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.