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Lower Corner Historic District


The Lower Corner Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Lower Corner Historic District encompasses an attractive small village in the town of Sandwich, located a little over a mile southeast of the town's major village, Center Sandwich [see Center Sandwich Historic District]. The village of Lower Corner sits on Wentworth Hill, a small hill that rises only 100 to 200 feet above the surrounding terrain, but which nevertheless commands an impressive view of the White Mountains to the north, the Ossipee Mountains to the southeast, and Red Hill to the southwest. As befits a hilltop village, the Lower Corner Historic District does not contain any streams, the only water body being a small artificial farm pond, excavated c.1970 on the property of the William M. Weed House.

The main road through the Lower Corner Historic District is Route 109 (Wentworth Hill Road), which heads southeast from Center Sandwich, climbs over the level top of the hill, and then starts down the southeast slope of the hill in a more or less straight line, before turning almost due south towards the village of Moultonborough. The second most important road, Little Pond Road, leaves Route 109, at the point where Route 109 turns south, and descends the hill to the east towards East Sandwich and Tamworth. The third road, Schoolhouse Road, leaves Route 109 about 600 feet north of the Little Pond Road intersection, and heads southwest. Route 109 and Little Pond Road are wide paved state highways. But, Schoolhouse Road, a narrow town highway of only local importance, is unpaved. The usual poles for telephone and electric lines, as well as a few highway signs, are found along the roads. The intersection of Schoolhouse Road and Route 109 is marked by a small shrub covered triangle, containing a telephone pole. The road frontages are also distinguished by scattered trees, sometimes in rows, and, in the north part of the Lower Corner Historic District, by stone walls and fences. Generally, the land within the Lower Corner Historic District slopes downhill away from Route 109. However, south of Schoolhouse Road, the land on the west side of Route 109 slopes slightly uphill from the road.

The Lower Corner Historic District contains twelve properties. One property is an empty lot (Osberg Lot) at the intersection of Route 109 and Little Pond Road. The other properties contain twelve major buildings and twenty outbuildings (counting among the outbuildings a barn now on its own separately owned lot). Of the thirty-two buildings, twenty-five buildings are considered contributing and seven buildings are considered non-contributing. The empty lot is classified as a contributing site. Of the twelve major buildings, nine were originally residences, the others, a sawmill, a store, and a printing office. The houses and the printing office now serve as residences. The sawmill is used for storage and the store houses a craft studio.

The major buildings are all set to face Route 109. With the exception of the store, which is placed quite close to the road, the major buildings are all set near the road behind lawns of varying depth. The lots vary greatly in size. But, with the exception of the separate barn, there is ample room for side yards on each property, giving comfortable spacing between the buildings. The buildings are densest in the south half of the District, as the north half is essentially devoted to two large estates.

In some respects, the village is quite homogenous in its architecture. With the exception of the Brick Store, the buildings are all of wooden construction. Clapboards are the dominant sheathing on the wooden buildings, including all of the major buildings. But wooden shingles do appear on the rear facades of three major buildings and on a number of outbuildings. Other sidings include board-and-batten siding on one ell, novelty siding on three outbuildings, vertical boarding on two outbuildings and "chipboard" on one outbuilding. Most of the wooden buildings are painted white, that color predominating on twenty-two buildings, with red being used on one major building, the ell and barn of another major building, five outbuildings, and parts of two other outbuildings. Two outbuildings were left to weather naturally, and one small outbuilding is painted yellow. The major buildings are similar in height, nine of the twelve being two or two and a half stories high, with three being one and a half stories high, and only the tower of one house (Chestnut Manor) rising to three stories. The residences show more variety in their forms, as they include a cape, three two and a half story gable roofed houses with their facades set parallel to the road, two gable-end sidehall plan houses, two temple style houses with monumental pillared porticoes, and a two-story house with a central two-story tower. In architectural style, there is more uniformity. The major buildings all date from the 19th century, and virtually all acquired their present appearance by the 1870's. With the notable exception of a Greek Revival store later converted into a garage, the outbuildings were all built in the vernacular of their day. The major buildings represent primarily the vernacular tradition of the 19th century and the Greek Revival style, although two buildings (Chestnut Manor and the Brick Store) do show the strong influence of the Victorian styles. The general agreement of materials, sheathing and color, combined with the greater variety of form and style and the high quality of the buildings gives this small village an architectural interest not found in many New Hampshire villages of its size.

Significance

The Lower Corner Historic District is a small village, significant in the area of architecture for its attractive and well-preserved 19th century buildings.

The Lower Corner played an important role in the history of Sandwich from its earliest days. In fact, the first house built in the town was Daniel Beede's log cabin, erected on Wentworth Hill just outside the district boundary behind the Wentworth Store building. The first Sandwich town meeting was held here in 1772. About 1777, Beede erected a house near the present Joseph Wentworth House. He was soon followed by others, for the Lower Corner soon became a prosperous, albeit small, commercial center. The origins of the roads within the Lower Corner Historic District are obscure. But all three roads, Route 109, Little Pond Road, and School House Road, appear on the manuscript map of Sandwich, prepared c.1805 for the Carrigain map of New Hampshire, suggesting that they were built in the late 18th century. Route 109 remains the major highway between Moultonborough village and Center Sandwich. Little Pond Road was an important route to the east, to Tamworth and Ossipee. Much of the traffic in and out of the town of Sandwich would necessarily pass through the Lower Corner. Therefore, it is not surprising that Benjamin Burleigh, the first storekeeper in Sandwich, chose about 1785 to move his store to the now [1986] empty lot (Osberg Lot) on the north side of the intersection of Route 109 and Little Pond Road. By the first decade of the 19th century, the small village could boast several tradesmen, including storekeepers, innkeepers, a hatter, a saddle and harness maker, a silversmith, a tailor, a lawyer, and a doctor. The commercial importance of the small village was confirmed in 1812, when the first post office in Sandwich was established in the Hanson house (now the ell of the Weed House) at the southeast corner of the intersection of Route 109 and Little Pond Road.

Little, however, now remains of the Lower Corner's earliest buildings. The two oldest buildings are found at the intersection of School House Road and Route 109. The Gilman Tavern, presumably built sometime before 1813 to house the store and the inn of John Purington, was apparently enlarged later in the 19th century. As an essentially utilitarian building, it was not given the symmetry of form and facade commonly found in residences of the period. But the details of the building, notably the entries and the box cornices, do distinguish it as an attractive example of the provincial Federal style. The Jewett House, said to have been built by Benjamin Jewett (1792-1856) and standing by the early 1820's, is the only Cape in the Lower Corner Historic District. It is a simple but pleasing building, notable for its symmetry, good proportions and details, a fine early 19th century rural New England Cape.

Although increasingly challenged by the growing village of Center Sandwich a mile away, the Lower Corner remained a center of the town's commercial and social life throughout the 19th century. Although public buildings were usually erected in Center Sandwich, the Lower Corner could claim the Sandwich Academy, which operated on the site of the windmill behind Chestnut Manor from 1837 to 1849, and the Congregational Church, built in 1856 between the Congregational Parsonage and the Weed Saw Mill. The commercial prosperity of the Lower Corner was reflected in two new store buildings , the Wentworth Store, built for the Wentworths probably in the 1830's, and the Brick Store, built for William M. Weed in 1845. The Brick Store is unusually sophisticated for its rural location. Brick was an uncommon building material for Sandwich structures. And the ornate Italianate details of the facade, the semi-circular arched windows filled by arched panes, rondels, and spherical triangles, and topped by brick hoodmolds with label stops and keystones, the round gable window with its "meriodinal" mullions and brick frame, and the parapet with its elaborate brackets and segmental arched central section, were more commonly found in urban commercial districts than in a small rural village. The Greek Revival Wentworth Store, with its clapboarded walls, paneled corner pilasters, wide pedimented box cornice, flush boarded gable, and simple window trim, was more typical of the mid 19th century architecture of the Lower Corner.

The Greek Revival style was the dominant style in the Lower Corner in the mid 19th century and, indeed, continues to dominate the residential architecture of the Lower Corner Historic District. Five of the nine residences are Greek Revival in style. The Tilton House which was standing by 1839, continues to use the traditional house form of the Georgian and Federal periods, a two and a half story, gable roofed building with the main entry in the center of its symmetrical five bay lateral facade. But, here the entry is framed by pilasters and a heavy pedimented entablature and the facades are trimmed by paneled corner pilasters and a wide box cornice with architrave, frieze, and returns, giving the traditional form an up-to-date Greek Revival character. The other four houses used the new forms made popular in the Greek Revival period, in which the gable end of the house became the main facade. In its simplest and commonest form, the gable end house had a sidehall plan, with the main entry placed to one side of the main facade. Both the Wentworth Farm House and the Congregational Parsonage are gable-end sidehall plan houses. The one and a half story Wentworth Farm House is embellished by moulded window lintels, corner pilasters, and a wide box cornice with architrave, frieze, and returns. But the most interesting feature of the small house is its recessed main entry with full sidelights, paneled walls and ceiling, and an outer frame of pilasters supporting a deep entablature. The larger two and a half story Congregational Parsonage was moved to its present location and remodeled about 1860. The Parsonage has plain cornerboards and simple window frames, but it does have a box cornice which is pedimented on the front gable and a recessed entry like that of the Wentworth Farm House, although the latter is now obscured by an enclosed porch. These two charming sidehall plan houses represent the vernacular version of the Greek Revival style. The William M. Weed House and the Joseph Wentworth House are more sophisticated examples of the style. They are true temple style houses, with grand two-story porticos covering the main gable-end facades of the two and a half story houses. Shortly after his marriage in 1850 to Eliza Hanson, William M. Weed enlarged the old Hanson house by adding a new main block, which featured a two-story portico with massive paneled pillars, matching wide paneled pilasters at the corners of house, a deep pedimented box cornice with architrave, frieze, and sawn scroll brackets, shouldered architraves (and sometimes pediments) around the windows, and entries with full sidelights, transom windows, shouldered architrave frames, and heavy pedimented entablatures. At the time of its construction (or more properly, enlargement), the William M. Weed House must have been the most impressive residence in the town of Sandwich. However, Col. Joseph Wentworth, Weed's rival in commerce, was not to be outdone. He soon replaced the family home with another grand temple style house. The new house-shared many of the features of the Weed House, massive paneled pillars and pilasters, a wide pedimented box cornice with architrave, frieze and sawn brackets, shouldered architrave window frames, an impressive main entry with full sidelights, transom window, and eared architrave frame. But, Wentworth built his house six feet wider, enabling him to boast a five-bay main facade (compared to Weed's two-bay facade) and a portico with four pillars (compared to Weed's three pillars). The result of this local rivalry was to give the Lower Corner two of Carroll County's grandest Greek Revival houses.

The Greek Revival mansions of William M. Weed and Joseph Wentworth were soon joined by a third mansion, Chestnut Manor, the home of Isaac Adams. As a young man in the early 1820's, Adams had lived and worked in the Lower Corner as a journeyman cabinet maker under Benjamin Jewett. Seeking a wider field of action, Adams moved to Boston, where he made a fortune through the invention and manufacture of the Adams power printing press. When the time came to turn the business over to his son, Adams decided to retire to the country village he had known as a young man. In 1855, he purchased the Clough house on the summit of Wentworth Hill, a site that commanded a spectacular view of the White Mountains, the Ossipee Mountains, and Red Hill, particularly in the days when the slopes of the hill were covered by fields, not forests. Adams devoted his substantial fortune to the creation of a grand country estate, purchasing several hundred acres in the vicinity. He enlarged the Clough house by adding two other buildings and giving the building its present appearance. Although the ornamental trim on most of the large house was limited to cornerboards, box cornices, moulded lintels or frames on the windows and doors, Chestnut Manor was raised above the ordinary by the three-story tower in the center of the main facade. The tower, with its ornate entry sheltered by a small but elegant portico, its richly-carved round plaques between the second and third stories, the tall corner pilasters, the box cornice, the slate sheathed concave "pyramidal" roof, and the crowning finial with a globe, is a Victorian embellishment that gives the house the architectural dignity demanded by its size and makes Chestnut Manor one of the Lower Corner Historic District's most memorable buildings. Adams did not stop with the main house. He assembled and built an impressive complex of barns and sheds and erected an icehouse and a windmill. (The windmill, although it has lost its fan, remains one of the few buildings of its type in the county.) Before he died in 1883, Adams had created the most impressive estate the town of Sandwich had ever seen.

The end of the 19th century was a period of decline for the town of Sandwich. The town's population had reached its peak of 2,744 in 1830 and had slipped slightly to 2,577 in 1850. But, with the decline of agriculture in the area, the population plummeted through the rest of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th century, dropping to 928 by 1910. There was little need for new buildings in the town or its villages. One Lower Corner residence, the home of merchant Arven Blanchard was enlarged in the 1870's, receiving an ell and a second story, and thereby acquiring its present late 19th century vernacular appearance. The only new buildings were two income-producing buildings near the main intersection. William M. Weed built (or rebuilt) a steam powered sawmill behind the Brick Store in 1870. Charles Blanchard began the town's first newspaper, the Sandwich Reporter, in 1883. His second printing office (Sandwich Reporter Office) was converted to a residence after the newspaper was sold in 1896. Both of these buildings are good examples of the late 19th century vernacular tradition as applied to industrial and commercial buildings. The sawmill is particularly notable for its T-shaped plan and simple but pleasing details.

The 20th century has been kind to the buildings of the Lower Corner Historic District. Although there have been a few new residences erected in the village, they have all been built outside the historic core of the village. The only new 20th century buildings within the Lower Corner Historic District boundaries have been some outbuildings. With the notable exception of the impressive gambrel roofed Wentworth Barn, these outbuildings have all been small inconspicuous structures, usually garages and chicken houses. The architecturally significant buildings have seen relatively few alterations, limited largely to changes in rear facades, the addition of new elements on the rear of the buildings, and the enclosure of porches. The new dormer on the Wentworth Farm House, the installation of garage doors on the Wentworth Store, the Weed Saw Mill and the Gilman Tavern, the new porch on the Arven Blanchard House, and the enclosure of the porch on the Congregational Parsonage are the only changes of real architectural significance. And these changes have modified, but not spoiled, these still attractive buildings. Generally, the major buildings have been restored and kept in good condition by their owners. The restoration of the Joseph Wentworth House after a destructive fire in 1978 is a good example of the care being taken today to preserve the architecture of the Lower Corner.

There are other attractive small villages of approximately the same size in Carroll County. But the most notable of these villages, Lord's Hill [see Lord's Hill Historic District] in Effingham, Wakefield village [see Wakefield Village Historic District], Water Village in Ossipee, and Tuftonboro Corner, are dominated by the architecture of the early 19th century, usually Federal in style. The Lower Corner, although it can boast of two good early 19th century buildings, the Jewett House and the Gilman Tavern, is best known for its mid 19th century buildings. Of particular importance in both quantity and quality are the Greek Revival buildings, the Wentworth Store, the Tilton House, the Wentworth Farm House, the Congregational Parsonage, and, of course, the two temple style houses, the William M. Weed House and the Joseph Wentworth House. The Italianate Brick Store and the Victorian Chestnut Manor are also buildings of high quality. Although of less sophistication, the vernacular buildings, the Arven Blanchard House, the Weed Saw Mill, and the numerous outbuildings, also contribute greatly to the historic character of the Lower Corner Historic District. The Lower Corner survives today as one of the finest groupings of 19th century architecture in Carroll County, and as one of the region's most attractive small villages.

References

Doris L. Benz "The Historical Background of Lower Corner" Twenty-eighth Annual Excursion of the Sandwich Historical Society (Sandwich, N.H., 1947).

Georgia Drew Merrill, ed. History of Carroll County (Somersworth, N.H., 1971 reprint of 1889 ed.).

Sandwich Historical Society Data on Chief Points of Interest Along the Route of The Sixth Annual Excursion of the Sandwich Historical Society (Sandwich, N.H.,1925).

Sandwich Historical Society "Lower Corner Re-surveyed" Twenty-eighth Annual Excursion of the Sandwich Historical Society (Sandwich,N.H., 1947).

Sandwich Historical Society "Lower Corner Revisited" Fifty-fourth Annual Excursion of the Sandwich Historical Society (Sandwich, N.H., 1973).

Sandwich Historical Society "Sandwich Lower Corner, Seven Biographies" Twenty-ninth Annual Excursion of the Sandwich Historical Society (Sandwich, N.H., 1948).

Maps D.H. Kurd & Co. Town and City Atlas of the State of New Hampshire (Boston, 1892).

"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" (New York City, 1860).

† David L. Ruell, Lakes Region Regional Planning Commission, Lower Corner Historic District, Carroll County, NH, nomination document, 1986, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Lower Corner Historic District Map

Street Names
Little Pond Road • Route 109 • Schoolhouse Road • Wentworth Hill Road

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