Rochester Fairgrounds, Exhibition Barn: Seven to Save Profile

There’s nothing like a good fair. Think about it: within just steps are behemoth pumpkins, deep fried Oreos, prized quilt displays, spinning tea cups, tractor salesmen, horse pulling competitions, and school bus demolition derbies.

Though fairs are generally only open for a week (which is about as long as the arteries can handle deep fried Oreos), they pack a lot of punch. These landscapes hold special places in our New Hampshire hearts - and the Rochester Fairgrounds is no exception.

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The Rochester Agricultural and Mechanical Association has hosted the Rochester Fair since 1874. In 1879, the Association purchased the land known as Cold Spring Park and built three exhibition barns in 1883. Over time, these Victorian-influenced barns were conjoined to create a space measuring over 60,000 square feet.

The Rochester Fairgrounds sits on a 56-acre parcel of land near downtown.

The Rochester Fairgrounds sits on a 56-acre parcel of land near downtown.

In 2017, the Association made the difficult decision to cancel the fair. The indebted board struggled to keep the fair profitable after decades of declining attendance and mounting capital improvement needs. The barns alone required over $50,000 in life and fire safety upgrades. Combined with the perennial cost of electricity, property taxes, and insurance, the ten-day fair model was not feasible. (Rochester residents have expressed concern about increasing the number of events on site due to the fairgrounds’ downtown location and the traffic generated by events.)

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Fortunately, the fair re-opened in September 2018, to the delight of fair-goers. Nevertheless, many of the Fairgrounds’ buildings need investment, including the exhibition barns, which, along with the grand stand, are easily the best examples of fairgrounds architecture in the state.

The Preservation Alliance will be working with the Association to explore tools that will help keep the Fair going strong. These options include listing the building to the State Register of Historic Places, pursuing planning grants and LCHIP funding, enrolling in the barn tax incentive program (RSA 79-D), installing solar panels to reduce electricity costs, and diversifying annual income.

For more information about how you can help, contact the Rochester Fairgrounds Association, or reach out to the Preservation Alliance.

Haverhill's Wentworth-Brown House: Seven to Save Profile

Wentworth-Brown House, Haverhill.

Wentworth-Brown House, Haverhill.

What happens to big old houses in weaker real estate markets?

This question is all too familiar in Haverhill Corner, a National Register Historic District that sits on a bluff overlooking the Connecticut River, about 40 minutes north of Hanover. The district’s mostly Federal houses encircle two large commons, creating one of New Hampshire’s handsomest villages.

The very things that made Haverhill Corner prosper in the early 19th century - the Coos Turnpike, the seat of Grafton County, Haverhill Academy - had relocated by the 20th century, however. Decades of deferred maintenance left one of the common’s anchor buildings - the Wentworth-Brown House - in danger. The property’s large size (it’s a combination of a 1790s Georgian and 1805 Federal house and two barns, measuring nearly 200 feet in length) and laundry list of needed work deterred most buyers when the property went up for sale.

Alumni Hall underwent extensive restoration in the early 2000s and now serves as a vibrant arts and entertainment center.

Alumni Hall underwent extensive restoration in the early 2000s and now serves as a vibrant arts and entertainment center.

Enter Haverhill Heritage, Inc. (HHI), a nonprofit responsible for converting nearby Alumni Hall into an active arts center in 2005. The group recognized the importance of the large old house and feared that it would not fare well in the traditional real estate market. A generous donor stepped in to purchase and hold the property while HHI raised the funds to purchase and rehabilitate it.

HHI applied for a conditions assessment through the NH Preservation Alliance, which outlined urgent work that needed to be done on the property. With that report in hand, the group then applied for LCHIP funding to both purchase the house and repair the roof and sills. In November 2017, LCHIP awarded HHI $150,000 - the first use of LCHIP funds to purchase a historic resource in the program’s history (more commonly, LCHIP funds are used to purchase land or rehabilitate historic buildings).

In addition to the assessment grant, HHI also received $31,375 in tax credit funds from the Community Development Finance Authority (CDFA). This money will pay for a study outlining potential reuse strategies for the Wentworth-Brown house.

When complete, HHI’s initiative will serve as a model for other rural communities that wish to start catalytic projects in markets that have yet to attract enough private money.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Despite HHI’s grant awards to date, the group must raise over $100,000 to match the LCHIP funding and get urgent repairs started. Otherwise, the Wentworth-Brown house risks going back on the market.

HHI also needs more businesses to purchase their tax credits. For more information, please contact Executive Director, Keisha Luce, at (603) 989-5500 or info@alumnihall.org.

You can also read more about the story thanks to this Valley News article.

Newest Seven to Save Features Diverse Threatened Places

The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance has announced its 2018 Seven to Save list today, featuring the Ruggles 236-acre mica mine in Grafton, the 250-acre Laconia State School campus, a dam of a water-power system at Canterbury Shaker Village and the enormous exhibition barn at the Rochester Fairgrounds. Also on the list highlighting endangered historic landscapes as well as iconic structures is a home dating from the 18th and 19th century that stretches along the common at Haverhill Corner, an Italianate parsonage in Lee and a Prairie-style residence built for the Director of the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Manchester. Watch for stories of the seven that will be unveiled in the coming days. Short descriptions here.

“These places makes our state distinctive, and help connect us to our rich and complex history,” said Jennifer Goodman, executive director of the Preservation Alliance. “The need for new investment and creative re-uses as well as deterioration and demolition are varied threats to the historic properties on this list. Here are seven great opportunities to transform threatened resources into vibrant assets once again that help meet community and economic goals.”  She noted that the list is the most diverse in the program’s 12-year history, and many of the listees are not yet well-known or understood, even in their own communities. Photos below, scroll to right: one of a campus of National-Register eligible buildings on the former Laconia State School campus, the Director’s House at the Manchester VA Hospital, former parsonage in Lee, exhibit hall barn at the Rochester Fairgrounds, Ruggles Mine, Turning Mill Pond at Canterbury Shaker Village, and the Col. Brown House in Haverhill Corner.

The list was announced at a N.H. Preservation Alliance event celebrating the rehabilitation of Washington’s iconic 1787 Meetinghouse (which was listed to Seven to Save when future was uncertain in 2014).

“This iconic New England village is a fitting place to hold an event that showcases irreplaceable landmarks, power of people who love and champion special places, and the social and economic benefits of historic preservation activity,” according to Andrew Cushing, Field Service Representative at the Preservation Alliance. “These positive themes need to be front and center as we address the enormous challenges ahead.”

Additional Washington sites featured at the announcement included the 1881 Shedd Free Library, Gibson Pewter, Washington Meetinghouse, and the Historical Society barn, which won a Preservation Achievement Award in 2006.  

Seven to Save listing has helped to attract new investment and re-use options for over 50% of the community landmarks that have received the designation since the program began in 2006.  Criteria for Seven to Save include the property’s historical or architectural significance, severity of the current threat, and the extent to which the Seven to Save listing would help in preserving the property.  Typically, nominated properties are owned by non-profits, municipalities or commercial entities, and have local advocates willing to work toward a creative “save” rather than allowing continued deterioration and possible demolition. 

Seven to Save attracts attention to threats and helps forge possible solutions for endangered properties.  Examples of successes include the Wolfeboro Town Hall, Charlestown Town Hall, Kensington Town Hall, Pickering House in Wolfeboro, Watson Academy in Epping, the Pandora Mill in Manchester, Littleton Community Center, and the Langdon Meetinghouse.  Seven to Save sites that still need more creative planning, new investment, and advocacy include the Balsams in Dixville Notch, Concord’s iconic Gas Holder House, the Chandler House in Manchester, Sanborn Seminary in Kingston, and the former Brown Paper Company’s R & D building in Berlin.

Seven to Save’s sponsors for 2018 include the Pinnacle Leadership Foundation, Chinburg Builders, Christopher P. Williams Architects, Levasseur Electrical Contractors, Inc., Milestone Engineering & Construction, Nathan Wechsler & Co., The MacMillin Company, and North Branch Construction. Also Ciborowski Associates , CMK Architects, Cobb Hill Construction, Dennis Mires, P.A. The Architects, Historic Sashworks, Misiaszek Turpin, Norton Asset Management, Steppingstone Masonry, Udelsman Associates  and Windows & Doors by Brownell.

Summer Maintenance Success

Paint in sections if you get overwhelmed easily.

Paint in sections if you get overwhelmed easily.

Moss growth on roofs will shorten its lifespan and potentially cause moisture problems.

Moss growth on roofs will shorten its lifespan and potentially cause moisture problems.

Sometimes regular inspection reveals bigger problems.

Sometimes regular inspection reveals bigger problems.

There are lots of competing interests in the summer months, and usually scraping and painting the gable end of your old house fails to win over opportunities to relax. Then autumn comes and we start to wish we had spent just a little more time doing maintenance in the summer...

Prioritize.

Every old house has a laundry list of work items, from painting to window repair to finally re-installing that trim in the upstairs bedroom. It can be overwhelming. 

Or maybe your insurance company is calling the shots. We talked to Dale Barney, of Barney Insurance in Canaan, about what insurance companies want to see with older houses. "If homeowners want preferred policies, make sure your house is well-cared for and well-maintained." That means no peeling paint, no curling roof shingles, and no rickety stair railings. 

Insurance companies inspect properties every five years on average. Making your house look good can save you hundreds of dollars on homeowners insurance.

Clean up.

Spend time clearing vegetation away from the perimeter of the house and barn. Foliage and roots trap moisture against siding and their roots can cause foundation issues. Trim back tree branches that reach over roofs, which can foster environments for moss growth (you can later kill moss with baking soda). 

Inspect and clean your gutters while you're up on the roof. Keeping your gutters free of leaves and dirt prevents moisture issues down on the ground.

Gently washing dirt and mold growth off wood siding and trim also helps extend the life of your house's paint job and clapboards. Gentle is the key word here. Instead of power washing your siding, use mild soap and TSP substitute.  

Work in small batches.

You could easily spend your weekend hours working on your old house. (Many of us here at the Alliance can attest to this.) Dividing your house into manageable sections can give you a sense of satisfaction without draining your spare time and wallet.

Tackle one elevation of your house or barn at a time.  Spend a few hours here and there cleaning siding or painting trim. Cut up just one load of brush a weekend. Over time, these smaller efforts pay off.

Celebrate.

"I use benchmarks in my house's restoration as an excuse to invite people over," admits our field service representative, Andrew Cushing. "When the porch was done, I had a porch party. When the yard was mostly cleared, I had a bonfire. The affirmation helps, but so does the clear timeline to finish projects."

Do you have tips for staying sane with summer maintenance? Share them with us.

 

 

Preservation Personality Test

Members of the N.H. Preservation Alliance are a diverse, committed group. Here is a personality quiz to encourage you to think about your interests in historic preservation and support of the Preservation Alliance. Try to pick just one answer for each question, and consider our assessment below.

This sounds like an ideal afternoon:

A.     Investigate the timber framing in a double-English barn, or mid-19th century Moses Kent murals a federal home.

B.     Visit all the meetinghouses in the Templeton Run, a linear dispersion of a distinctive design running north of Templeton, MA into New Hampshire.

C.     Prepare stirring testimony for a planning board hearing or talk to your state representative about the benefits of historic preservation investment.

Which of these preservation icons would you like to be?

A.     Bob Villa, first host of This Old House.

B.     Part of the team that saved a historic mill, bridge, school, church or painted theater curtain.

C.     Dorothy Vaughn. Her activism in Portsmouth lead to the first use of urban renewal demolition funds for preservation in the U.S.

If you wrote a best-selling book or Hollywood scripts, it would be most like:

A.     House by Tracy Kidder or The Moneypit.

B.     Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil or The Building History of Northern New England by James Garvin.

C.     The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton or the Economics of Historic Preservation by Donovan Rypkema.

·        If you answered a lot of As, you are likely an old house or barn enthusiast.

·        If you answered a lot of Bs, you are likely a community landmark advocate. Perhaps caring for an old town hall, church or helping with other civic issues in town.

·        If you answered a lot of Cs, you are likely a preservation activist involved in lots of different aspects of preservation activity.

The Preservation Alliance needs all types to help us do more! We support you; please support the Preservation Alliance today.

Preservation Alliance board members, staff and friends at Throwback Brewery, North Hampton (an award-winning farm re-use).  Photo: Steve Booth Photography

Preservation Alliance board members, staff and friends at Throwback Brewery, North Hampton (an award-winning farm re-use).  Photo: Steve Booth Photography

Why Ruggles Mine Should be Saved

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The signs announcing Grafton's Ruggles Mine are a fixture along Route 4 and 104. They’re painted brown and look a little homemade. Some announce the former tourist attraction as “world famous,” which maybe convinces some, but may come across as a little grandiose.

And yet, Preservation Alliance field service representative Andrew Cushing notes that his grandparents love to tell a story about their vacation out West in the 1970s when someone pointed to their station wagon’s wooden rooftop cargo box emblazoned with “Grafton, NH” and shouted across the parking lot, “Hey, Ruggles Mine!”  Those "world famous" brown signs seemed a little more believable after that.

After closing its door as a visitor destination in 2016, the future of Ruggles Mine has remained in limbo. Several price cuts failed to attract serious bids and the site has been subject to trespassing and vandalism – Grafton’s sole police officer can attest.

The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance approached officials in the N.H. Division of Parks and Recreation several months ago and proposed the site become the newest state park. While it would not be a conventional park, it would be a unique offering that combined historical, geologic, and natural features as well as incredible scenery. Its 235 acres is mostly forested, is adjacent to the Forest Society’s Grafton Pond Reservation and Blodgett Forest, and it sits squarely within the Quabbin to Cardigan Initiative.

1911 crew at Ruggles Mine. Courtesy Grafton Historical Society.

1911 crew at Ruggles Mine. Courtesy Grafton Historical Society.

The mine has tremendous historical value, not only to the state but the country. New Hampshire may be the Granite State, but the western hill towns of the state were especially known for their mica mines. Mica mines were common in the towns of Alstead, Gilsum, Grafton, and Groton, where the material would be used in lanterns and stove windows – and later, for electrical insulators.

Ruggles was the first mica mine in the United States. (In fact, before the Civil War, New Hampshire produced all of the mica in the United States.) Samuel Ruggles started mining in earnest in 1803, though records suggest that mica had been discovered in Isinglass Mountain as early as the 1770s. (Samuel Ruggles was actually more of an investor than a farmer or miner.) What ensued was over 150 years of active mining during which Ruggles was the largest mica and feldspar mine in New Hampshire.

Courtesy Grafton Historical Society.

Courtesy Grafton Historical Society.

The result was a scarred landscape with spectacular pegmatitic arches. When the mine closed in 1962 due to changes in the global markets, the site was purchased as a tourist attraction. Between 1962 and 2016, the mine welcomed rock hounds and curious families alike, with the draw being the ability to hammer away in hopes of finding gems or rocks.

The Preservation Alliance is pleased that the N.H. Division of Parks and Recreation is actively exploring whether the property meets its mission as well as financial and operational issues.  New Hampshire has nearly one hundred state parks, including mountain peaks, lakeside beaches, gorges, and historic sites. Because the state’s park system is largely self-funded, new additions are rare. (Jericho Mountain State Park in Berlin is the newest member of the park family, purchased in 2007.) Ruggles could provide income to the state park system – and creative types have already suggested using the mine for concerts or outdoor art exhibits, such as the one created by the Revolving Museum in 2017.

Such an endeavor will take time, money, and imagination. The result, however, will be an important landscape preserved for the future. Support for such an initiative can surely be...mined.

The view from the parking lot at Ruggles Mine affords northerly views toward Mount Cardigan.

The view from the parking lot at Ruggles Mine affords northerly views toward Mount Cardigan.

New Commissioner Offers Vision, Priorities and Some Favorites

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Sarah L. Stewart of Manchester became the commissioner of the N.H. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources on June 4. In addition to the Division of Historical Resources, the department includes the Division of Parks and Recreation, the Division of Forests and Lands, the State Library and the State Council on the Arts.

When her nomination was announced by Gov. Sununu, Commissioner Stewart said why such a diverse department is important: “We represent so much of what is great about our state. We can leverage those unique assets to attract and retain a skilled workforce while providing top-notch customer service to our residents and visitors.”

Responding to questions from the N.H Preservation Alliance, Stewart noted New Hampshire citizens’ well-known ability to draw on grassroots support to reach community goals, including for historic preservation projects, is something that drew her to the position – as did the skill and passion of the department’s staff – and that she looks forward to new opportunities. “While I’ll be helping our staff continue the excellent work they’ve done for generations, I’m also focusing on showing how all of the elements of the DNCR work together to provide what folks love about New Hampshire, and to raise awareness of all that we offer.” 

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Here are some other thoughts from Stewart, in response to recent questions from the Preservation Alliance:
What drew you to this new position?

I’ve been living and working in New Hampshire for almost two decades, spending time in communities of all sizes, across the entire state and I’ve seen first-hand that our natural and cultural resources are places, experiences and treasures that define who we are and how we connect with each other. New Hampshire is famous for using grassroots support to get things done, including for historic preservation. I’m honored to be in a position to advocate on behalf of not just the NHDHR but all five of Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ divisions every day.

What are your priorities for the Department?

Our mission at the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources is to protect, preserve and manage a wide variety of natural, recreational and cultural resources. One of my priorities is to ensure that our residents, workforce and visitors to our state have access to all of the above and have the very best experiences possible. We’re a full-service department in that we are dedicated to not only historical resources, but also state forests, libraries, arts organizations and artists, and our wonderful state parks (many of which are important from a historic preservation standpoint, by the way). While I’ll be helping our staff continue the excellent work they’ve done for generations, I’m also focusing on showing how all of the elements of the DNCR work together to provide what folks love about New Hampshire, and to raise awareness of all that we offer.

What are some of your favorite historic buildings, communities or preservation success stories?

That’s kind of a trick question because there’s so much to love in New Hampshire from a preservation standpoint. But the first thing that comes to my mind is our amazing town halls. I’ve had the opportunity to spend time at town halls all across the state. The history when you walk into them is palpable. They’ve served and continue to serve as inspirational backdrops for community gatherings and town hall meetings, and each one has its own unique charm. A few of my favorites include the Bedford Town Hall, the Peterborough Town Hall, the Canterbury Town Hall and the Sandown Town Office.

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“Commissioner Stewart brings a passion for New Hampshire, experiences with collaboration, and creativity and communications skills to this job,” said Jennifer Goodman, executive director of the Preservation Alliance.

Stewart has served on several boards, including Stay-Work-Play New Hampshire, Amoskeag Industries and N.H. Citizens for the Arts. She was also a member of the Commission to Study the Economic Impact the of Arts and Culture in New Hampshire, which, in the historic preservation section of its final report (2016), noted that, nationally, properties in historic districts have higher values and are better maintained; that neighborhoods with a mix of older, smaller buildings support greater levels of positive economic and social activity than areas dominated by newer, larger buildings; and that heritage travelers stay longer and spend more on average than other visitors.


 

 

Are you supporting preservation and conservation with a Mooseplate?

Old license plate combinations sell out and “P” for preservation added

Do you know that funds from Moose Plate sales support a wide variety of conservation, heritage and preservation programs in New Hampshire, including planting wild flowers along New Hampshire highways, studying threatened plant and animal species, securing conservation easements and preserving publicly owned historic properties and artifacts?  The Preservation Alliance hopes that you’ll get a plate if you don’t have one, or buy one as a gift for a friend.

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Every dollar raised through the sales of Moose Plates goes directly to supporting designated programs. More than $20 million has been raised since the program began and projects in all 10 New Hampshire counties have benefited from Moose Plate funds.  Examples of preservation projects include the restoration of a town-owned barn in Cornish, roof stabilization for the Bartlett Roundhouse, and the renovation of the balcony in the Gorham Town Hall (right). 

Preservation gets more attention, and travelers on New Hampshire’s roadways this summer have something new to watch for when they play the license plate game: the state’s popular Moose Plate program has added the letter “P” to plate combinations.

When the first Conservation Number Plates were issued in December 2000, the letter “C,” for “conservation,” was part of each standard five-digit number combination. As “C” plates sold out, the letter “H,” for “heritage,” replaced the “C.” This spring, the first plates with the letter “P,” for “preservation,” were issued.

Standard combination Moose Plates still include a stacked “C” for “Conservation” and “H” for “Heritage” next to the illustrated moose, which was designed by Granite State artist Jim Collins. New Hampshire’s motto “Live Free or Die” is also part of the plate’s design.

Moose Plates may be purchased at city and town clerks’ offices when registering a car or truck. The annual cost for a Moose Plate is $30; the first year requires a standard $8 plate purchase fee. Vanity Moose Plates and combination Moose / NH State Parks plates are also available for additional charges.

Fourth grade students from Holderness Central School started the idea for the Moose Plate program in 1993. Legislation establishing the program passed in 1998.

More information is available at mooseplate.com.  For more on historic and cultural projects, check here.

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