Center Sandwich Historic District
The Center Sandwich Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The Center Sandwich Historic District encompasses most of Center Sandwich, a village in the Town of Sandwich, New Hampshire. Five of the seven streets found within the Center Sandwich Historic District intersect at a crossroads in the center of the village. From the crossroads, Creamery Brook Road [now Squam Lake Road] leads southwest towards Centre Harbor village [see Centre Harbor Village Historic District], Main Street leads southeast towards Moultonborough village, and Church Street leads northeast, then swings to the east, to its intersection with Maple Street. Grove Street and Skinner Street start from the crossroads together, leading northwest, but they separate within one hundred feet. Skinner Street swings to a more westerly course toward Holderness, while Grove Street continues northeast towards Sandwich Notch. Maple Street begins on Main Street south of the crossroads and heads northeast towards North Sandwich. Quimby Field Road is a short dead-end off Main Street. All are paved roads, but only Skinner Street, Main Street and Creamery Brook Road [Squam Lake Road] have sidewalks. Small landscaped triangles are found at the intersections of Grove Street and Skinner Street, Maple Street and Church Street. (It should be noted that Maple Street, Skinner Street and that section of Main Street between Maple Street and Skinner Street are part of state highway Route 113, while that section of Main Street south of Maple Street is part of state highway Route 109.)
The land within the Center Sandwich Historic District is relatively flat with only a few short knolls and ledges. The Center Sandwich Historic District's, only water bodies are a shallow pond, found in the center of the triangular block formed by Church Street, Maple Street and Main Street, and a smaller pond in the backyard of the Benjamin Clement House property. Two streams skirt the Center Sandwich Historic District, Creamery Brook on Skinner Street and the Red Hill River on Main Street.
The Center Sandwich Historic District's seventy-three properties include four empty lots, all formerly occupied by buildings; a cemetery (Rural Cemetery), long associated with the Free Baptist Church; and a small village green at the corner of Main and Maple Streets. The sixty-five major buildings have some thirty-three dependent outbuildings. There are also two properties, now only occupied by outbuildings, four in all. The total number of buildings in the Center Sandwich Historic District is therefore one hundred and two, counting both major-buildings and outbuildings. The buildings virtually all sit on reasonably sized lots, with comfortable side yards and front lawns of varying depths. The exceptions are two pairs of commercial buildings, Mann Casket Shop and Ambrose Store, Masonic Hall and Elisha Marston Shop, which occupy most of their small lots, are set close to the street and are separated only by a narrow alley.
Center Sandwich is, in many ways, a remarkably homogeneous and well-preserved village. Only one building in the Center Sandwich Historic District, the Baptist Church, is known to have been built in the eighteenth century. But, as near as can be determined, fifty-five of sixty-five major buildings were standing by the Civil War. Only six more buildings were erected in the rest of the nineteenth century the Quaker Meetinghouse and five houses. The twentieth century has seen the addition of only four buildings, three of which were Colonial Revival, structures replacing buildings destroyed by fire. Save for the Collegiate Gothic library of 1915 and a handful of Victorian and Victorianized houses, all of the buildings are either in the vernacular tradition of early to mid-nineteenth century New England, or reflect to some degree, the Federal and Greek Revival high styles. The buildings' forms and materials are also very similar. Of the forty-nine structures built as houses, twenty-six are Capes or modified Capes, and eleven are symmetrical two- or two-and-a-half-story buildings, the larger counterpart of the Cape. The remaining dozen houses are of the gable end front side-hall plan type that came into general use during the Greek Revival period and remained popular throughout the nineteenth century. Save for the two church steeples, none of the Center Sandwich Historic District's buildings rise above two-and-a-half stories. With the exception of the stone public library (Samuel H. Wentworth Library) and two small prefabricated metal sheds, all of the buildings in the Center Sandwich Historic District are of wooden construction. Most of these wooden buildings are clapboarded, although three houses, some rear facades, and a number of outbuildings are sheathed in wooden shingles. Modern aluminum and asbestos sidings have appeared on only four major buildings. So, while there is little repetition in the design of the Center Sandwich Historic District's buildings, the similarities of style, form, size and materials give the village a pleasing architectural unity.
As would be expected in a small village, most of the Center Sandwich Historic District has always been residential. Forty-nine of the major buildings were constructed as houses and eight as commercial buildings (stores or workshops). The remaining eight were public buildings two school houses, three churches and meetinghouses, the Baptist church horse sheds, the town hall and the library. Today, the major buildings would be classified as forty-three residences, seven mixed residential-commercial buildings, seven commercial buildings (including the Post Office), one mixed public-commercial building (the former horse sheds) and seven public buildings two churches, two meeting halls for social organizations, an historical house museum, and again, the town hall and the library.
The Center Sandwich Historic District is significant as a remarkably well-preserved 19th century New England village, with a high concentration of architecturally important buildings of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Like many other New England villages, Center Sandwich grew up around a major road intersection, near a river that provided waterpower for the local mills. In this case, the mills preceded the roads. The first mill in the town of Sandwich, a gristmill, was erected on the Red Hill River in 1768 by Daniel Beede, the town's first settler. It was followed in 1780 by the town's first sawmill, which used the same dam.
These mills undoubtedly attracted much traffic and encouraged the building of roads to reach them. Unfortunately, the loss of the early Town Records prevents us from accurately dating most of the roads now serving the village. By 1792, the location must have been well connected with the other parts of the township, as it was then chosen as the site for the town's meetinghouse, now the Baptist Church. The real catalyst of the village's growth was the construction of the Sandwich Notch Road in the first decade of the 19th century. Today, the Sandwich Notch Road is a picturesque, rough dirt road of no commercial importance. But, during the first half of the 19th century, it was part of an important thoroughfare, from the upper Pemigewasset and upper Connecticut valleys, through Sandwich Notch, one of the few passable gaps in the White Mountains, to the seacoast. A manuscript map, drawn about 1805, now in the State Library, shows that, with the possible exception of Creamery Brook Road [Squam Lake Road], the major roads serving the village had been constructed by then — the Sandwich Notch Road (Grove Street) to the northwest, Main Street to the southeast, towards Moultonborough, Skinner Street to the west towards Holderness, and Maple Street (and Church Street) to the northeast towards North Sandwich. (Creamery Brook Road, built sometime in the early 19th century, provided a more direct route southeast towards Centre Harbor.)
The Town of Sandwich grew rapidly in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The population soared from 905 in 1790 to 2,232 in 1810 and 2,744 in 1830. The prosperity of the largely agricultural township was reflected in the growth of its major village. A description of the village at the beginning of the 19th century reveals little more than a crossroads hamlet, with one or two stores, a half dozen or more houses, the meetinghouse, and Beede's mills. But the growth of trade and the erection of new mills on the river spurred the development of the village.
The first half of the 19th century was Center Sandwich's period of growth. Fifty-five of the sixty-five major buildings in the Center Sandwich Historic District were erected before the Civil War. Many of these buildings cannot be dated with great precision, so we can only outline, in a general way, the architectural development of the village.
The earliest buildings, those erected up to and perhaps through the 1840's, reflect either the vernacular tradition or a provincial version of the Federal style. The most common house form in the village is the traditional Cape. The earliest Capes were relatively plain building with little ornament. Doorways might be elaborated with sidelights, but the door and window trim is usually quite plain. The eaves seldom received much attention, remaining, normally, just close eaves and close verges. Occasionally, however, a shallow box cornice with mouldings was added, although perhaps only the main facade, as is seen on the Dr. Lot Cook House. These vernacular Capes rely primarily on their studied proportions and their symmetry for their charm. (But, as the Warren Dearborn House shows, even symmetry was not a necessity.) The best surviving early Capes are concentrated on Skinner Street the Batchelder Cook House, the Albert Hackett House, the Samuel Dinsmore House, the Dr. Harrison Hart House, the Phineas Bacon House, the Dr. Tristam Sanborn House, and the Hosea Pettingill House. However, other parts of the village can also boast fine examples, as the Hoyt Beede House and the George Marston House on Main Street demonstrate.
The influence of the Federal style can be more readily seen in the more pretentious two-story and two-and-a-halfstory houses. Symmetry and proportions are even more carefully studied than on the vernacular Capes. The doorways are framed by pilasters and entablatures. And, the windows and eaves are often ornamented with mouldings. This small group of houses includes some of the village's best buildings. Clustered near the main intersection, are three of the oldest houses. The Samuel Ambrose House of 1806 has moulded lateral box cornices and moulded window trim. But, the main focus of the large house is its fine doorway with four pilasters on high bases supporting an entablature with paneled frieze. The Jeremiah Smith House, built before 1810, has more delicate ornament the main entry's tapering pilasters and entablatures, the windows' moulded side trim and paneled lintels, the moulded cornerboards and cornices. The Daniel Hoit House of 1810, is the only house in the village with the hip roof that is so characteristic of the Federal style. It also has moulded window trim, moulded box cornices, and two of the most interesting doorways in the village, featuring semicircular transom windows with intersecting mullions, as well as the expected pilasters and entablatures. Somewhat later but still distinguished are the Augustus Blanchard House of 1822, and the Moulton H. Marston House, c.1830. Again, the more interesting features are the doorways the simple, but well proportioned, pilasters and entablature of the Augustus Blanchard House, and the more elaborate fluted pilasters and entablature of the Moulton H. Marston House, (an entry design repeated on the now resheathed Christopher C. Fellows House.
In the 1840's and 1850's (and perhaps as early as the later 1830's), the Greek Revival style supplanted the Federal style. Even the most ordinary buildings received heavier trim, and box cornices with deeper friezes. The traditional Cape form continued to be popular. The Elisha Marston House is a good example of the transition from the vernacular Federal style to the Greek Revival style, whose influence is apparent in the corner pilasters and the main entry. In the William Ham House, the new style can be seen in the heavy proportions of the cornerboards, the box cornice with deep frieze, the pilasters and the entablature surrounding the doorway, rather than in any direct classical quotations. The more sophisticated Greek Revival Capes show a variety of ornamental treatments. In the Baptist Parsonage, the emphasis is on what might be called the ornamental frame the wide paneled corner pilasters, the heavy box cornice with deep frieze, and the large pronounced pediments in the gables. In the David M. Hodgdon House, the window and doors received more attention, as each was crowned with a low-pitched pediment. The main focus of the John Burleigh House is on the recessed central entry, with its frame of three-quarter round, engaged columns supporting a deep entablature. The traditional two-and-a-half-story house form was not as popular as the Cape. The Jesse and Oliver Ambrose House was the only Greek Revival building to use the form. A new house form that came into general use in this period was the gable end front house, with the main entry placed in the side bay of the gable end facing the street. The Enoch and Julia Sherman House of about 1836 must have been one of the first erected in the village. As with the Cape, ornamental treatment varied widely. The Methodist Parsonage is relatively simple, with the proportions, but not the classical quotations, or the Greek Revival. Its paneled cornerboards and paneled door trim, for example, can only suggest pilasters, the Doctor's House is much more elaborate, featuring wide corner pilasters, a pedimented entry, and shouldered architraves on the windows.
The vernacular tradition continued to be followed for commercial buildings, as the Ambrose Store and the Mann Casket Shop demonstrate. But the village still has two Greek Revival commercial buildings, among the few surviving in the Lakes Region. The Masonic Hall has paneled corner pilasters supporting a pedimented box cornice with deep frieze. Moulton Marston's office, now the central section of the Post Office is smaller, but also impressive, with its pedimented portico with paneled pillars.
The village's two churches are both basically Greek Revival buildings. The Baptist Church now has a Colonial Revival steeple, but its main block retains the wide cornerboards, the heavy box cornice with deep frieze, and the pedimented gable so typical of the style. The well-preserved Methodist Church is still one of the region's best Greek Revival churches. (The Quaker Meetinghouse, although of a later date, is a more modest, deliberately astylar building in the vernacular tradition.)
The Civil War marked the end of Center Sandwich's growth. As the hill farms were abandoned and New England agriculture became less and less profitable, the town's population declined dramatically. The migration of farmers to the West and the cities before the Civil War had already dropped the census total from 2,744 in 1830 to 2,227 in 1860. After the war, the population figure plummeted to 1,077 in 1900, and a nadir of 615 in 1950. The small mills on the Red Hill River could no longer compete with the new larger urban factories. After a fire in 1869 destroyed most of the mills, only one was rebuilt. Railroads built to the east and the west of Sandwich in the 1850's and the 1870's became the region's major transportation routes, supplanting the old Sandwich Notch Road. Center Sandwich, miles from the nearest railroad line, was now a quiet rural backwater village of only local importance.
Few buildings were erected or altered in the late 19th century. There was little need for new houses, and few owners bothered to modernize their homes. So, Center Sandwich has only a handful of Victorian or Victorianized houses. The Charles H. Atwood House is a Victorian version of the Cape. Daniel D. Atwood enlarged his house, adding a Victorian veranda and a second story with a gabled projection. Charles Blanchard also enlarged his house, adding a second story, bay windows and elaborate porches. The most important building of the period was the house erected for William A. Heard in 1872, the village's finest example of the Victorian eclectic styles.
The 20th century has been almost as uneventful as the late 19th century. Only four major buildings have been erected within the Center Sandwich Historic District during this century. Two public buildings, both completed in 1915, were designed by Boston architect J. Randolph Coolidge, a summer resident. The Samuel H. Wentworth Library is an interesting example of the early 20th century Collegiate Gothic. The Town Hall, however, was designed in the more compatible Colonial Revival style. The Town Hall replaced an earlier building destroyed by fire, as did the century's two other buildings, both completed in 1935. A 1933 fire destroyed Daniel Hoit's store, which was replaced by the Colonial Revival Earl Dearborn Store. A greater disaster was the fire of February 27, 1934, which destroyed seven buildings, which stood on both sides of Main Street, south of Maple Street. The properties in "the Burned Area" were purchased by the Trustees of the Alfred Quimby Fund and the Sandwich Home Industries, and developed as a unit. Moulton Marston's office was moved to the southeast side of the street and enlarged to become the new Post Office. A small village green was created at the corner of Main and Maple Streets. And a new Colonial Revival building, designed by architect Harry J. Carlson (Coolidge's former partner) was erected for the Sandwich Home Industries on the northeast side of the green. (The Earl Dearborn Store, the Sandwich Home Industries and the Village Green, all date from 1935.
Since 1935, the Center Sandwich Historic District has changed very little. What development has occurred has been along the roads outside the historic village itself. The village's architectural and historical quality has been recognized by both visitors and residents. Most individual owners have realized the value of their properties and have carefully preserved their buildings. Surprisingly few, for example, have used modern sidings. Public preservation efforts have included the historical house museum established by the Sandwich Historical Society in the Elisha Marston House, and the ongoing restoration of the Sandwich Town Hall. In March of 1982, the voters of the Town of Sandwich established a local historic district under New Hampshire state law to preserve the village of Center Sandwich. All but one of the major buildings in the National Register Historic District (the Quimby School Headmaster's House) is now under the protection of the active and competent local historic district commission.
The Center Sandwich Historic District is a remarkably cohesive district. Most of its buildings are clapboarded wooded structures in the vernacular, Federal and Greek Revival styles. The few late 19th century and early 20th century buildings have the same materials and sheathing. And their Victorian and Colonial Revival designs do not seem out of place. The only real anomaly is the Collegiate Gothic stone Samuel H. Wentworth Library, which is, itself, a building worthy of individual National Register recognition. Its high quality is not atypical of the Center Sandwich Historic District, which has a great number of buildings, both public and private, of architectural merit. Only a few early villages in the Lakes Region, such as Hebron, Sanbornton Square, Gilmanton Corners, Wakefield, and Lord's Hill (Effingham), are of comparable quality and integrity. And none of these smaller villages have as many significant buildings as Center Sandwich. As one architectural historian has recently written, "Center Sandwich has long been regarded as one of the most aesthetically pleasant, historically noteworthy, and architecturally significant rural villages in northern New England."
W. Pope Barney, "Highlights of Sandwich Architecture," Forty-third Annual Excursion of the Sandwich Historical Society (Sandwich, 1962).
Georgia Drew Merrill, ed., History of Carroll County (Somersworth, N.H., 1971 reprint of 1880 ed.).
Anne C. Papen and Ann B. Robbins, "Fire!" Sixty-first Annual Excursion of the Sandwich Historical Society (Sandwich, 1980).
Sandwich Historical Society, Eighteenth Annual Excursion of the Sandwich Historical Society, Covering a Part of Center Sandwich, N.H. (Sandwich, 1937).
Sandwich Historical Society, Nineteenth Annual Excursion of the Sandwich Historical Society, Covering a Part of Center Sandwich, N.H. (Sandwich, 1938).
Bryant F. Tolles, Jr., "Architectural Highlights of Center Sandwich Village, A Note," Sixty-first Annual Excursion of the Sandwich Historical Society (Sandwich, 1980).
Trustees of Alfred Quimby Fund — Alfred Quimby Fund for the Benefit of Town of Sandwich, a Report Covering the 37 Years from 1918 to 1955 (Sandwich, 1956).
Also, the photographic collection of the Sandwich Historical Society, Center Sandwich, N.H.
Bob Dustin "Historical Sandwich, Carroll County, New Hampshire" (1976).
Lena Ford "Map of Centre Sandwich, N.H., circa 1860" (1949).
"Plan of Moultonboro and Sandwich" (manuscript in "New Hampshire Town Plans, 1805," New Hampshire State Library, Concord, N.H., c.1805).
H.F. Walling "Topographical Map of Carroll County, New Hampshire" (1860).
† David L. Ruell, Lakes Region Regional Planning Commission, Center Sandwich Historic District, Carroll County, NH, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.