11,500 in a capital reserve for town hall maintenance. A petitioned article asking for $34,500 for engineering and repair work at the Drew Mill Dam (Seven to Save, 2012) also passed.

In Wolfeboro, voters approved three articles pertaining to the reuse of the former freight shed. The building will be leased to the Lakes Region Model Railroad Association for use as a museum. The Association will also benefit from $95,000 in a dedicated capital reserve fund intended to restore the building.

New Hampton

New Hampton

In New Hampton, threat of demolition of the grange hall prompted voters to approve $4,000 for a planning study for the building, and also $150,000 for its relocation to a new foundation nearly two miles away.

Planning studies will take place in Meredith, where $50,000 was approved for the existing library at the Benjamin M. Smith building (Seven to Save, 2016).  Nearby in Center Harbor, voters approved $7,600 for an assessment of the schoolhouse. Voters also approved $5,000 for rehabilitation of the town house, which will be used as matching funds for LCHIP. Center Harbor also created a Town Property Stewardship Expendable Trust for periodic monitoring and maintenance of town-owned assets, and funded it with $4,000.

Another Seven to Save listee in Middleton (2011) will receive $60,000 from the town for continued work at their old town hall, which includes murals by itinerant artist John Avery.

In New Durham, voters approved $10,000 to join the capital reserve fund for the old meetinghouse (Seven to Save, 2012). Similarly, Swanzey voted $50,000 in reserves toward the restoration of Whitcomb Hall. Stratham passed its Capital Improvements Plan for 2017, which includes $50,000 for a Heritage Preservation Fund.

A straw poll in Belmont provided answers to three questions posed to voters regarding the future of the Belmont Mill. Article 6 asked if the building should be used for town offices and community space (440 yes – 267 no). Article 7 asked if the building should be demolished (170 yes – 522 no). Article 8 asked if the building should be sold, which drew a closer vote (383 yes – 320 yes).

Windham

Windham

Two communities also adopted preservation tools that will help advance preservation projects. Lancaster will join thirty communities that have adopted RSA 79-E, a tax incentive tool for revitalizing downtown commercial buildings. Windham voters approved an article to allow the Conservation Commission to pursue a permanent “curatorship lease agreement” for the Campbell Farm House. The Italianate house sits on 62 acres of conservation land acquired by the town in 2014, but until this year, the status of the house was in question. The new directive will allow the Commission to find a tenant who will monitor, maintain, repair, restore, and improve the house as part of the lease.

Energy efficiency projects also received attention this year. Grafton’s town hall will receive $10,000 worth of electrical and systems upgrades. Voters in Littleton said yes to $44,200 worth of energy improvements at the opera house, at the recommendation of an energy audit, and voters in Wilton approved $300,000 worth of heating, wiring, and safety upgrades at their town hall.

Measures that were not successful this year included Ashland School (Seven to Save, 2007) for $625,000 for use as the town library and an article requesting $18,250 for a planning study to match an LCHIP award. In Rye, all three articles relating to the town hall (Seven to Save, 2015) failed: one asking $3.2 million to restore and expand the existing town hall, one asking $500,000 to restore the town hall exterior and address ADA concerns, and one asking $3.4 million to build a facsimile of the old town hall on the same site.  David Choate, who helped Rye Heritage Commission members communicate the benefits of the rehabilitation, said “we’re disappointed, but know this work can take time. We welcome advice as we work on plans for the building’s continuing use and improvement.”

Also unsuccessful was an attempt to add an elevator shaft to the Deerfield Town Hall, though the town hall will receive a new roof. An attempt in Sandown to create the state’s sixty-third Heritage Commission failed, 314-270.

Please contact Andrew Cushing at ac@nhpreservation.org with additions, corrections or comments. The Preservation Alliance was pleased to help several of the “winners” to succeed, and appreciates the opportunity to help all communities with projects for Town Meeting and other important events throughout the year.

Historic Riverside Academy in North Weare, NH for sale.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995 as North Weare Schoolhouse, the historic 1 ½ story brick Riverside Academy Building was built c. 1855 and stands on a .4 acre parcel surrounded by mature hardwood trees marked by granite posts and rail fencing.  It is a vernacular mixing of Federal, Greek Revival, and Italianate styles, sits on cut granite underpinnings and is crowned by a large louvered belfry with weathervane. It is the most architecturally distinctive of Weare's 19th-century schoolhouses. It was used as a public school until 1952, and then served as a grange hall until the 1980s. The School House sits in a village of historic houses, barns and a church. Nearby there are several tracts of conservation land, including the Weare Town Forest. The School House is located on Old Concord Stage Road (Route 77) just east of junction with Route 114 in North Weare, just 20 minutes west of NH's capital city of Concord.

The main room measures 30'x40' with an attached 16'x49' ell of wood construction dating from the 1960s.  Inside, the building retains much of its original detailing.  A curving wooden staircase with rounded handrail leads to the upper level.  The main school room features a narrow vertical board tongue-and-groove siding underneath a chalk railing which circumscribes the room.  The pressed tin ceiling, added in the late 19th or early 20th century, displays a decorative cornice and a field comprised of square and rectangular panels decorated by urns and geometric patterns with anthemion at the corners. 

The building is considered to be 75% restored with two new furnaces, alarm system, plumbing, wiring and electric.  It offers many possibilities. 

Owner asking $225,000. Call 603-497-3683.

Town Sells Protected Orford Ridge Home to Former Town Resident

Significant New England Historic Building to Be Revived

The historic c.1817 Rogers House, located on Main Street/Route 10 in Orford, has been protected for future generations and has a new preservation buyer, announced the Town of Orford and the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance today.

The sale concludes an essential chapter in an impressive collaboration between the Town, a citizens group, and the Preservation Alliance to protect the landmark and find a new owner committed to reviving it. The Town had taken the house, outbuildings and land due to non-payment of property taxes. The Selectboard worked closely with a local citizen initiative to protect this significant landmark with a Preservation Easement before it was sold.   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 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.

Statement from the Town: The Selectboard is pleased to have been able to preserve this important part of our Town’s history while meeting our other responsibilities. We are grateful to the many community members who offered advice, volunteered their time, and provided financial support for the easement.  “I hope that this success will inspire other communities to consider taking a similar path to preserve their historic buildings,” said Anne Duncan Cooley, Orford Selectboard.

Statement from New Owners: Jared and Elise Henningsen wish to express their gratitude to the Town of Orford for their patience and assistance during this process.  Jared has recently accepted an opportunity to work at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and they are excited to begin the planned preservation and restoration of Rogers House.

Statement from Preservation Alliance: "We are extremely pleased to assist the Town with the protection of one of its most iconic places," said Jennifer Goodman, the Preservation Alliance’s Executive Director. She noted that the Preservation Alliance is pleased with the growing interest in this useful tool.

The preservation easement is held by the N.H. Preservation Alliance, which will monitor and, as needed, enforce its terms. The easement will protect the highest-priority features while allowing for flexibility by current and future owners over time. The Preservation Alliance also holds a preservation easement on the Moses Kent Home in Lyme and other important properties around the state.

More here

 

1913 Boscawen Library

The 1913 Boscawen Library (Seven to Save 2013) is making headway towards this landmark’s re-use thanks to the focus and tenaciousness of members of the Committee to Save the Old Boscawen Library. The Preservation Alliance has been pleased to help local leaders with recognition and coaching over the last few years. 

Designed by famed Boston architect Guy Lowell, who also designed Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and the NH Historical Society’s building, this 1913 Colonial Revival building was the first public library in Boscawen.  Frank Lawrence Gerrish donated land at the junction of Routes 3 and 4, and John and Charlotte Kimball and Benjamin Ames Kimball donated the money to build the library.  The elegant classical revival exterior is complemented by an open floor plan, dark wood paneling, and a beautiful engraved and inscribed wooden mantel over the main fireplace.

Listed to the National Register in 1981, it was closed in 2006 when the Town moved its library resources to a new Municipal Complex, an adaptive reuse of the Old Main Street School building.  A leaking roof and foundation drainage issues led to moisture-related damage and an uncertain future. 

Committee to Save the Old Boscawen Library is making progress with a phased plan to save and restore the building as a multi-use facility.   The first steps were roof repair, improvements to drainage, and exterior work to make the building safe and ready for interior repairs and improvements with help from an LCHIP grant and private donations. The Town has agreed to provide a basic maintenance budget to keep the building heated and lights on along with matching funds for money raised by the Committee. The basement is being renovated to provide some moisture-free space for storing nonprofit documents, and some additional work is out to bid.

Possible future uses include storage of historical records and Historical Society displays, space for local artists’ demonstrations, or lease to a business. 

Additional thoughts regarding ways that the Committee has expanded public awareness and engaged the Town from Committee member Lorrie Carey:

·       I think our "Seven to Save" designation has really helped raise community awareness.

·       We made the 1913 library's birthday a part of the Old Home Day celebration.

·       We had elementary kids making homemade hearts for Valentine's Day to show how much they love their library.

·       There must be plenty of room for numerous volunteers to float ideas and feel engaged.

“It is one thing to save a historic resource,” said Carey. “It is another to maintain the building for future generations to use. Both the current and future condition of the building must be considered as the plans to save a historic resource come together.”

Kensington Town Hall Success

The rehabilitated Kensington Town Hall reopened in September 2016 after an eight year process that featured mold problems and demolition conversation yielding to effective outreach and “win-win” rehabilitation solutions.

This simple Greek Revival building was purpose-built in 1846 exclusively for use by town government.  It replaced the original meeting house on the site, reusing its massive timbers in the construction.  Since that time, it has also been a primary venue for Kensington’s socials, dances and lectures.  It is one of the three iconic buildings that define the center of Kensington.

During the Mother’s Day floods of 2008, ground water infiltrated the offices that were created in 1981 in the basement of the town hall, and mold was discovered growing in boxes of books and under file cabinets.  Town employees became ill and the selectmen commissioned mold studies.  As a result, the office spaces were gutted and rebuilt, and new offices were added in the historic stage area of the auditorium.  But the mold issues persisted, and after a lawsuit was filed, the selectmen relocated the town offices and police department to other quarters.  Then they considered their options for the condemned building.  Gut it “to the studs” and reconfigure the office space?  Demolish the “old” town hall and construct an entirely new building?  

 The Friends of the Kensington Town Hall came together to raise awareness of the plight of the historic building and assist with preservation options.  They bartered for a report from Tim Nichols, a local engineer, to analyze the issues and offer an alternate opinion and options for preservation.  At the same time they prepared a NH Division of Historical Resources (DHR) inventory form and were offered State Register listing for the Town House.  When the selectmen refused to sign the letter allowing the listing, the Friends prepared a nomination for listing to the National Register of Historic Places.  When that recognition was received, a bronze plaque was placed on the building.  Later in 2011, the Friends advocated for and won a coveted spot for the building on the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance’s Seven to Save list.

The Friends then launched a town-wide initiative to change public opinion and bring the town hall back into productive use for the town in a safe condition at a reasonable cost to taxpayers.  Strategies included a broad-based email network, a Facebook page, a postcard-writing campaign, web-based and printed information, and colorful posters, brochures and buttons.  The Friends kept the public informed and kept the pressure on the selectmen with a series of articles in the local newspapers, and raised private contributions from dozens of townsfolk to fund their work.

 The Friends’ challenge was to do what earlier efforts had not accomplished: determine the source of the moisture infiltration, make a plan to correct it, remediate all adverse existing conditions, and assure that the problems would not recur.  They wrote a warrant article and the town voted $10,000 to remediate the mold and other conditions that had made town employees sick, campaigned for it and got it passed at the March 2012 town meeting despite vocal dissent from the selectmen.  (Citizens requested and got an informal vote of approval and a standing ovation at the deliberative session!).  The article passed by a large margin at the polls.  In contrast, the selectmen backed a $1.5 million plan to build a new municipal complex and this was soundly defeated.  When it came time for the work, however, this effort ended up costing $17,360 and the Friends found themselves short.  They were saved by an emergency grant of $4,000 from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, an award that also helped strengthen their local credibility.  The remainder was paid by donations from over 35 townspeople totaling $3,360.

The remediation of the mold accomplished, in 2014 they wrote another article for $52,000 to complete the repair of the Town Hall, and it passed by a large margin.  Work included the installation of proper drainage and gutters, sealing the foundation, and using non-porous materials to replace some of those that were removed in the remediation process.  When the work was accomplished, air-quality testing showed that the building was mold-free and completely safe for occupancy.

A new board of selectmen is now in place who are extremely supportive of the effort to return town offices and police to the town hall.  They wrote an article for the 2015 warrant requesting $40,000 for the services of a preservation architect to study and design a modest addition that would house new offices for the police and town employees at the historic Town Hall.  It passed by a large margin, prompting the selectmen to confidently ask the Preservation Alliance to remove the Kensington town hall from the Seven to Save list. 

The Kensington Town Hall opened in September 2016 with a 2,000-square-foot addition that respects the history of the 1846 structure and allows town departments to serve residents more efficiently with fully modern capabilities and equipment. The project included correcting a problem with mold, and the Board of Selectmen did it without raising taxes and with local labor whenever possible to bring new life and usefulness to this historic town hall meetinghouse.

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.