Haverhill Corner Historic District
The Haverhill Corner Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. 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
Haverhill Corner Historic District is a concentration of private residences and public buildings distributed along two intersecting roads and around two adjacent commons. The Haverhill Corner Historic District contains 64 sites, including 7 nonconforming buildings and 3 vacant lots. A broad spectrum of architectural styles is represented, from vernacular Georgian to Bungalow, with Federal style buildings being the most numerous.
About 24 of the contributing buildings are located along the major north-south thoroughfare, State Highway 10 (Dartmouth College Highway). The two commons lie on the east side of Route 10 and are divided by the first province road, later the Coos Turnpike and now Court Street. This enters the Haverhill Corner Historic District from the east and ends at its intersection with Route 10. The commons are surrounded on all four sides by a total of 17 buildings. Extending easterly from the commons, the Haverhill Corner Historic District includes 18 contributing buildings along the north and south sides of Court Street.
The land within the Haverhill Corner Historic District is flat. The area is situated about 200 feet above the meandering Connecticut River and its farmland. Many properties in the Haverhill Corner Historic District have fine views of the River Valley and the hills of Vermont.
The concentration of buildings is a product of Haverhill Corner's role as the center of law and banking in northern New Hampshire in the first part of the 19th century and its location on major transportation routes. The development and manifestation of the architectural styles reflect the changing economic conditions over the past two hundred years. The houses built before 1790 (Daniel Stevens Homestead, c.1774, owners Arthur Warren and Mary Mudge; James Corliss Homestead, c.1775, owners Bernard and Pauline Marvin; Colonel Charles Johnston House, c.1775, owner Janice Mitchell; John Page House, c.1780, owners Paul and Jane Hunt) were those of farmers who owned tracts of land extending from the District downslope to the intervales of the Connecticut. They were large structures, with a heavy substantial aspect, showing the influence of the Georgian period. Generally, their ornamentation was limited as might be expected in the houses of the area's first settlers. The Colonel Charles Johnston home is an exception as it displays, the Georgian-influenced decorative elements of quoins and dentils. Due to Colonel Johnston's affluence and provenance, he may have desired even at such an early date for northern New Hampshire and in what must have been very difficult times, to erect a house similar to that in Haverhill, Massachusetts, his home town.
Around 1790, the finer decorative details of the Federal period began to appear, evident in the Whitney House (owners Stuart and Nancy Pompian) in the cable molding, the louvered fan above the door, and the delicate carving in the keystones over the doorway and the gable window. Twenty-nine buildings, more than half of the total in the Haverhill Corner Historic District, were constructed between 1796 and 1827. No longer were these primarily functional farm houses, but rather the imposing residences of physicians, merchants, and lawyers, or taverns where many court employees and visitors, or passing travelers could spend the night. Other structures were built by tradesmen as their place of business or as their residences. The oldest remaining public building, Pearson Hall was built in 1816 to house Haverhill Academy and the County Court. In 1827, the Methodist Church was erected and sold in 1829 to the Congregational Church to replace a house of worship located north of the village on Ladd Street.
The Federal style was manifested in a variety of ways among these buildings, from the formal church and the Adamesque Grafton Hotel, owners John and Ruth Page, to the simple Daniel and Arjanque Webb residence and Keith and Mary Kohanski house. Both the church and Pearson Hall are very significant examples of Federal architecture, displaying such classical elements as mutules, modillions, triglyphs, urns and towners with octagonal stages. Pearson Hall is thought to be one of the oldest and best-preserved structures of its type in northern New England.
As is characteristic of Federal architecture everywhere, Haverhill Corner doorways received the most attention. A local craftsman left his mark on the entrances of six structures built between 1810 and 1820. In each, the semi-elliptical wooden arch over the fanlight is carved with an alternating pattern of flowers or sunbursts and groups of flutes. Each doorway is different, but all are recessed and have fluted Doric pilasters supporting the decorated arch. Besides these, the Tall Pines House (owners George and Barbara Malloy) entrance is noteworthy for the fine detail of the attenuated entasis pilasters and the large semicircular, louvered fan over the door. Likewise, the open pedimented, semicircular fanlighted doorways of the Williams Tavern (owners Dr. David and Jane Frechette), Bliss Tavern (owners Arthur and Betty Gray) and Governor John Page House (owners Vernon W. and Catherine V. Dingman) properties are finely executed and almost identical in construction.
Only nine buildings now standing in the Haverhill Corner Historic District were erected between 1828 and 1851. Two fine and important community buildings were constructed in this period, however, the Grafton County Office Building, now the Haverhill Library, and the Grafton County Court House, now Alumni Hall. Though the Library was built in 1840, it is primarily Federal style. Alumni Hall, built in 1846, is a classic monumental, porticoed Greek Revival structure with the Gothic Revival influenced pointed arched windows. The William H. Burbeck House (owner Edith Celley) is the only other significant Greek Revival building represented in the Haverhill Corner Historic District. No pure Gothic Revival building exists in Haverhill Corner, although the style is represented in the pointed arched louvers of the residence owned by Ridler and Helen Page, the steep-pitched gable roof and balustrading over the doorway of the Towle Tavern or Gibson House (owner David O. Cowles, and the windows of Alumni Hall.
With fires, the by-passing of the Corner by the railroad, and the relocation of the County Courts to Woodsville, the fortunes of Haverhill Corner began to decline in the last half of the 1800's. However, some notable examples of architectural styles fashionable during this time period do remain. The Queen Anne house owned by Steven Buckler and Susan Hillis and the extensive Queen Anne modernizations of the Bernard and Edith Murphy property (Westgate) both display a multiplicity of gables, shingle patterns, and other decorative elements typical of the Queen Anne style. The Italianate style is expressed very simply in the Parish House of the Congregational Church, with its round-headed windows and doors, and round arch paneled pilasters. The Romanesque Revival period is well-represented in the Haverhill Academy building.
The buildings in the Haverhill Corner Historic District are well-maintained and relatively unaltered. The slight additions to or deletions from altered buildings have not created any intrusive character nor do they detract in any way from the overall integrity of the Haverhill Corner Historic District.
The Haverhill Corner Historic District boundaries were chosen on the basis of a change in the concentration of contributing buildings and the presence of relatively modern buildings. On the north, a change in topography, fields and a fire station aided in determining that boundary. On the south, a very modern Ranch style house and a decrease in contributing buildings identified the line. The western property lines of structures on the west side of Route 10 serves as the western boundary. Here also, the land drops off steeply to the river farm land, and though the Valley contributes to the visual quality of the District, it did not seem necessary or practical to include this land in the Haverhill Corner Historic District. The eastern boundary along Court Street was established where modern, noncontributing buildings appeared.
The Haverhill Corner Historic District possesses integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association and meets criterion for National Register of Historic Places listing. The Haverhill Corner Historic District is significant in the category of architecture for the period 1763 to 1921. This period spans the date of the grant of the township of Haverhill given by New Hampshire's royal governor through the development of the community as the western shire town of Grafton County and an important social and commercial center and into a period of decline due to the economic shifts and the removal of the courts to Woodsville. The period of significance extends to 1921 which saw the end of Haverhill's period of activity. Subsequent to that there was a period of inactivity which continued until the second half of the 20th century when growth pressures throughout New England gave rise to construction of several new structures within the village.
The Haverhill Corner Historic District is a well-preserved town center which displays to an unusual degree the architectural styles and town planning concepts which predominated in rural New Hampshire communities in the early nineteenth century. The village is the compact trading center of a township which was predominantly agricultural in nature and was otherwise characterized by large, separate farms. As a focus of county government and as the terminus of major transportation routes, the village came to include a wide variety of architectural types, ranging from private dwellings and taverns through school and court buildings, and including stores, offices, and shops. The architectural integrity of the district is further enhanced by open space resources relating to community planning (the commons) as well as the survival of fields which underscore the agricultural origins of the village. Because Haverhill Corner was relatively unaffected by change in the late nineteenth century and later, the village remains a remarkably well-preserved example of a prosperous northern New England town center.
Haverhill Corner Historic District is remarkable for its concentration of early nineteenth century structures of high architectural quality and wide-ranging types. These structures mirror the period of greatest prosperity in the village. Providing a context for these structures and the era they represent are a few earlier dwellings, reflecting the period of early settlement in the township, and a few later structures, reflecting a time when business and commerce had been attracted elsewhere by the railroad. At this later period, the Haverhill Corner Historic District became a quiet, bucolic village where people farmed, worked elsewhere, or were retired, living in their ancestral houses or occasionally building comfortable Queen Anne dwellings. The village remains a quiet place of relatively little commercial activity, typified by a combination of year-round and seasonal occupancy, with farming and lumbering the predominant activities on the land immediately surrounding the Haverhill Corner Historic District boundaries.
The evolution of Haverhill Corner and the surrounding countryside are well reflected in the surviving buildings of the village. The fertile ox-bows of the upper Connecticut River had become known to New England soldiers returning in the early 1760s from the French and Indian Wars. Because alluvial lands are relatively rare in New England, those who saw or learned of the intervales or flood plains of the area called "Lower Coos" by the Indians were eager to settle in this distant frontier district, bypassing much intervening land of lesser agricultural promise. Settlers obtained a grant of the township of Haverhill from New Hampshire's royal governor in 1763, and constructed the first permanent dwellings shortly thereafter. While none of these pioneer houses is known to survive, the Haverhill Corner Historic District does retain a few dwellings dating between 1769 and the American Revolution. Farmhouses of this period are represented by the houses owned by Vernon Welsh, Bernard and Pauline Marvin (James Corliss Homestead), John and June Klitgord, and Stuart and Nancy Pompian (Whitney House). More ambitious is the house owned by Janice Mitchell, built sometime after 1769 by Col. Charles Johnston.
Col. Johnston was an avid supporter of Haverhill in its early years, and the preeminence attained by the community through its natural advantages and Johnston's promotion resulted in an architectural evolution that can hardly be equalled by any other community of northern New Hampshire. Haverhill was designated the western shire town of Grafton County. Until specialized buildings could be constructed, Col. Johnston and others provided space at the Corner village for the county courts and jail. Because of its widely-known agricultural productivity, Haverhill also became the terminus of the first Province Road, completed between coastal New Hampshire and the Coos intervales around 1773-74.
By the early nineteenth century, Haverhill Corner was the juncture of the Coos Turnpike (1808) and the north-south thoroughfare; a county seat with a court house, county records building, and jail; the location of a distinguished private academy; the home of a prosperous bank; the site of a private "social" library; a printing center with its own newspaper and book publishing business; the center of mercantile activity, crafts, and trades, including cabinetmaking; and a village of many fine private homes of frame and brick construction, some of them doubling as offices for lawyers and judges. Supplementing these private dwellings were a number of taverns, required by the importance of the village in transportation, county government, and law. Surrounding the town center on the north, east and south were prosperous upland farms and, still more important, rich bottomland or "intervale" fields below the village terrace on the west. Haverhill Corner was richly endowed with natural advantages which had been improved by the enterprise of its settlers since the 1760s. The prosperity of the village was, and still is, reflected in architecture of wide variety and high quality.
Several of the public buildings of Haverhill Corner are especially significant. The Congregational Church of 1827 is a fine example of a brick meeting house in the Federal style. Its overall design is characteristic of rural meeting houses of its era and locale, its detailing is refined and imaginative, and its state of preservation is excellent. Adjacent to the church is the brick academy building of 1813-16. As a private institution of the type that provided secondary education before New Hampshire communities were empowered to establish public high schools in the mid-nineteenth century, Haverhill Academy built one of the most ambitious structures in the state. Because of its substantial size and architectural dignity, the academy building doubled as the county courthouse until a specialized court building was completed in 1846. Today, the academy building survives as one of the earliest and most ambitious structures of its kind to survive in New Hampshire.
Of similar architectural importance are the county buildings constructed during the 1840s east of the academy. The earlier of these, closest to the academy/courthouse, was built in 1840 for county offices. A two-story brick structure with granite window lintels, this building originally had a balanced five-bay facade, later lengthened to seven bays. The structure is a rare survival of an early nineteenth century office building, once providing a counterpoint to a similarly designed bank building (burned in 1906) which stood on the west side of the common. The building was converted to a library in 1929, with no change to its exterior appearance. Another little-altered survival from the same decade is the courthouse, built east of the county offices in 1846. Although the building strongly reflects the Greek Revival style in its colossal Doric portico, it is a conservative structure. The building retains the feeling of the Federal style in much of its detailing, and even the pointed door and window openings represent a local eclecticism which commonly mixed Gothic features with Federal-style classicism. Of related interest are the jail and jailkeeper's house east of the courthouse. Remodelled at the time of construction of the courthouse, these are rare survivals, dating from the late eighteenth century, of building types that seldom remain today.
Of equal significance are the many private structures included in the Haverhill Corner Historic District, especially the houses and taverns. The largest and most ambitious residences in the Haverhill Corner Historic District were built as taverns in the late 1700s or early 1800s. The architectural importance of these buildings reflects the large itinerant traffic brought to the village by its agricultural productivity, its status as a county seat and banking center, and its position at the end of an important colonial road and later a turnpike. The two largest wooden taverns in the Haverhill Corner Historic District are the Bliss Tavern of about 1790 and the Williams Tavern of 1797, balancing one another in style and position on opposite corners of the intersection of the old Province Road with the marginal road around Haverhill Common. Still more impressive is the brick Grafton Hotel of 1810, the only three-story dwelling in the village. Possessing excellent Federal detailing both within and without (including a delicate spiral staircase), this building originally had a hipped roof and even more fully reflected the form of the great coastal New England mansions of its era.
These three taverns and many of the private dwellings of the village reflect the work of unknown builders who reproduced in the upper Connecticut River valley the same inventiveness and delicacy of joiner's work and the same ambitious scale seen in coastal cities at the same period. Probably in part because of the availability of published builders' guides like Asher Benjamin's Country Builder's Assistant (1797) and The American Builder's Companion (1806), by 1810 there was no architectural time-lag between Haverhill Corners and such coastal cities as Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Newburyport, Massachusetts. Many of the same architectural motifs are seen in Haverhill and coastal communities at this time, especially the semi-elliptical doorway fanlights, bordered with alternating rosettes and fluting, probably suggested by Plate 32 in The American Builder's Companion.
The predominance of brick for ambitious public and private structures in Haverhill after 1810 also reflects an increasing awareness in the upper Connecticut River valley of coastal preferences. Between 1805 and 1815, old coastal communities like Portsmouth and Newburyport began to rebuild in brick after their compact wooden neighborhoods were devastated by fire.
The destruction by fire of a large commercial block on the west side of main street in 1848, coupled with the decision of a railroad corporation to direct its route north to the village of Woodsville, weakened the predominance of the Corners village within the region. The increasing commercial importance of whetstones mined in East Haverhill (Pike Village) also drew capital away from the old center, especially when the arrival of the railroad propelled the whetstone business into one of international significance. Removal of the courts to Woodsville in 1891 sealed the architectural and commercial fate of the village. From that time forward, Haverhill Corner slipped increasingly back to its original status as an agricultural community. Only a few houses were built in the late-nineteenth century styles, notably the Queen Anne Sarah E. Tucker House (Buckler-Hillis) of 1881; the Queen Anne "Westgate" (Bernard and Edith Murphy), remodelled from an older house in 1890; the brick Albert and Anna Rogers House (Mary, Ann and Elizabeth Campbell) of 1907, built on the site of a brick bank building that burned the year before; and the Colonial Revival Mildred Page House (Nina Henderson) of about 1916, replacing an old hotel which had burned in 1902. The only public building constructed during this era was the new Haverhill Academy of 1897, built adjacent to the old academy by the trustees of the still-private school.
For the most part, Haverhill Corner in the twentieth century has been a quiet agricultural village, occupied by year-round farmers, businesspeople employed elsewhere, retirees, and seasonal "summer people." Because its buildings were at least adequately maintained even during the Depression, Haverhill Corner has survived as an exceptionally intact village with the marked character of the early nineteenth century. Today, the village has few modern buildings which do not contribute to its historical integrity, and still fewer intrusions of any kind. The economic health of the community has improved since World War II, and hence the level of preservation and public interest in the appearance of the village has increased steadily. Most preservation activity in the village has been carried out privately in the form of good maintenance of the structures and, in some cases, by deliberate "restoration" of certain houses. A bequest by local resident Mildred W. Page established a trust fund for the preservation of public buildings at Haverhill Corner, ensuring future maintenance of the church, the school buildings, and the library (county records building) as symbolic focal points of the village.
Haverhill Corner was planned as a compact village in accordance with specifications laid down in the charter of the township. These specifications, inserted by New Hampshire's royal governor Benning Wentworth, in turn reflected royal instructions imposed by George II. Because Benning Wentworth construed the western boundaries of New Hampshire to extend to the southwestern corner of present-day Vermont, he granted 128 new townships in Vermont as well as many in western New Hampshire before leaving office in 1767. Chartered in 1763 and subdivided into lots immediately, Haverhill thus represents an epitome of eighteenth-century town planning in northern New England, reflecting attitudes toward land use throughout a large region which embraces parts of two present-day states. The plan of the village of Haverhill Corner, combining convenience for the settlers and compliance with royal instructions, illustrates the practical and aesthetic success possible under a general formula of village planning devised in England and applied wholesale across a varied landscape.
When George II appointed Benning Wentworth governor of New Hampshire in 1741, the king's instructions encouraged the granting of new frontier townships, each to embrace about 20,000 acres. In making these grants, Wentworth was obliged to adhere to several safeguards to ensure responsible settlement. Among the standard provisions of Wentworth's grant was one copied into the charter of Haverhill: "That before any Division of the Land be Made To and among the Grantees, a Tract of Land as near the Centre of sd Township as the land will admit of: Shall be Reserved and marked Out For Town Lotts one of which shall be allotted to Each Grantee of the Contents of One Acre." In many townships where there was no reason to do otherwise, settlers followed these instructions exactly, placing a village of one-acre lots at the geographical center of the township grant.
In Haverhill, however, settlers were keenly aware that the principal agricultural potential of the grant lay in the fertile alluvial oxbows of the Connecticut River. They therefore chose not to place their village in the center of the township, but at the extreme southwestern corner, on a terrace overlooking the valuable intervale land. They also divided the intervale into many small, narrow lots, giving a share of the highly productive floodplain to every proprietor of the township. The remainder of the township consisted of hilly or mountainous uplands, and this territory was laid out in a standardized grid of hundred-acre farm lots. This choice, made on the site by those who knew the topography of the township, resulted in the creation of a compact village which satisfied royal specifications yet was near the most productive fields.
After establishing the location of the village, settlers made other decisions that created the impressive town square seen today. Chief among these was the creation of the North Common and South Common. These fields were not required by the original specifications for the village, but apparently were laid out in response to popular wishes. One common was donated to the town in 1798 and the second in 1802; both were composed of parts of some of the one-acre village lots required in the town charter. It is thought that the commons were laid out principally to contribute to the attractive appearance of the Corner village, though they probably served as militia parade grounds and continue to be used for public gatherings.
Bittinger, Reverend J.Q., History of Haverhill, (Haverhill, NH, 1888).
Blaisdell, Katharine, "Haverhill Corner, Through the Years," unpublished, 1984.
Child, Hamilton, Grafton County Gazetteer, (Syracuse, NY, 1886).
Earl, Alice Morse, Stage Coach and Tavern Days, (1901).
Garvin, James L., "Range Township in Eighteenth-Century New Hampshire," in the 1980 Annual Proceedings of the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, edited by Peter Benes, (Boston, 1980).
Goldwaith, James W., "The First Province Road: The Road from Durham to Co-os," in New Hampshire Highways, (April, 1931).
Haverhill Academy, Centennial Anniversary and Reunion, (August 4 and 5, 1897).
Livermore, Arthur, Seventy Years Ago — Reminiscences of Haverhill Corners, (Woodsville, 1902).
Powers, Reverend Grant, Historical Sketches of the Coos Country, (1980).
Rodgers, Harriet Carleton, Reminiscences of Harriet Carleton Rodgers, Haverhill Historical Society, (1926).
Rodgers, Frank, Collection of Frank Rodgers Papers, 1920-30-40, Haverhill Historical Society.
Tolles, Bryant F., Jr., New Hampshire Architecture: An Illustrated Guide, University Press of New England, (Hanover, NH, 1979).
Whitcher, W. T., History of the Town of Haverhill, (1919).
† Frances Gotcsik, Katharine Blaisdell, John Klitgord, Winnifred Moran, Haverhill Historical Society, Haverhill Corner Historic District, Grafton County, New Hampshire, nomination document, 1987, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.