Seven to Save

2019 Preservation Achievement Award: N.H. Department of Transportation

For the restoration, rehabilitation and stewardship of the Stewartstown Bridge

With partners: N.H. DOT Bridge Design; CPM Constructors Inc.; KTA-Tator, Inc.; Calderwood Engineering; ARC Enterprises; Auciello Iron Work; and Modern Protective Coating

The Stewartstown Bridge, which connects its namesake town to Beecher Falls, Vermont over the Connecticut River, was one of the few remaining metal truss buildings in the state when it was placed on the Preservation Alliance’s  Seven to Save  list in 2008. In 2017, the State of New Hampshire Department of Transportation launched an extensive rehabilitation process that has restored the 1931 bridge to its former glory. (Photo courtesy of NH DOT.)

The Stewartstown Bridge, which connects its namesake town to Beecher Falls, Vermont over the Connecticut River, was one of the few remaining metal truss buildings in the state when it was placed on the Preservation Alliance’s Seven to Save list in 2008. In 2017, the State of New Hampshire Department of Transportation launched an extensive rehabilitation process that has restored the 1931 bridge to its former glory. (Photo courtesy of NH DOT.)

Today in New Hampshire, there are fewer metal truss bridges than covered bridges. The alarming rate of their disappearance led to their categorical listing on the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance’s Seven to Save  list in 2008.

But just a half-mile from the Canadian border, a historic two-hinged, spandrel-braced steel arch bridge connecting Stewartstown to Beecher Falls, Vermont, is now restored thanks to the efforts of the N.H. Department of Transportation.

The Stewartstown Bridge was built in 1931, ironically, to replace an 1882 covered bridge. This modernization won an award of merit from the American Institute of Steel Construction as the most beautiful Class C steel bridge in America. Metal bridges are difficult to maintain in New Hampshire due to winter salt exacerbating rusting, however, and by the 2000s, the bridge was red-listed.

Nevertheless, restoration was chosen over replacement, and work started in 2017. Tasks included the complete removal of the concrete deck and asphalt overlay and replacement with a light weight concrete bare deck, select replacement of spandrel bent steel components and installation of additional cover plates on the arches. The work also included removal of obsolete, asbestos-insulated water line from the bridge and replacement of the top portion of the Vermont spill-through abutment, along with repairs to the arch thrust block on the Vermont side.

Additionally, the number of intermediate deck joints was reduced from six to four, and sleeper slabs were incorporated to provide compression seal joints at either end of the bridge that moved the expansion joints to the back sides of abutment back walls.  Significant drainage work was incorporated on both bridge approaches, which reduced the amount of water runoff traveling across the bridge from the very steep New Hampshire approach and reduced the surface water runoff traveling into the intersection just to the north of the Vermont abutment.  

A cosmetic baluster rail system was also incorporated and attached to the tubular vehicular rail to mimic the historic look of the original bridge rail. All metal surfaces were powder coated with the original bridge’s green color to preserve the historic nature of the structure. With this work complete, the 10-ton posting was removed and all legal loads can now be carried on the bridge.

For the non-engineers: the bridge was thoroughly rehabilitated and upgraded. So next time you’re in Stewartstown, be sure to cross the Connecticut over this historic metal bridge and thank the people who restored this special structure.

Lee Parish House: Seven to Save Profile

When the Town of Lee purchased the land in between the town office complex and the Lee Church Congregational (not the Lee Congregational Church) in 2018, both parties had reason to celebrate. The town needed room to expand and the church did not need the property, but welcomed the money.

The problem: not everyone in town wanted the parish house that came with the land.

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This “comfortable parsonage and outbuilding” was built in 1872 at a cost of $1,523.81, according to church records. The Italianate vernacular dwelling was not ostentatious, but it did include large rooms and a front entrance with etched glass double doors and a small bracketed porch roof. Compared to the much earlier houses in Lee’s village, the parish house was modern.

The parish house served as the minister’s house until tastes changed and it made more sense to rent the house. By 2018, though, the building had sat vacant for several years and the church and town started negotiations to transfer the property.

The 2018 town meeting warrant article called for the parish house to be removed from site by July 2019, allowing for the town to start with a clean slate. The Lee Historical Society and Lee Heritage Commission are instead hoping to re-purpose the building on site and retain its presence in the village. This solution, they argue, is cheaper and more sympathetic to a village that has undergone master planning for close to a decade.

The Town of Lee is not new to preservation. Recently, several buildings on the town-owned land next door were added to the State Register of Historic Places, including the 1846 Town Hall, 1915 tool shed with tramp room, and 1874 historical society building (former South Lee freight house). Also on site is the former 1897 schoolhouse-turned library. The village also received a Plan NH charrette in 2009, which yielded public feedback like “preserve the historical buildings,” “maintain architectural integrity of the village,” and “blend the church and parsonage into the village concept.”

The challenge is to convince town leaders and community members that preserving the parish house is in the best interest for everyone. Ideas for the building’s new life include expanded space for the Lee Historical Society or incorporating it into the need for town offices.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

If you live in Lee, consider supporting the alternative solutions for the parish house. Get in touch with the Board of Selectmen and offer your assistance to the Heritage Commission or Historical Society.

Ruggles Mine: Seven to Save Profile

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It’s an unusual real estate offer: an open pit mine located on over 200 acres.

Ruggles Mine, in Grafton, is purported to be America’s oldest mica, feldspar, and beryl mine. Founded in 1803 by Boston investor Samuel Ruggles, reports of mica mining on site date to the 1770s. Its fitting setting atop Isinglass Mountain, along with its man-made arches and caves, made it a unique tourist attraction starting in the 1960s until it closed in 2015. (The mine itself closed in the 1950s.)

A group of Grafton residents hopes to convince the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation to purchase the property and add it to the roster of state recreational sites. The mine’s name recognition, wildlife habitat, and strategic location in the Quabbin-to-Cardigan conservation initiative make it a good candidate, they argue.

In addition, the town needs the boost. “Grafton is one of the state’s poorest towns,” said Deb Clough, who spoke on behalf of Ruggles at the announcement event in Washington, NH on Tuesday, October 16. (Clough pulled out her faded Ruggles Mine tee shirt for the event.) Re-opening the mine would not only bring traffic through town, but it would also continue to expose generations to the site’s ecology, geology, and history.

“My hope is that NH youth who visit the mine will not only take pride in having such a gem in their state but also inspired to make positive productive change in how they treat their environment and pass along that spirit to others,” wishes Cheryl Senter, a part-time Grafton resident and park proponent.

NH State Parks is looking into the feasibility of such a purchase. After studying the site and holding public meetings, the state and current owner will need to agree on a price not to exceed the property’s assessed valuation.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

The simplest way to help is to sign the online petition here.

You can also reach out to your State Representative and voice your support for the historic site to become a state park.

For more information, contact the Preservation Alliance or reach out to the State Parks.

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.

2017 Seven to Save Profile: Grafton Center Meetinghouse

It’s impossible to drive through Grafton on US Route 4 and not notice this burned-out shell of a former meetinghouse. Fraying tarps attempt to keep the elements out from the interior’s chestnut pews and paneling. Purple paint, rainbow fences, vinyl siding, and a fiberglass spire all speak to how various congregations have used the 1797 building, which stands prominently at the head of Grafton Center’s common.

Some history: the meetinghouse was constructed by Congregationalists who didn’t want to use the existing meetinghouse in town, co-built by the Baptists. After the passage of the Toleration Act of 1819, which separated church and state, the town and church finally divided the floors of the building. The church took the second floor and added a bell tower, while town business occurred on the first floor. This relationship remained until 1963, when the meetinghouse became the sole property of the church. In 2010, the church was sold into private ownership, whereupon it became home to the Peaceful Assembly Church. Following a property tax dispute with the town, the building sustained severe fire damage in January 2016. The fire claimed the life of the resident minister, John Connell.

Graftonites feared that after the fire, the building would be demolished and the town would lose its meetinghouse. Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of volunteer fire departments and the building’s massive timber frame structure, the building still stands and can be restored. This is great news to a town of 1,200. It’s easy to see how its loss would be catastrophic to the identity of Grafton and to the generations of Graftonites who have voted, worshiped, married, and mourned the passing of loved ones here. 

The property is privately owned and the daunting rehabilitation project requires immediate structural stabilization and weatherization. Saving the meetinghouse will take a lot of patience, money, community buy-in, and…money. But those in Grafton know it’s worth it. 

For more information, contact the Preservation Alliance at 224-2281.

2017 Seven to Save Profile: Bartlett's St. Joseph Catholic Church

The former St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church was built in 1890 to accommodate the religious needs of Bartlett’s growing immigrant population. Bartlett, being a logging and railroad hub by the late 1800s, boasted a significant number of French Canadian, Italian and Irish families who did not identify with their Congregational and Baptist neighbors. So, this humble church was constructed under the direction of Father J. N. Plante, from Lancaster, who recognized that the 34 mile train ride to his home parish was just too far.

St. Joseph’s was the first Catholic church built in the Mt. Washington Valley and it cost the then princely sum of $2,732.28 to build. For more than 100 years, St. Joseph’s was the epicenter of Catholic life in Bartlett as well as drawing from other areas of the valley. After a regional consolidation that closed the parish in 1999, the Bartlett School District purchased the building from the Diocese with the intention of using it for expanded education space. That plan was thwarted by high costs related to the need to abate asbestos, lead paint and mold. The building then was basically used as a storage facility.

Mounting deferred maintenance costs as well as the environmental hazards ultimately led to discussions of demolition. Members of the Bartlett Historical Society (BHS), along with a group of like-minded townspeople entered the scene and ultimately convinced the school district to delay any major decisions until it could be determined if there was sufficient interest in saving the building. The society took the lead in offering to rehabilitate the building and transform it into a historical museum, headquarters for the society and a genealogical and research center. With a long-term lease from the district in place, they started a capital campaign to raise $450,000 to preserve and restore the building. In a little over a year of actual fund raising, the BHS has raised over $130,000 towards this cause.

It is anticipated that Seven to Save designation will bring added attention to preserving this important building. The BHS looks forward to giving this 127-year-old landmark new life under their stewardship. 

For more information, visit the Bartlett Historical Society website. You can also contact Phil Franklin (BHS secretary) at 603-374-5023 or phil@BartlettHistory.org or Norm Head (BHS president) at normiejoe@gmail.com or 603-986-6278.