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.