25 Milestones Unveiled

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At its 25th Anniversary Conference on April 8, the N.H. Preservation Alliance unveiled 25 of New Hampshire’s greatest preservation achievements of the past 25 years, and explored what these successes mean for our state. The list of 25 includes rescues of two grand hotels, two town hall preservation efforts, mill revitalization, a museum’s stewardship of a modern building, and two bridge “saves.” “This list also illustrates the work that’s being done every day to preserve New Hampshire’s heritage, and, in the process, create jobs, support tourism, conserve existing resources, and strengthen community connections,” said Jennifer Goodman, executive director, N.H. Preservation Alliance. See below for list.

The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance solicited nominations for the 25 Preservation Milestones in 2010. A panel of experts judged local favorites and well-known landmarks alike on their significance, challenges overcome, innovation, public support, and ability to serve as a model for others. Those who guided these projects to success, notes Goodman, built on the ground-breaking work of a previous generation of preservationists in Portsmouth, Harrisville, Laconia and elsewhere, and benefited from a growing preservation movement and new tools. All 25 Milestone projects exemplify themes of leadership, creativity, tenacity, and community and economic benefit.

Conference was made possible with support from Public Service of New Hampshire and conference sponsors Bedard Preservation and Restoration, IBEA, Wentworth by the Sea Hotel, and The MacMillin Company, Inc. Milestone and 25th Anniversary sponsors include Samyn D’Elia Architects, PA; Fifield Building Restoration and Relocation; Elizabeth Durfee Hengen Preservation Consultant; Marshall’s Florist, Jane Beaulieu, and Vintage Kitchens. The Preservation Alliance is the statewide non-profit organization committed to the preservation of historic buildings, communities and landscapes through leadership, education and advocacy. 

1abbottbridge The rehabilitation of Abbott Stone Bridge, Pelham, was an outstanding collaborative effort led by Annemarie Hargreaves with consistent support from townspeople and local officials.  In 1994, after the town received a federal Transportation Enhancement grant, townspeople voted the local match despite competing budget priorities. When no private contractors bid on the repair job, the N.H. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Bridge Maintenance stepped in to handle the work. They removed inappropriate parapets of sawn granite, repaired a bulging side of the dry-laid stone structure, and placed a hidden concrete pad under the roadway to distribute vehicle loads safely while leaving the historic stonemasonry of the state’s oldest double-arched stone bridge intact.  Photo: Eagle Tribune
The Acworth Meetinghouse, 1821, serves as a religious institution for the United Church of Acworth and as "the kitchen of the community," a place for frequent civic and social gatherings as well. In 2006, major structural damage was discovered that led to the emergency removal of the steeple. Church leaders and townspeople then committed themselves to an ambitious rehabilitation plan, taking the innovative approach of having an expert timber framer work Arron Sturgis with local skilled craftsmen, rather than his own crew, who donated a portion of their time to keep project costs down. Seven to Save listing raised visibility, and persistent fundraising efforts paid off. “The little town that could” restored their treasure.   Photo: John Butler
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Alumni Hall Cultural and Visitor Center, Haverhill, was originally constructed in 1845 as the Grafton County Courthouse. The Greek and Gothic Revival structure later was used as the gymnasium and auditorium for the local high school and housed a basketball court and stage. The non-profit Haverhill Heritage, Inc., formed to acquire and revive the landmark in 2005, when an exterior wall was in danger of collapsing and the cupola was threatening to fall though the roof.   Led by Edith Celley, the Friends group restored the cupola, then went on to receive LCHIP and Scenic Byways grants, private contributions, and town funds to bring back this iconic building back to useful service.  Photo: Haverhill Heritage

4belmontimg_3207 Built in 1833 and converted to hosiery production in 1865, the Belmont Mill was the economic heart of Belmont village until it closed in 1970. With a report from James Garvin and legal advice from Carolyn Baldwin, Wallace Rhodes led the Belmont Historical Society to gain an injunction to halt imminent demolition in 1995. Plan NH and the Office of State Planning held a charrette that resulted in three proposals for re-use of the mill and recommended another year of study, which voters supported in 1996. The town and Belknap County won two Community Development Block Grants totaling $1 million, and the town approved a $215,000 bond issue as its match. Aided by private donations, including an anonymous $25,000 gift, the mill was rehabilitated as “Belmont Mill Community Center” from designs by architect Christopher Williams during the summer of 1997.  Photo: Linda Frawley
5capitolcentertheater opening night The Capitol Theatre opened in 1927 as a popular stop on the Vaudeville circuit and Concord’s premier movie house and concert hall. By 1989, however, it had slipped into disrepair and was closed. With $4.2 million raised by the newly formed Capitol Center for the Arts, Concord, and 250 volunteers contributing over 3,000 hours to paint and restore the Egyptian-motif artwork, the restored and expanded theater re-opened in November, 1995. The Chubb Theatre was named in recognition of the project's largest benefactor, Chubb Life.  Photos: Capitol Center for the Arts
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The 5,500-acre mountain-top retreat of shoe magnate Thomas Plant was a struggling tourist attraction when the Lakes Region Conservation Trust purchased it in 2003 after a three-year fund-raising campaign. A group of residents and preservation specialists then formed the Castle Preservation Society and began additional fundraising for a multi-year plan to restore Castle in the Clouds, Moultonborough, to its former grandeur by 2014, the Castle’s 100th anniversary.  The 1913-4 structure is built with steel framework, hand-cut five-sided stone veneer on the façade, and distinctive red tile roof. The contrast of traditional and modern extends to the interior as well, which has hand-crafted light fixtures and a central vacuum system. The Society’s careful project planning and team approach to restoration is exceptional its quality.    Photo: Castle Preservation Society

7drewsville The country estate known as the Drewsville Mansion, Walpole, was in a severely deteriorated condition in the mid-1990’s, and its rescue and rehab was the serendipitous outcome of two phone calls received by Walpole town manager Roger Santaw on the same day. The executive director of Southwestern Community Services (SCS) sought a home for a new Head Start program, and a private attorney needed help disposing of a vacant family residence. Impressive community cooperation marked the complex four-year process that SCS calls “a monument to community cooperation.” The finished project restored the building to its former grandeur and created five units of housing in addition to a new home for the Head Start Program.  Photo: SCS
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Rehabilitation of the Eagle Block, Newport, c. 1825, was one of the most prolonged and challenging preservation projects ever undertaken in New Hampshire, requiring complex structural engineering and a patchwork of funding sources. Strong leadership was provided by Patryc Wiggins, who championed the rescue of the long-neglected and severely deteriorated building. Apart from the complexity of funding the project, challenges faced during rehabilitation included the need to design an innovative but costly internal structural system to reinforce the high brick walls and wooden floor framing and the difficulty of shoring a building whose structural system had been severely compromised. The reopening of the Eagle Block in 2004 returned one of the most significant federal-period buildings in western New Hampshire to an active role in the economic life of downtown Newport.  Photo: NH DHR

9energypark Public Service of N.H.’s Energy Park, Manchester was once the Manchester Steam Plant (1909) which provided power to the Amoskeag mills and surrounding community for more than seventy years before it ceased operations in 1981. PSNH began a major renovation effort in 1999, transforming the 77,000 square foot power plant into the company’s new corporate headquarters. The scope of the revitalization plan was large and challenging – restoring windows, cleaning and reinstalling brick in deteriorated walls, restoring a massive 1937 indoor bridge crane. The new workspace overlooks the Merrimack River, with dramatic views of Salmon Falls. PSNH conserved and restored the adjacent landscape and used signage to connect its open land to two urban trails. It also commissioned a major piece of sculpture and lobby exhibit that celebrate the site’s industrial history.  Photo: PSNH
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Over the course of twenty years, the trustees, librarians and Stanley Young of the Gregg Free Library, Wilton, have maintained a clear vision of making their 1908 Beaux Arts style library accessible and up-to-date while maintaining the building’s historical integrity. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Gregg Free Library has exquisite interior spaces that include highly detailed woodwork, decorative painted walls, and marble tile floors.  From 1987 to 2007, the trustees implemented a program to make the building accessible to the community, bring the mechanical and communication systems in to the 21st century, provide more staff workspace and shelving areas, and expand community use. They accomplished these goals with a philosophy of “restore rather than replace,” hiring specialists to restore the elaborate mosaic tile floors and plaster cornices, repair the sash windows, and restore original decorative stenciling on the walls, ceiling, and rotunda dome. Photo: Richards Monahon Architects

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The Fells, Newbury, was the summer estate of diplomat John Hay, and later his son Clarence Hay, who developed and enjoyed their lakeside retreat from the 1890’s until 1987, when it was bequeathed to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. An informal friends group came together with concerns about stewardship of the cultural resources. In 1989, Senator Warren Rudman obtained an appropriation for rehabilitation of the buildings, with then-Governor Judd Gregg committing to state management of the property following its rehabilitation. Stewardship of the gardens was one of the early projects of the Garden Conservancy, which began in 1993 to manage restoration of the extensive historic landscape. The Friends of the John Hay National Wildlife Refuge assumed management of the property in 1997, and acquired ownership of the buildings and gardens in 2008. Public programming in history, horticulture, art and environmental issues complements their ongoing stewardship of the buildings and grounds.

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The Milford Town Hall, a commanding presence on The Oval, was built in 1869 from plans by Boston architect Gridley J. F. Bryant, then New England’s most prominent designer. In 1987, the State Fire Marshal declared the town hall unsafe and threatened closure if the town failed to quickly remedy its shortcomings. But voters defeated a warrant article to upgrade life safety systems, and local preservationist Marilyn Kenison voiced the need for an overall plan for the building’s future. Citizens hotly debated the merits of rehabilitation vs. building a “shiny, new” building, and at a special town meeting, voted in favor of funding the rehabilitation option. The Milford Town Hall Restoration Corporation, chaired by Martha Rotch, raise an additional $260,000 to restore and furnish the auditorium, which began in the spring of 1991, and won both state and national preservation awards in 1993.  Photo: NH DHR

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The Mine Falls Gatehouse, Nashua, was built in 1886 by the Nashua Manufacturing Company as part of a system that regulated the flow of water into the three-mile canal and powered its textile mills. The two-story brick gatehouse still contains its five wooden gates and the massive stone blocks which served as counterweights. In 1998, Fairgrounds Junior High School’s Student Historic Preservation Team, led by teacher Mary Coe Foran, “adopted” the gatehouse.  Since that time, over one hundred students have worked on the project. In the first phase, students helped with removal of graffiti and overgrown brush. In the second phase, the city oversaw construction improvements, including repair of the roof, windows, doors, stairs and mechanical systems as well as replacement and re-pointing of the brickwork. Inspired by these students, a strong coalition now ensures the continued restoration and preservation of this important engineering landmark in a highly used city park.

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The Lost Village of Monson Archaeological Site, Milford and Hollis, became a cause célèbre in 1997 when a developer quietly purchased a landlocked 56-acre parcel that included cellar holes, boundary stone walls, and early roads marking the 18th century village of Monson. Settled in the 1730s, Monson was occupied for only forty years before disappearing as a distinct place and being absorbed into neighboring towns, due to land that is “so very barren & broken as to admit of scarce any improvement.” The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire worked with local leaders Russell and Geri Dickerman, the Division of Historical Resources and the Preservation Alliance to raise $300,000 in six months to buy out the developer and assure preservation of the site.

The Dickermans pledged an abutting 125 acres to the Forest Society as further leverage for fundraising, and additional contributions came from the Milford and Hollis conservation commissions, Public Service of New Hampshire, the Keyes Fund of Milford, and many private individuals.  Photo: NH DHR

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One of the last four grand hotels in the White Mountains, the Mountain View House closed its doors in 1986 after several years of uncertainty and marginal financial returns. Its contents were auctioned in 1989, and it stood empty and abandoned for nearly a decade. Kevin Craffey, a young entrepreneur, fell in love with the place, and worked diligently to revive the landmark. The Mountain View Grand, Whitefield reopened in May, 2002, after a $20 million restoration. Since then, under different owners, the resort has made many other history-sensitive renovations and improvements. It is known for its innovation in building a sustainable operations model, and its hospitality training program in partnership with the local regional high school. 

16henniker 1915 patterson hill road bridge dsc01869

Three years after the town voted to remove and replace the 1915 Patterson Hill Road Bridge in West Henniker, efforts to preserve it paid off and the metal truss bridge was rehabilitated and re-opened to traffic. Townspeople agreed to reconsider their first vote after state architectural historian James Garvin shared bridge designer John Storrs’ importance, the bridge’s historical significance, and emphasized that the town’s own investigation had showed that rehabilitation was cheaper than a new bridge. Voters postponed a decision however, when they learned that engineers had failed to calculate the live load capacity of the bridge if rehabilitated. Finally, in March 1999, funds were voted to rehabilitate the historic bridge. Advocacy from the NH Division of Historical Resources prevented the replacement of dry-laid stone abutments associated with an earlier covered bridged at the crossing. Bridge trusses were detached, lifted to shore for rehabilitation, then returned to the stone abutments, reconnected with a new floor system, and repainted during 2000-2001.   Photo: NH DHR

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In 1988, the citizens of Plymouth began to debate the future of their landmark town hall and district court headquarters facing the common. Four years later, a town-appointed committee expressed appreciation for the building but recommended that the $1 million rehabilitation cost for the Plymouth Town Hall could not be justified. Advocates persevered, but in March 1994, a proposal to appropriate the amount included in an architect’s study failed to receive the necessary two-thirds vote at town meeting. With assistance from the N.H. Division of Historical Resources and independent assessments of rehabilitation costs, preservation came back with a pared-down budget, and rehabilitation was approved at a reconvened town meeting. The new plan removed a modern dropped ceiling from the courtroom and provided a partial second story in that space, gaining office space on the first floor and a new elevated 98-seat meeting room beneath the massive roof trusses of the courtroom wing. The town hall project was completed in 1996.

 

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Robie’s Store, Hooksett, faced an uncertain future when owners Dorothy and Lloyd Robie retired in 1997 after four generations of family ownership. Located next to the Merrimack River since settlement times, Robie's Store was the oldest continuously operating business in Hooksett, and over the years was famous for hosting presidential candidates during New Hampshire’s primary season. Local advocates formed the Robie's Country Store Historic Preservation Corporation to ensure that the structure would always remain part of the community. Their effective planning and advocacy, strategic fund-raising, media relations, and use of preservation tools (including National Register designation and Preserve America status), led to the store’s revival. This vibrant gathering place is now open seven days a week.

 

19rolfe barn The Rolfe Barn, Concord (Penacook) is a rare, well-preserved example of a double English barn that, through a series of sales to barn brokers, was very nearly dismantled and shipped out of state. Concord’s demolition delay ordinance allowed advocates to explore alternatives, and in 2003, the City Council voted to proceed with the eminent domain process. This extraordinary move prompted the barn buyer to negotiate the sale of the still-standing barn to the Penacook Historical Society. The society eventually raised enough funds to purchase not only the barn but the entire property, including an early Rolfe farmhouse.
20temple glassworks site visit on oct. 27 2009 007 Two hundred years after the first experiment in producing glass in New Hampshire, a three-year archaeological dig at Temple Glassworks led by David Starbuck, PhD excavated much of the 18th century factory village. The more than 200,000 glass fragments shed light on early experimentation and technological innovations in glassmaking. The shards were smaller than an inch, but significant: a few were able to be pieced together to make object identification possible. Decades of research and education about early glassmaking in New Hampshire followed, involving students and volunteers. The Historical Society of Temple now provides faithful care of the Glassworks site.  Photo: David Starbuck, PhD
21unh credit goody clancy Despite its unbroken service at the heart of the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham, the 1893 Thompson Hall had suffered over the years from casual alterations and uneven maintenance. With an exemplary rehabilitation by the university's leadership, its facilities division, architect and contractor, Thompson Hall was returned to full dignity as the flagship building of the university in 2006. Almuni provided strong advocacy for its rehabilitation, and the building served as a preservation case study, as academic departments around the University study its renovation to investigate the social benefits of historic preservation.  Photo: Goody Clancy

 

22webster tay Daniel Webster Farm, or Elm’s Farm, has deep connections to prominent lawyer, orator and statesman Daniel Webster as well as a post Civil War history as one of the first rural American orphanages. A 2005 sale from a Catholic order of nuns, after a long period of uncertainty, to a residential developer with plans for 60 individual homes on the 140-acre property sparked an ambitious preservation and conservation effort.   Later that year, with a major commitment from LCHIP and a national “Most Endangered” listing, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) secured a purchase agreement from selling the farmland with conservation easements to an abutting farmer. In 2007, noted restaurant owner Alex Ray and DW Commons purchased the 16-acre core with 12 historic buildings, to create a residential recovery center. The current program draws from, and enhances, the commitment to stewardship and place enjoyed and promoted by earlier owners.  Photo: TPL
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Wentworth-by-the-Sea, New Castle, built in 1874, was enlarged in the Second Empire style by Portsmouth brewer Frank Jones. In 1905, the hotel housed the Russian and JJapanese delegations who concluded concluded the Treaty of Portsmouth to end the Russo-Japanese War.

With declining fortunes and changing owners, the hotel closed in 1982. In 1995, the Green Corporation (which owned the hotel at that time), announced its planned demolition. Named to the list of America's Most Endangered Places, the non-profit Friends of the Wentworth, led by Etoile Holzaepfel advocated for revitalization, and helped steer the process to success, for a decade. Ocean Properties acquired the property in 1997. The hotel was subsequently renovated, reopened in 2003, and is operated by Ocean Properties as a Marriottt resort.  Photo: Wentworth by the Sea

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Sue Reynolds, a licensed whale-watch boat operator, formed Lighthouse Kids in 2000 as a community service group of seventh graders in North Hampton. The Kids were motivated by the fact that the White Island Light, Rye, one of the most evocative and storied sentinels of the New England, had begun to deteriorate visibly. A web site and a persuasive program of fundraising received widespread media coverage. With the help of Senator Judd Gregg, the Kids received a $250,000 Save America’s Treasures grant in 2003 to preserve the deteriorating and endangered landmark. By 2008, the Kids had raised $275,000 to match that grant.

 

Guided by recommendations made by preservation architects and lighthouse experts, the Lighthouse Kids partnered with a state agency that is administratively responsible for the lighthouse, to conserve the damaged tower under difficult logistical conditions and under conservation constraints posed by the presence of the roseate tern, an endangered species. Undeterred by further damage caused by a severe coastal storm in April 2007, the Lighthouse Kids continued to raise funds to repair the tower a second time, to assist in the rehabilitation of the light keeper’s cottage, and to build a marine landing on the island.

The original owners of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Zimmerman House donated the property to The Currier Museum in 1988 and the museum’s on-going stewardship of the 1950 iconic landmark is impressive. Restoration work has included major design and functional elements: reinstalling radiant heating, preserving its woodwork, restoring the tile roof back, conserving the textiles throughout the house, and continuing to work on restoring the gardens. The house is toured annually by about 4,000 visitors annually on small guided tours led by a dedicated group of docents who are well trained and knowledgeable. The house is the only one designed by Wright open to the public in New England.