Donald Hall's Preservation Legacy

The N.H. Preservation Alliance is very enthusiastic about the recent “save” by preservationists to steward pieces of Jane Kenyon and Don Hall’s Eagle Pond Farm legacy. Please contact leaders Mary Lyn Ray or Lynne Emerson Monroe via donandjaneproject@gmail.com with any questions or suggestions. The tribute below was posted by the Preservation Alliance following Donald Hall’s death on June 23, 2018. Here’s a recent Boston Globe story. Donations for the preservation effort can be sent to the Preservation Alliance PO Box 268, Concord, NH 03302.

What a legacy Donald Hall left for New Hampshire citizens and readers all over the world! The award-winning writer of prose and poetry died this past week at age 89.  Hall was an incorporator of the N.H. Preservation Alliance when it was formed over 30 years ago, and we think his decades of writing before -- and since -- supports and inspires preservation activity. 

Hall's Eagle Pond Farm in Wilmot.

Hall's Eagle Pond Farm in Wilmot.

Hall’s observations about his adopted state (he said, “I was created to love New Hampshire”) were based off of characters he met in Wilmot, where he resided, and nearby Danbury and Andover. In his collection of essays, Here at Eagle Pond, Hall wrote, “In New Hampshire the state supper is beans and franks, and every recipe begins with salt pork, Campbell’s cream of mushroom, and Miracle Whip” and “In New Hampshire convenience stores sell Fluff, Wonder Bread, Moxie, and shoes with blue canvas tops.”

His realistic settings connect you to special buildings in addition to natural landscapes. When you read Lucy's Christmas, you feel like you’re visiting the white, steepled South Danbury church for the annual pageant.  (It still hosts the annual Christmas party and lots of other activities too.)

Hall's themes of practicality, frugality and continuity shine through in his work. The title of his recollections of summers on a New England farm, A String too Short to be Saved, describes the hand-written label on a box of short strings. In his 1977 poem Oxcart Man, Hall describes how a farmer loads his potatoes into a cart and walks beside his ox to market, where he sells the potatoes. Then he sells the cart, ox, harness and yoke and, we imagine, walks home and starts again.

He lamented the loss of people and loss of landscape – burnt houses, new development, and the conversion of special places into the indistinguishable. “Nostalgia without history is a decorative fraud,” he wrote. This affinity for place was borne from his c. 1806 house, purchased by his great-grandfather in the 1860s.  In memoir and fiction, he described this place that served as his boyhood retreat and eventually his residence until his passing.  He wrote in the same first-floor room in which he slept and first began writing poems as a boy.  He seemed to love the continuity of use, the layers of people’s and building’s history, and we do too.

Here are some ideas of ways to honor this great artist:

·         Read a poem or story of his (or his wife Jane Kenyon, another incredible voice for life in New Hampshire) for yourself or to a child. 

·         Think about what rural New Hampshire means to you on a scenic 24-mile drive through his town of Wilmot along New Hampshire Route 4A or Rt. 4 between Lebanon and Andover. (Get some coffee at the preservation-award winning Lucky’s Coffee Garage in Lebanon after your drive.)

·         Support a local preservation project or the Preservation Alliance so we can enjoy more preservation and less lamentation.

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View from the West Coast

From the Preservation Alliance’s executive director, Jennifer Goodman

My recent trip to San Francisco and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual conference offered me updates and insights on the national preservation scene and how we are doing comparatively in the Granite State. Others like hearing from us too: over the years, I’ve presented and shared “best practices” including our work with conservation colleagues, preservation easements, creation and use of tax incentives, and barn preservation at this major event.  Special thanks to Innerglass Window Systems for supporting my trip!

Here are a few of my observations, with an over-arching “think big” theme:

Look beyond the building. Communities around the country and world are exploring the identification, promotion and stewardship of large cultural landscapes especially in the face of major energy projects (transmission lines, oil and gas development, etc.), and rising sea levels.  In New Hampshire, we have a good foundation for this sort of work: Preservationists and conservationists see the benefits of working together (and are often the same people!). National Register work done in the Dublin/Harrisville area and Squam Lakes watershed as well as Freedom’s Way Heritage Area (FWHA) in the south central part of New Hampshire and research done for the Northern Pass proposal offer good models.

In my presentation for a session called “Landscapes in Peril,” I offered advocacy strategies and emphasized the need for a proactive approach.  Some cool other examples I heard about: stewardship of the hill farms in the Lake District in England (a UNESCO World Heritage site with home of Beatrix Potter and lots of sheep) and the work of Jane Lennon in Australia. Also, check out livinglandscapeobserver.net.

Reach beyond the norm.  When communicating the benefits of preservation investment, folks in New Hampshire and elsewhere frequently make the connection between preservation and community development, job creation, tourism and housing, and other disciplines; new information about the public health benefits of old buildings and preservation activity is useful and inspiring.

How else can we incentivize preservation? Other states without a state income tax like Texas have designed a rehabilitation credit tied to other state tax liabilities. San Francisco has an incentive to help smaller, long-standing businesses survive and thrive.

Use the joy in preservation work as fuel.  Preservation work is complex and challenging in and of itself. And speaker after speaker offered that “living with water” and recent storms and other weather events are our “new normal.” In the face of all of this, it’s especially important to tap the passion and reflect on the joy in preservation activity. Old buildings offer “belonging” or “coming home” feelings, and preservation projects bring people together.  One theme that I see over and over again is how smart, creative teams working together get things done -- that's how buildings get re-used and revived by local advocates, private and public sector developers, and how communities secure and sustain preservation investment.  Let’s do a lot more!

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

2018 Preservation Achievement Award: Reuben Whitten House, Ashland

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In 1815, Mount Tambora - a volcano on an Indonesian island - erupted with tremendous force. Its volcanic ash changed global temperatures and, thousands of miles away in New England, farmers struggled with a "year without a summer."

In Ashland (then a part of Holderness), a farming family somehow managed to grow their crops. Sally and Reuben Whitten decided to share 40 bushels of their wheat with 100 neighbors who were less fortunate, an act of generosity that was later recorded on a memorial stone by their grandson, in 1911. 

The c.1800 house, however, stood more or less forgotten. It was moved in the 1870s from the hillside farm to the village for use as worker housing. In 1969 it was donated to the Historical Society, struck by a runaway truck, and moved again to a location behind the Whipple House Museum. With the 200th anniversary of the year without a summer approaching, the Ashland Historical Society decided it was time to pay it forward and embark on a rehabilitation campaign.

The largely volunteer effort was a lesson in perseverance. It took years of soliciting donations and grants, organizing work weekends, and researching the social history of the house. Thanks to a report by Jim Garvin (the former state architectural historian), the Society had a road map that guided their rehabilitation.

Work included listing the building to the State Register of Historic Places, repairing the hole in the wall created by the 1969 truck accident, repairing and reconstructing the windows, cladding the exterior with clapboards, adding a cedar shake roof, and finding a more period-appropriate door. The interior was left untouched, having retained much of its original fabric, despite a century of housing tenants.  

The result is the rehabilitation of a humble house that tells a big story. According to co-chairs of the Whitten Project Committee, Katie Maher and Susan Macleod, the house represents the layers of Ashland's history, from its farming days to its use as worker housing after the town industrialized. "This little house holds those human stories and artifacts within its walls," they shared at the Awards ceremony. 

And now the little house will reflect another story, that of a town coming together to honor the good deed of a family over two hundred years ago.

Partners included:

Ashland Historical Society

James L. Garvin

Starck Housejoiners, Inc.

Ashland Lumber / Belletetes

Sippican Partners

2018 Preservation Achievement Award: Jackson House, Portsmouth

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Built in 1664, the Jackson House is New Hampshire's oldest timber-framed building. It's also one of only twenty-three National Historic Landmarks in the state. Its age and significance meant that needed structural and drainage improvements involved years of careful planning and just the right team.

The project involved four components, aided in part by a $90,000 LCHIP grant:

1) Archaeological investigation revealed important 17th and 18th century artifacts, providing information about trade in early Portsmouth. In total, the investigation yielded 12,000 artifacts. 

2) Improving drainage to arrest the deterioration of the building's sills. 

3) Adding structural reinforcements to the house's lean-to in the shape of tubular steel, which is reversible, minimally invasive, and allows for visual distinction from the historic fabric. 

4) Replacing the wood shingled roof and specific clapboards with in-kind material. 

The Jackson House opens back up to the public on June 2 , when admission is free. Thereafter, the house is open the first and third Saturdays until mid-October. For more information, visit Historic New England's website

Partners:

Historic New England

Independent Archeological Consulting, LLC

Woods & Co. Civil Engineering

GNCB Consulting Engineers

Safari Construction Management, LLC

Edmunds General Contracting, LLC

Curtis Earth Works, Inc.

LCHIP

Ways to Make a Difference: Big and Small Preservation Activity Ideas

Boscawen.

Boscawen.

May is Preservation Month, and here are some big and little ideas of ways to engage in preservation activity.

Take care of your old home. Spring is a great time to evaluate repair needs and plan for the year ahead.  An energy audit can also help you prioritize investments. Get ready for the next cold season with properly-installed insulation in your attic and around your foundation. “Re-tuning” old windows keeps cold air out and preserves original features of an old house. Check our Directory of Preservation Products and Services for key contacts.

The Weeks Estate in Lancaster includes this fire lookout tower. Prepare for tremendous views!

The Weeks Estate in Lancaster includes this fire lookout tower. Prepare for tremendous views!

Take a second look around you.  Are there places you can’t imagine your community without? Start a conversation with other interested citizens, and consider planning tools like easements and tax incentives to turn a challenge into an opportunity.  Support your local farm, and thank a neighbor who has fixed up his or her barn.  Visit a local historic site that you haven’t been to in a long time or check out the cool NH Department of Natural and Cultural Resources's initiative this May, which will showcase our state's fire towers.

Be an advocate for preserving our heritage. Volunteer to serve on your local planning board, library board, heritage commission, cemetery commission, or downtown organization. Attend a local heritage event. Help with a preservation project, or enjoy dinner in an old inn or theater in a historic venue. Talk to your legislator about the benefits of the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, New Hampshire's popular and effective matching grants program for historic preservation and land conservation projects. E-mail the Preservation Alliance to receive preservation news updates.

Support the Preservation Alliance by becoming a member or renewing your support. Give to local preservation efforts. Buy a “Moose Plate” conservation license plate for yourself or as a gift. 

Preservation activity creates local jobs and keeps more money circulating in local economies than new construction, and is part of the landscape that attracts visitors and businesses to New Hampshire. For you, it also can be an activity that makes you feel good and connects you to special places, old friends and new ones.

More at www.nhpreservation.org or by calling 603-224-2281.