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Vulnerability of Small Towns Showcased in 2019 Seven to Save

DANBURY, N.H.: The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance announced its 2019 Seven to Save list today, highlighting the vulnerability of community life and economic well-being in our small towns.

 

General stores (which made Seven to Save as a theme) as well as the list’s historic home of U.S. poet laureate, railroad depot, church, social hall and village common landmark, are all associated with New Hampshire’s civic and cultural life. They play important roles in residents’ attachment to where they live, and the health of communities. When a village store closes, residents not only don’t have a place to get milk and the newspaper, but also lose a venue to discuss local issues and pay attention to how neighbors are doing.

 

All of the listees need transformative investment to become community assets again. “We need these places to survive and thrive,” said Jennifer Goodman, executive director of the Preservation Alliance, “These landmarks are the hearts and souls of our daily life.”

 

Preservation Alliance leaders also emphasized that saving special places and our small town character should be essential ingredients in statewide campaigns to attract the next big company, draw new visitors and support local businesses.  “Our small-town character makes our state distinctive,” said Goodman. “The mix of our old with new building stock, as well as the character and scale of historic main street buildings, attract varied ages and types of people, help incubate small businesses and creates attachments to communities that boost economic vitality.”   

 

The populations of towns on 2019’s group of listees range from approximately 680 to 4,330.

 

The list features a new group of endangered historic structures, from the circa 1915 Willing Worker’s Hall in Warren to a former railroad depot in Ossipee to church structures in Gilmanton and Stratford. General stores across the state, as well as a Gothic Cottage house on the Chesterfield common and the former home of poets Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon round out the list.

 

This year’s list, from largest to smallest town population, using recent census information, are:

 

Marion Blodgett Museum, Stratford

Originally built in 1850 as a Greek and Gothic Revival meetinghouse, this church continues to define the Stratford Hollow village. The Cohos Historical Society took on the building when the congregation folded in 2001. Short-term, it needs to raise $50,000 for structural work, a new roof, storm windows and exterior painting.

 

Glencliff Willing Workers Society Hall, Warren

This small, early 20th century social hall in the village of Glencliff serves as headquarters for an organization that does good deeds for neighbors and used the hall as a space for card games, dances, and suppers. The group needs a boost to balance a long list of maintenance needs with their charitable mission.

 

Eagle Pond Farm, Wilmot

The farm buildings and its acres of fields and forest that stretch from the foothills of Ragged Mountain to the shores of Eagle Pond inspired U.S. poet laureate Donald Hall and his wife, poet Jane Kenyon.  Support for a sustainable business model that inspires future writers is needed after a successful first-step save of the house and many possessions that were at auction.

 

Marsh House (former Chesterfield Town Offices), Chesterfield

Built in the 1850s, this high style Gothic Cottage sits on the common of Chesterfield and for decades served as the town offices. Vacant since 2015, local stakeholders are eager for new investment and a use that will add vibrancy to the village.

 

Lower Gilmanton Baptist Church, Gilmanton

A local group of community advocates hopes to build on their success with a nearby one-room schoolhouse as they prepare to tackle major structural deficiencies in this landmark building, one of the Lakes Region’s best preserved Greek Revival churches.

 

Ossipee Corner Depot

This 1871 landmark needs a preservation buyer. Historically, it was part of the development of recreation and business markets throughout the Lakes Region.

 

General Stores, Statewide

A village staple for the majority of New Hampshire towns, the venerable general store has struggled in the past decade to compete with slimmer margins and creeping costs of gas pumps, kitchen equipment, and property taxes. In the past few years, stores in Brookline , Francestown, Hill, Danbury, Cornish, Bath, Grafton, and West Canaan have closed. Some have re-opened, others may re-open, but several remain closed.

Chesterfield_NHPA (1)

Studies from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express show that young people crave authenticity and character in the places they live, work, and visit. Older neighborhoods offer more diverse and affordable housing options and historic downtowns provide incubator spaces for small new businesses. Historic buildings and streetscapes define communities, build community pride and engagement, attract families and tourists, foster artistic expression and provide greater property tax dollars per square foot than new construction. They are denser, walkable and served by existing infrastructure.

  

Event attendees enjoyed visits to three properties in varied stages of preservation in advance of the announcement.

  • Grafton Center Meetinghouse (Seven to Save, 2017) - 860 Main St., Grafton. After a damaging fire in January 2016, a local nonprofit, Mascoma Valley Preservation, is starting the rehabilitation effort on this 1797-98 meetinghouse at the head of Grafton Center’s common.
  • South Danbury Church - 1411 Rt. 4, Danbury. This 1867 church just completed a $160,000 rehabilitation project with the help of LCHIP and many - many! - bake sales.
  • Eagle Pond Farm - 24 Rt. 4, Wilmot. The former home of poets Jane Kenyon and Donald Hall, this vernacular farmstead served as fodder for much of the couple’s literary work. The Don and Jane Project seeks to use this place to inspire future generations.

The Preservation Alliance listed vulnerable Granges statewide on its Seven to Save list in 2013, and this one in Danbury is considered one of the most active and well-stewarded in the state. “This iconic New England village is a fitting place to hold an event that showcases irreplaceable landmarks, power of people who love and use 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.”

 

Seven to Save listings have helped to attract new investment and re-use options for more than 50 percent of the community landmarks that have received the designation since the program began in 2006.  Several projects have gone on to earn Preservation Achievement Awards in recent years, including: Watson Academy in Epping, the Langdon Meetinghouse, Brewster Memorial Hall in Wolfeboro, Washington Meetinghouse, and the Littleton Community Center.

 

Seven to Save sites that still need more creative planning, new investment, new owners, or the hard work of local advocates include 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.  

 

The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance is the statewide membership organization dedicated to preserving historic buildings, communities and landscapes through education and advocacy.  For more information, visit www.nhpreservation.org.

 

Thanks to our generous sponsors: Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation, Pinnacle Leadership Foundation, Ingram Construction, Anagnost Companies, Chinburg Properties, Ciborowski Associates, Enviro-Tote, Irish Electric Corp., Meredith Village Savings Bank, Merrimack County Savings Bank, Milestone Engineering & Construction, Inc., Misiaszek Turpin Architects, Nathan Wechsler & Co., Littleton Millwork, TF Moran, and Udelsman Associates and Windows & Doors by Brownell.