Forest Society Announces Preservation Proposal for Creek Farm in Portsmouth

On June 13, just weeks from being granted a demolition permit, the Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests announced a deal to save Creek Farm, a rare survivor of the seacoast summer colony with ties to the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth, instead of demolish it. Announcement by the Society below, followed by excerpts from earlier statements from the Preservation Alliance about the site’s significance and desire for a “win-win” solution.



PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (June 13, 2019) The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (Forest Society) announced that it has reached an agreement in principle with a local family foundation on a long-term lease of the Carey Cottage at Creek Farm, subject to successful due diligence over the next 30 days

Under the agreement, the foundation will provide funding for the renovation of the Carey Cottage and Chinburg Properties will renovate the building, including the Music Room.

 “The key to saving the Carey Cottage has always been finding a partner with the means to restore it, a proposed use that complements Creek Farm’s status as a conserved space open to the public, and a track record that suggests they can maintain the building over time,” said Jane A. Difley, the president/forester of the Forest Society. “We’re delighted to consider the foundation and Eric Chinburg as the team that can accomplish those goals.”

The Carey Cottage will become the headquarters of a newly created center dedicated to fostering the growth and success of non-profit organizations. The building will also host other non-profit organizations.

 “We had been looking for an appropriate place to house the center when we became aware of the Carey Cottage,” said the foundation’s principals.  “In partnership with Eric and the Forest Society, we think we can use the Carey Cottage to advance the center’s mission while preserving an historic building.”

The center will provide the space, tools and connections that nonprofits need to build strong organizations, thriving local economies, and vibrant communities in the region. Through incubator and accelerator services, workshops, events, and other programs, the center will help nonprofits become strong successful organizations.

 “I’m looking forward to renovating the Carey Cottage and making it work for the community,” said Eric Chinburg, President of Chinburg Properties. “We take pride in our ability to repurpose unique buildings while maintaining public use of the surroundings.”

Eric Chinburg is founder of Chinburg Properties, a land development, design, construction and property management firm headquartered in Newmarket, NH.  For more than 20 years the company has preserved numerous historic mills and schools in the Seacoast and central New Hampshire. Chinburg projects are known for unique design aspects utilizing original materials and creatively incorporating them into the project.  These projects have successfully incorporated residential and mixed-use components and have been successfully managed over the long term

“I want to thank the multiple other individuals and entities who reached out constructively and worked with us in good faith on ideas and other proposals for an appropriate re-use of the Carey Cottage,” said Jack Savage, vice president of communications/outreach at the Forest Society. “We look forward to working with the foundation and Chinburg as we continue the Forest Society’s mission to conserve Creek Farm and provide public access to the Sagamore Creek waterfront.”

 Below are excerpts from the Preservation Alliance’s public statements about the Carey Cottage’s cultural significance and our desire for a “win-win” solution.

The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance opposes the Forest Society’s plan to demolish Carey Cottage at Creek Farm, an iconic property on Sagamore Creek in Portsmouth, N.H., with great architectural, cultural, and historical significance.

As many of you know, Carey Cottage was determined eligible for National Register of Historic Places in 2000.  The Preservation Alliance urges the City of Portsmouth to affirm Creek Farm’s significance and encourage an alternative to demolition.

The Preservation Alliance is a non-profit membership organization that works all over the state to encourage investment in historic buildings and downtowns and tp expand knowledge of preservation strategies and benefits. We work with approximately 100 community projects and hundreds of property owners each year.  We believe that this property has a viable “win-win” preservation solution with a use that is compatible with its history, site and neighbors, as well as with the community benefit goals of the current and previous owners.

About its significance:  Built beginning in 1887, the house is an outstanding example of the summer home movement in New Hampshire, and a rare survivor of the artistic summer colony at Little Harbor.  “The Little Harbor Community” included prominent writers, artists, architects and historians. Arthur Astor Carey summer house or “Creek Farm” was designed by noted architect Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow.  Longfellow had worked previously for Henry Hobson Richardson and was a Harvard acquaintance of Carey’s and of J. Templeman Coolidge III (1856-1945), who led a group of prominent Bostonians in establishing summer homes near Sagamore Creek. According to the N.H. Division of Historical Resources, the Carey House survives as Longfellow’s most ambitious New Hampshire commission.

Creek Farm also has national significance for its association with the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War.  The Russian and Japanese diplomats were informally entertained at Creek Farm during negotiations, an example of “Citizen Diplomacy,” for which the state of New Hampshire provides annual recognition on Sept. 5.  The Katsura tree, gifted by the Japanese delegation, still grows near the house.  Of all the New Hampshire sites related to the Treaty negotiations, Creek Farm is also considered the most intact.

There are many collaborative models for creative and compatible uses of historic properties that the Forest Society can continue to explore or replicate. Here are just as few examples:

·        The Conservation Commission in Windham, N.H., has preserved a historic home by providing a long-term lease to a carpenter/developer for an 1868 farmhouse adjacent to conserved public land. 

·        Equity Trust, a nonprofit organization based in Massachusetts, owns Dimond Hill Farm in Concord, N.H., and the current life estate owner will be succeeded by future farmers

·        A curatorship program operated by the State of Massachusetts leases historic properties within public lands to private entities.

Additionally, there are a variety of tools that are useful for preserving historic places and ensuring that the underlying goals for the property are met. In addition to long-term leases, we advocate for consideration of preservation easements to meet stewardship and public benefit goals. Subsidies are also available for preservation projects from organizations such as the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), as well as tax incentives and grants from state and national agencies and organizations.