The shrinking inventory of American historic landmarks, villages, main streets and small towns serves as a catalyst for the activism of groups that work to promote the preservation, re-use and restoration of the country’s landscape—one endangered building at a time.
One such group—New Hampshire Preservation Alliance—recently announced its 2011 Seven to Save list, a program that recognizes seven of the state’s “most important” and threatened historic structures.
Selection criteria include historic significance, severity of threat and the potential impact of the listing.
This year’s list includes a greater proportion of sites in rural locations and small towns, a situation that the organization said calls attention to the “needs of historic structures that may have to be met by attracting outside investment.”
The List of Seven
The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance list of endangered buildings includes:
• Middleton’s Old Town Hall;
• Old Grist Mill on Little River, Kingston;
• Wheaton-Alexander House, Winchester;
• Farley Building, Hollis;
• Charlestown’s Town Hall;
• Pearson Hall in Haverhill;
• The Balsams in Dixville Notch.
An “iconic grand hotel,” The Balsams in Dixville Notch is described as one of only five surviving grand hotels in the state. The hotel is currently listed for sale, and the preservation alliance said it is hoped that “a new owner and new investment would honor the property’s historic and cultural significance, preserve jobs, and continue the Balsams’ important legacy into the future.”
| Charlestown N.H. Town Hall building.|
In sharp contrast to the massive Balsams hotel, the list also includes a small timber-framed grist mill in Kingston that is thought to date as far back as the 1690s and has survived remarkably intact despite years of neglect and spring floods. The mill is the oldest structure of its type in the state, the alliance says.
Town halls in the communities of Middleton and Charleston are also listed. The residents in those areas are struggling to maintain the treasures, the alliance said.
| Old Grist Mill on Little River, Kingston, N.H. |
The Middleton Town Hall features vibrant murals by itinerant artist John Avery, which adorn the walls of the former Freewill Baptist church on the second floor. The first floor serves as meeting space for town functions. Since 1996 when town offices moved to a new location, the building’s condition has been a concern, and funding even basic maintenance sometimes leads to talk of demolition, the alliance said.
The Charleston Town Hall was constructed of brick in 1873 to replace a smaller structure, and was painted sometime after 1940, the organization said. It originally contained a grocery store, meeting and office space and an elegant second-floor theater, but today only the first floor space meets code requirements, the alliance said.
| The Old Town Hall building in Middleton N.H. |
Also, in Hollis, advocates are studying the feasibility of community or public use for the shuttered school known as the Farley Building. Built in the Italianate style, with a symmetrical facade and tall bell tower atop the gabled roof, this former school has undergone several alternations since its construction in 1877. The building has been vacant since 2005 and, despite roof leaks, remains structurally sound, the alliance said.
In Haverhill, a small local historical society is “valiantly working” to rehabilitate its iconic 1816 brick building, Pearson Hall, on the town common. Built as a private academy building in 1816, the unoccupied structure is now owned by the Haverhill Historical Society, but needs to be fully rehabilitated before it can be used for exhibits and collections storage.
The exterior has been partially restored thanks to a New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) grant; however, progress has stalled and significant additional funding is required to complete the project, the alliance said.
Finally, the Wheaton-Alexander House in Winchester will “likely be demolished by the present owner and sold for strip-type commercial development if the court fails to uphold the local Historic District Commission’s decision to deny the demolition permit,” the alliance said.
| The Farley Building located in Hollis, N.H. |
The house stands at the gateway to the town’s historic center. The organization said the structure’s uncertain future highlights similar needs statewide for direct investment that maximizes both historic character and economic opportunity.
‘Vital to Community Identify’
The preservation alliance revealed its annual Seven to Save list last week at the University of New Hampshire’s Huddleston Hall. Michael Tule, chair of the Seven to Save committee, emphasized the importance of saving the historic sites because “they are vital components of community identity, hold the potential to create jobs and bring people together, and preserve an authentic sense of place.”
“Visitors and businesses come to New Hampshire because we are an authentic place with history and beauty,” Tule said. “And connections to place and community seem more important than ever to those of us who live here.” He said investments in the buildings “will be good for the long term because they help preserve and enhance our villages, towns and cities, and their ongoing use—and re-use—will help keep local economies going in tough times.”
Tule also made note of the Seven to Save program’s success, saying that “of the 35 sites named to the list since 2006, we consider over half of them now out of danger and ‘saved.’” Completed rehabilitations include the Ashland School and Pandora Mill, with strong progress being made at others, including the 70-meter ski jump at Gunstock Resort, the Langdon Meetinghouse, and Upper Village Hall in East Derry.
The program is sponsored by Anagnost Companies, McLane Law Firm; Milestone Engineering & Construction; Christopher P. Williams Architects; H.E. Bergeron Engineers Inc.; and Three Chimneys Inn-ffrost Sawyer Tavern. The University of New Hampshire Office of the President and Office of Energy and Campus Development provided support for the announcement event.
The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance is statewide membership organization dedicated to preserving historic buildings, communities and landscapes through education and advocacy. Current priorities include providing assistance to community leaders; promoting the use of easements, barn preservation and tax incentives; and connecting property owners to weatherization information.