Wakefield Village Historic District
The Wakefield Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. 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 Wakefield Village Historic District encompasses virtually all of the village of Wakefield in the town of Wakefield, New Hampshire. Most of the village stands on top of a short ridge which trends from the northwest to southeast. The land within the District slopes away from the ridgetop, rather gently on the north, west and east, but more steeply on the south.
The Wakefield Village Historic District's buildings stand along two roads which intersect within the village. The former main road, historically the major north-south highway through the town of Wakefield and Carroll County, climbs up unto the ridgetop from the south to its intersection with Parsonsfield Road, and then bears slightly west of due north, as it crosses the ridgetop. The Parsonsfield Road leads northeast from the intersection towards East Wakefield and Maine. (The bypassing of the village by a new highway has led to a renaming and renumbering of the roads which obscures their historical relationship. The former main road is now known as Mountain Laurel Road [Wakefield Road] north of the intersection, while the Parsonsfield Road and the main road south of the intersection are both parts of a state highway, Route 153.) The roads are paved with grassed or paved shoulders, save for a short section of curbed sidewalk on Mountain Laurel Road [Wakefield Road] (in front of the properties of the Freeman Pike House, Dr. Roberts House, Wakefield Public Library and Old Wakefield Town Hall). The intersection is marked by a grassed triangle which contains several traffic signs, including an older granite post with painted wooden signs, as well as part of the 1876 town scales. (The scales' platform is missing, but the rectangular wooden box which contained the mechanism still stands.) The only other notable piece of street furniture within the Wakefield Village Historic District is a carved, rectangular, granite horse trough with a metal pump on the east shoulder of Mountain Laurel Road [Wakefield Road], almost opposite the Wakefield Public Library.
The Wakefield Village Historic District's twenty-seven properties include two empty lots and twenty-five major buildings with eighteen outbuildings, for a total of forty-three buildings within the District. Most of the buildings stand on sizeable lots with comfortable side yards and front lawns of varying depths. (Some of the houses have rather large fields behind them.) Only a few of the public buildings, notably the Wakefield Public Library, the Town Hall and the Grange Hall have small constricted lots. In the center of the village, the buildings are set relatively close together, while, to the north and the south, the buildings are spread more widely apart.
Although its buildings date from the 18th to the 20th centuries, the village of Wakefield is remarkably unified in many ways. The early history of many of the houses is obscure, so we cannot say with accuracy how many are truly 18th century buildings. But, we can say, that twenty of the Wakefield Village Historic District's twenty-five major buildings were standing by the Civil War. Most of these are vernacular or provincial Federal style buildings with a few Greek Revival influenced buildings. The Victorian styles had little effect on the appearance of the District, as the buildings erected or remodeled in the late 19th century tended to follow the simpler vernacular tradition. The rich ornateness of the Victorian era can only be seen in a few elements, such as porches and hoods. The four 20th century buildings are also compatible, as one, the Grange Hall is, again, a relatively simple vernacular building, and the others, the Public Library, Westlook and the Congregational Church, are all Colonial Revival in style, intended to blend with the village's older buildings.
This stylistic consistency is matched by a consistency in form and material. Of the nineteen houses in the Wakefield Village Historic District, all but one (the gable end front Jackson Home House are gable-roofed capes or its two and a half story (or three and a half story) counterparts. Most of the houses have five bay wide main facades, with central entries. With the exception of the brick District No. 2 Schoolhouse and a prefabricated metal shed hidden behind the Congregational Church, all of the buildings are wooden. The major buildings, excepting the Schoolhouse, were all sheathed in clapboards. (Only two buildings (Carter-Smith Store and Yeaton House), and the rear facade of another (Wiggins House) have been resheathed with aluminum or vinyl "clapboard" siding.) The similarities of style, form and materials give the village a charming unity.
The Wakefield Village Historic District has always been largely residential in character. Nineteen of the twenty-five major buildings were originally houses. One building (Carter-Smith Store) was both a store and a residence. The other five buildings were built as the village's public buildings — the District No. 2 Schoolhouse, the Wakefield Public Library [2699 Wakefield Road], the Wakefield Town Hall, the Grange Hall and the Wakefield Congregational Church. Seventeen of the houses are still used only for residences, while the other two have mixed uses — a residence-restaurant (Frost's Folly [now the Wakefield Inn]), and a residence-doctor's office (Dr. Roberts House [now Dr. Gerard G. Bozuwa]). Three of the public buildings still serve their original purposes, but the schoolhouse is now the local historical museum and the town hall is now a seasonal thrift shop.
The Wakefield Village Historic District is significant in the area of architecture for the high quality of its buildings, ranging in date from the late 18th century to the early 20th century.
The village developed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries at the intersection of two important roads. Lake Winnipesaukee and the mountainous terrain east of the lake have always dictated that the major highway from the south through Carroll County must pass through the town of Wakefield. From the 18th century until the village was bypassed in recent years, that highway (today known as Route 16) passed through Wakefield village. In August of 1778, the Town voted to build a road to Parsonsfield, Maine. The junction of the Parsonsfield Road with the major north-south highway was the most important intersection in the township. Around this intersection, the village developed, becoming by 1800, the major village and the center of trade in the town of Wakefield.
Wakefield village's major period of growth was the last decades of the 18th century and the first decades of the 19th century. The lack of firm documentation for many of the houses makes it difficult to date them. But, it does appear clear that, with two exceptions, the Jackson Home House and Westlook, the houses now standing in the Wakefield Village Historic District were built in the period from the 1770's through the 1820's. Most of these houses, therefore, reflect either the rural vernacular tradition, or, to varying degrees, the influence of the Federal style.
The vernacular tradition can best be seen in the village's four capes. They are relatively simple buildings with little ornament — cornerboards, close verges, lateral box cornices with mouldings, and sometimes, moulded window trim. They rely, not on ornament, but on their symmetry and pleasing form for their charm. The Anchorage, said to be the oldest house in the village, and the William Sawyer House were later modernized with dormers and Victorianized entries, but these embellishments have not lessened their architectural interest. The Parsonage, distinguished by its interesting ell, seems little changed. The Yeaton House is the most altered, having been sheathed in aluminum, but it could yet be restored. Of the two and a half story houses, the Wiggins House is the closest to the vernacular tradition, having a rather plain entry and simple window trim. Its most decorative feature is its box cornice with mouldings, frieze and returns.
Most of the larger houses, however, were more sophisticated, showing at least some acquaintance with the Federal style. Four of the two and a half story houses are similar to the capes in that their facades are framed by cornerboards, close verges, and lateral box cornices with mouldings and frieze. They differ from the capes, however, in the emphasis placed on their central entries. The door of the Freeman Pike House is framed by pilasters with entasis and an entablature. The entry of the. Timothy Sawyer House has paneled pilasters, a dentiled entablature, and a semicircular louvered fan. On the Richard Rollins House, we find a paneled door with sidelights, a wide semi-elliptical louvered fan with its own carved ornament and a moulded surround, all framed by pilasters and an entablature with modillions and a diamond moulding. But, the most elaborate entry is that of the Benjamin Hobbs House. Like the entry of the Richard Rollins House, this entry has sidelights, moulded side trim and a semi-elliptical louvered fan with similar ornament. But, it is set in an uncommon semi-elliptical recessed archway with paneled sides, ceiling and frame.
The builders of the other large houses also emphasized the eaves and the outer corners, as well as the entries. The Dr. Roberts House has, besides an interesting entry with a frame of pilasters and an entablature with finely carved mouldings, paneled corner pilasters, and a box cornice with mouldings, frieze and returns. The central entries of the Wakefield House have been altered, but it still has a fine box cornice with mouldings and frieze, that is pedimented in both gables. The two largest houses are further distinguished by their unusual forms, which depart from the standard five bay wide, two and a half stories high format. The National House is a double house. Its eight bay wide front is still symmetrical, as the two entries, framed by pilasters and entablatures, are placed in the third and sixth bays to balance each other. The National House also has paneled corner pilasters and a box cornice with mouldings, frieze and returns. The three and a half story Frost's Folly, with its flanking two-story ells, is the largest house in the Wakefield Village Historic District. Its central entry, with transom window, full sidelights, and plain trim, is relatively simple. But its pedimented box cornice, notable for its modillions, is the most elaborate of any house in the village.
The prominence of the village was reflected in the 19th century by the erection of new public buildings. The Congregational Church, begun in 1816 and completed in 1831, was the village's centerpiece, notable for its elaborate steeple. (The upper story of the church was the home of the Wakefield Academy from 1831 to 1889.) In 1836, the importance of the village was confirmed by the decision of the Wakefield voters to erect the new town hall there. The Town Hall with its pointed arched entry and flanking windows is an interesting example of the Carpenter Gothic. The Greek Revival style is seen in the fine brick District No. 2 Schoolhouse of 1858-9, particularly in its heavy corner "pilasters," wide box cornice with deep frieze, and central entry in a recessed semicircular arch. (The Greek Revival style was also used for the Wakefield Village Historic District's only surviving, albeit much altered, store building, the Carter-Smith Store.)
For much of the 19th century, Wakefield Village was the town's major village, the commercial, cultural, governmental and educational center. However, the coming of the railroad changed the focus of the transportation system, and created a rival village that would soon supersede the older center. In 1871, the Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway Railroad was extended from Union Village to Ossipee. The following year, a branch line to Wolfeboro was finished. At the junction of the Wolfeboro Railroad with the main line, a mile south of Wakefield Village, the village of Wolfeborough Junction, later Sanbornville, soon grew up and prospered. The new village quickly became the major village in the town of Wakefield, a status that was firmly established by 1895, when a new town hall was built in Sanbornville, to replace the Town Hall in Wakefield Village.
While Sanbornville boomed in the late 19th century, the older village saw very little growth. The only house erected in the Wakefield Village Historic District in the last half of the 19th century was the small Jackson Home House of 1875, a simple vernacular gable end front house. This is not to say, that the village saw no change in the late 19th century, as four houses were significantly remodeled with major additions. Two capes were enlarged to two and a half story houses, the Joseph Maleham House in 1888, and the Thomas Murdough House in 1892. Both are now attractive late 19th century vernacular houses. Somewhat more sophisticated in design was the two-story pavilion placed on the John Wingate, Jr. House in 1873. The pavilion and the quoins of unknown date that now ornament the corners of the house, give the building a distinctly Victorian flavor, but the house still blends well with the Wakefield Village Historic District's older buildings. Another late 19th century addition that was sympathetic to its surroundings is the main block of the John Wingate House, built in 1881. Its form, two stories high with a gable roof, and a five-bay wide front with a central entry, is typical of the village's houses. And its ornament — wide corner pilasters, pedimented box cornice with frieze, entry pilasters and entablature with overdoor panel, all make it a rather late, but fine example of the Greek Revival style.
The 20th century has been equally kind to the old village. Only four buildings were erected within the Wakefield Village Historic District boundaries in the 20th century. Two new public buildings were built early in the century. The Grange Hall of 1918, is a simple vernacular building that sits modestly among its neighboring capes. The Wakefield Public Library of 1902 is a much more elaborate building, modest only in its size. It was, however, deliberately designed in the Colonial Revival style to fit into the village. In fact, it is one of the state's best examples of the style. The Colonial Revival style was also used for the Wakefield Village Historic District's only 20th century house, Westlook of 1929. The village's greatest loss in this century was the destruction by fire of the Congregational Church in 1956. Its replacement, while not a reproduction, is again a Colonial Revival building that is compatible with its neighbors.
Today, the buildings of the Wakefield Village Historic District are generally in good condition, and are well cared for by their owners. Only the Carter-Smith Store and the Yeaton House have been significantly altered in recent years, both having been resheathed with aluminum siding. Fortunately, their current owners have plans to restore their exteriors.
The Village's setting, as well as its buildings, has been well preserved. Like most late 18th and early 19th century New England villages, Wakefield Village was originally surrounded by open fields devoted to crops and pasturage. Agriculture has declined in the town of Wakefield, as elsewhere in the Lakes Region, so most of the township has reverted to woodland. The forest has crept back close to the village, notably along the rear boundaries of the properties at the National House, Congregational Church, John Wingate, Jr. House and John Wingate House. But, with the exception of the Sawyer Lot and the rear section of the Frost's Folly property, both now wooded, the land within the Wakefield Village Historic District is still open. These fields, particularly the medium to large hayfields associated with various properties, are not of architectural interest, but they do retain the historical appropriate backdrop to the Wakefield Village Historic District's buildings and are therefore essential to the village's pre-Civil War appearance.
The Wakefield Village Historic District is a remarkably well preserved village, notable for its fine 18th and 19th century houses, including excellent examples of the vernacular, Federal and Greek Revival styles. Its three oldest public buildings, the Town Hall, District No. 2 Schoolhouse, and the Wakefield Public Library are all of considerable architectural interest. This outstanding group of buildings, one of the finest early villages in the region and the state, is certainly worthy of National Register status.
Elizabeth B. MacRury, "Footsteps of Pride to the Past, Wakefield, N.H., 1774-1974" (manuscript of forthcoming history of Wakefield).
Georgia Drew Merrill, ed. — History of Carroll County (Somersworth, N.H., 1889, reprinted 1971).
"Wakefield Historic District Survey," (manuscript, Wakefield Historic District Commission, Wakefield, N.H.).
Interviews, Elizabeth B. MacRury, August 9 & 19, October 7, 1983.
† David Ruell, Lakes Region Planning Commission, Wakefield Historic District, Carroll County, NH, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.