If I had an Instagram account, it would be chock full of old buildings instead of selfies or legs at the beach (or are they hot dogs?). My page would worship wood siding, old panes of window glass, slate roofs, and cast iron facades.
But I don’t have Instagram, nor do I have a smart phone that would allow me to filter captured moments of historic building frissons. If I didn’t have student loan debt, people would think I’m not even a millennial.
I do, however, follow preservation projects in our state. Great examples exist throughout New Hampshire, likely in your back yard. Most offer opportunities for 20 or 30 somethings to step in and either get their hands dirty or propose reuse strategies. Here’s a tiny sampling that you likely won’t find on Instagram (yet):
Hinkson’s Carding Mill, Grafton
Long derelict after two failed mid-century attempts to convert the 1823 carding mill into a private residence, the Grafton Historical Society started a campaign to restore and reuse this historic landmark. To date, the site has been cleared; the rotted posts, beams, and sills have been replaced; the flooring re-laid, and the roof made weather-tight. The society plans to have the façade restored by October – including the reconstruction of the front windows, doors, and turbine shed. By 2023, the society expects that the building will be complete.
If you’re a runner, consider participating in the upcoming 5th Annual Race to Save the Mill, a 5K or 8K over Columbus Day weekend which includes a homemade lunch and a low-key atmosphere.
Since 1974, committee members of the Canaan Meetinghouse have restored this 1793 anchor in Canaan’s National Historic District. Most recently, its bell tower was repaired and painted, the interior gallery pews were reconstructed, and new lighting made the space more usable. Currently, the large, 20-over-20 windows are being restored with help from Land & Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) funds.
While you’re visiting, walk along Canaan Street, one of New Hampshire’s first historic districts. The stately tree-lined stretch boasts buildings built in the Federal and Greek Revival styles. Take a dip at Canaan Street Lake (right across from the meetinghouse) and attend the Meetinghouse Readings – a 29-year running program that brings bestselling authors and poets to the beautiful space. Lastly, explore the Canaan Historical Society Museum adjacent to the beach. Make sure to chew the fat with Donna Dunkerton, the town historian – she’s a riot – about topics like Noyes Academy, the first co-ed school for African-Americans in America.
Acworth Grange Hall
Neglected for several decades, this 1841 Methodist Church-turned-Grange Hall is about to get a third lease on life thanks to the Acworth Historical Society. According to their website, the former grange hall will be used for a variety of functions, including organizations’ meetings, artist studios, historical society display space, and community gatherings.
Acworth is no stranger to the New Hampshire preservation world. In 2011, their million-dollar restoration of their iconic meetinghouse won an award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2001, the town’s historical society purchased and began operating the general store when no private owner stepped forward (the store is now leased). Recently, the town library was restored and expanded.
The Grange Hall is arguably in worse shape than other attempted projects, but if there’s a town that can do it, it’s Acworth.
Effingham Preservation Society
Celebrating its 200th birthday, the building once known as the Weare Drake Store – now home to the Effingham Preservation Society (EPS) – is once again a hub of community life.
The restoration project included roofing, painting, re-glazing windows, adding a bathroom, making the building handicap accessible, and sprucing up the interior. EPS now uses the building for community events, including art shows, breakfasts, lectures, concerts, and dinners. EPS’s activation of the building is evidenced by the dozens of attendees at their events, proof that the right people and the right buildings are key to a successful community.
Effingham boasts an array of fantastic older buildings, including those within Lord’s Hill Historic District. If you’re in the area, spend some time exploring the Route 153 corridor, celebrating the great historic fabric that previous generations left behind.