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Old County Road South Historic District


The Old County Road South Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. 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 Old County Road South Historic District contains thirteen houses, with related barns and outbuildings, clustered in small groups along three winding dirt roads. Nine of the houses date to the late-18th and early-19th centuries; they have experienced minimal alterations and are being maintained with an unusual respect for their architectural integrity. There are four archaeological sites in the Old County Road South Historic District, three of which are associated with specific properties.

Buildings and sites contributing to the Old County Road South Historic District (associated landscape or scenic features are also indicated):

1. The Stephen Rolfe House, c.1800, Georgian/Federal (Tax Map 5, Lot 88).

The Stephen Rolfe House, with its steeply-pitched hip roof, projecting box cornice and massive central brick chimney, is a transitional Georgian/Federal wood-frame residence. The Georgian massing of the house is complemented by a prominent frontispiece which, although Georgian in scale, exhibits Federal details. The entrance surround consists of tapering pilasters supporting a full entablature, enframing a 6-panel Federal door flanked by half-length sidelights. The two-story house is 5x2 bays with each window set in a Federal period molded architrave: first story sash are 6/6, second story sash are 9/6. The house has a one-story ell.

2. The Moses Bradford House, c.1790, Georgian (Tax Map 12, Lot 3).

An exceptionally large 5x3-bay wood-frame Georgian residence, the Moses Bradford House is dominated by a steeply-pitched hip roof and two symmetrically-placed interior brick chimneys. The center entrance is framed by a c.1830 Regency-style surround (unique in the Old County Road South Historic District) with corner blocks and a large central tablet. This feature is contemporary with the 6/6 Greek Revival sash in most of the windows. The clapboarded walls are framed by corner boards and a continuous water table; the roof edge is defined with a simple box cornice. A one-story wing on the east elevation connects to a small barn, which has "ship-type" curved interior knee-braces, uncommon in the area.

3. The Asa Lewis House, c.1774, Georgian "Saltbox" [Tax Map 3, Lot 23).

The Asa Lewis House is a traditional 5x1-bay, 2-1/2-story wood-frame Saltbox-form house with 9/6 sash and a massive central brick chimney projecting from the ridgeline of its wood shingle roof. The facade features a central entrance composed of flat pilasters supporting a full entablature with a wide, flat architrave; below it is a 4-light transom above the 4-panel door. A 1-story 5x1-bay ell extends from the southwest corner.

Behind the house is an 1876 detached barn with vertical boarding, and a row of early carriage sheds.

4. The Peter Farnum House, c.1790, Georgian (Tax Map 2, Lot 4; Tax Map 3, Lot 24).

The Peter Farnum House is a 5x1-bay, 2-1/2-story wood-frame Georgian residence with a central brick chimney straddling the ridgeline of its gable roof. The Georgian style is reflected on the exterior by a prominent box cornice with a molded frieze; other principal features date from a c.1830 Greek Revival updating. The 4-panel door in the central entrance is flanked by three-quarter sidelights and pilaster strips which support a peaked lintel; the windows have 6/6 sash. On the interior, original wall stencilling remains in the southwest (principal) front chamber. An attached half "Cape-type" cottage, predating the main house, forms an ell.

Located across the road are an "L"-shaped barn and a small 3x1-bay shed. The barn dates to 1832, according to builders' marks found inside. These structures, and open land adjacent to the house, contribute to the Old County Road South Historic District's visual character.

On the same property, opposite the intersection of Old County Road South and Birdsall Road, is a 3-meter by 6-meter stone-lined cellar hole.

5. The Sally Jones Cottage, c.1804, Federal (Tax Map 2, Lot 13).

The Sally Jones Cottage is a simply-detailed 5x2-bay wood-frame central-chimney "Cape" with a gently-pitched gable roof. Its main stylistic features are a 6-panel Federal door with a 4-light transom and 9/6 sash windows. A sympathetic extension was added to the south elevation in 1972; a breezeway off the north elevation connects to a small 1-1/2-story mid-19th century barn.

6. The William Starrett Farm, 1806, Federal (Tax Map, Lot 12; Tax Map 3, Lot 19).

This property is dominated by the William Starrett House, a large 4x2-bay, hip-roofed Federal style brick residence with four large, symmetrically-placed corner chimneys. The irregularly-spaced windows on the facade contain 12/12 sash framed by molded architraves. The entrance, centered on the facade, features a 4-panel door with a 5-light transom above. Sheltering the entry is a 3x1-bay c.1875 veranda, supported with pierced wooden posts and scrolled brackets. A projecting brick belt course encircles the entire house. The original dwelling on the site, a 1-1/2-story wood-frame "Cape" cottage, c.1773, with added Federal details, is attached to the north elevation; from it, a rectangular shed projects to the west. An interior first-floor room of the main house is stenciled with the same pattern found in the Franklin Pierce Homestead ballroom in Hillsborough, New Hampshire.

Across the road from the dwelling are two barns and a smaller outbuilding, all dating to the mid-nineteenth century.

This property has an exceptional setting which offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The site is approached through a corridor of closely-spaced overhanging maple trees, one of the Old County Road South Historic District's key landscape elements.

There are two archaeological sites on this property. Near the southwest corner is the Starrett Brickyard, clearly indicated by mounds of bricks concentrated in an area of approximately 10 square meters. The undisturbed nature of the site suggests that an archaeological investigation could yield information of the nature and extent of the brick-manufacturing processes. On the northern edge of the property, near the intersection of Old County Road South and Pratt Road, are three discernible depressions documented to be the tannery pits used by Peter Farnum, whose house stands across the road.

7. The Fisher Homestead, c.1790, Georgian/Federal (Tax Map 3, Lots 18 and 25).

The Fisher Homestead is a 1-1/2-story wood-frame "Cape" cottage, 7x3 bays, with 2 symmetrically-placed brick chimneys on the ridgeline of the gable roof. The principal entrance located in the central bay of the east (gable) elevation is flanked by flat pilasters supporting a wide architrave and projecting cornice. Placement of the entry in a gable elevation is unusual for the date of the house, particularly in a rural vernacular residence; the use of 7 bays (rather than 5 or less) is also uncommon.

A large mid-nineteenth century barn with weathered board-and-batten siding stands north of the house. The site is complemented by open fields to the south and west and offers a 270-degree scenic vista.

8. The Simeon Dodge House ("Rook Farm"), c.1782, Georgian Saltbox (Tax Map 2, Lots 16 & 41).

An unaltered Georgian style three-quarter wood-frame 4x1-bay Saltbox, the Simeon Dodge House has a central brick chimney and 9/6 sash in surrounds with prominent architrave moldings. Its distinctive frontispiece consists of pilasters, with entasis, supporting a wide architrave and projecting cornice with a 5-light transom over a 4-panel Greek Revival door. A 1-story wing and a shoulder on the second story extend from the north elevation. The central chimney is constructed with clay instead of lime mortar below the roof; the bake-oven is located — archaically — in the rear rather than at the side of the fireplace.

9. Joshua B. Dodge Place, c.1787, Georgian (Tax Map 2, Lots 18, 39, 40 and 42).

The Joshua B. Dodge House is a simple wood-frame 5x3-bay Georgian "Cape" cottage. The central entrance has a 5-light transom; the windows contain 9/6 sash framed by molded architraves and flanked by single-pane exterior shutters. The massive central chimney is over 3-meters square. The Joshua Dodge House is unique in Francestown as an example of vertical plank construction. A 1x1-bay wing extends from the west elevation; there is a lean-to at the rear.

Behind the house is a historic archaeological site, the remnants of Dogdes' Carding and Grist Mill, a partially-reinforced stone dam, portions of the raceway and mill foundation remain, along with the mill pond.

10. Joseph Underhill House, c.1940.

The Joseph Underhill House is an unobtrusive 2-1/2-story wood-frame, clapboarded Neo-Colonial reproduction "Cape" cottage designed to be compatible with the surrounding Old County Road South Historic District.

Other buildings in the Old County Road South Historic District (non-contributing structures).

11. Paul Ellis House, c.1972.

The Paul Ellis House is a 4-bay wood-frame, shingled "Ranch style" residence.

12. Thomas McDonnell House, c.1879, c.1979.

The Thomas McDonnell House is a rebuilt 3x1-bay Cottage, originally a farm building, moved to the present site. An attached 2-story garage added in 1979 is the only substantial visual intrusion in the Old County Road South Historic District, and affects only a small section of Birdsall Road.

13. Semple Cottage, c.1940, c.1979.

This small camp-cottage, recently winterized for year-round occupancy, is located in a wooded area, and is invisible from roads in the Old County Road South Historic District.

With the exception of buildings #11, #12 and #13, listed above, all other sites, structures, and land (wooded and open) in the district contribute significantly to the character and integrity of the Old County Road South Historic District.

Significance

The Old County Road South Historic District contains nine intact Georgian and Federal residences with associated outbuildings, and exhibits all of the visual attributes commonly associated with the rural New England environment. Many of the houses were built by early Francestown residents who played major roles in shaping the town's development. The dirt roads traversing the Old County Road South Historic District are lined by virtually continuous stone walls; corridors of overhanging maple trees, open farmland, orchards, weatherbeaten barns and panoramic scenic vistas contribute to the area's aesthetic character. The concentration of architectural and scenic resources makes the Old County Road South Historic District an exceptionally cohesive remnant of the 19th-century rural landscape.

Old County Road South stands out architecturally for its superb collection of Georgian and Federal houses dating from c.1774 to 1806. Some have their distinctive features; others are locally significant examples of their style. Except for a few entrances altered in the Greek Revival period, the houses retain virtually all their original details, both interior and exterior. The 1774 Asa Lewis House and the 1782 Simeon Dodge House exhibit the traditional "Saltbox" form. They are the only two Saltbox-type houses still standing in Francestown. One of the three "Cape" cottages in the Old County Road South Historic District, the 1787 Joshua Dodge House, is a rare example of vertical plank construction, a relatively uncommon eighteenth-century framing technique. The Peter Farnum House, a simple Georgian residence with a Greek Revival entry, is notable for the original 1790 stencilling which remains in the main parlor.

Two large Georgian houses standing in close proximity along Old County Road South highlight the northern extent of the Old County Road South Historic District. The Moses Bradford House, c.1790, is a classic illustration of domestic Georgian architecture, slightly modified by the addition of a Regency style entry surround which relates well to the facade. The Stephen Rolfe House, c.1800, across the road, shares a close stylistic relationship with the Moses Bradford House. The Federal period detailing of the Stephen Rolfe House, however, attests to the growing regional influence of the Federal style at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The eastern part of the Old County Road South Historic District is dominated by the William Starrett House, a majestic high-style Federal residence distinguished by four tall corner chimneys which emphasize the formality typically associated with Federal-period architecture. Erected in 1806 from bricks made on the property, it is one of the earliest brick houses in Francestown. The facade boasts a c.1875 veranda which lends a splash of Victorian exuberance to the whole.

Settled at the beginning of Francestown's development, Old County Road South was the home of many citizens prominent in early town affairs. The primary historical associations center around two of the most influential residents, Moses Bradford and William Starrett, both of whom lived in houses expressing their status. Moses Bradford served as the first pastor of the Francestown Congregational Church; holding that position for 37 years, he exerted a powerful influence on community life. Construction of his house on Old County Road South helped establish the area as a prestigious residential neighborhood. William Starrett, one of Francestown's original settlers, was the first deacon of the Congregational Church. Committed to the future of the town, he was a prime motivating force in the formation of the local government.

Three local businesses started by Old County Road South residents provide additional historic context. Peter Farnum established a tannery on his property in 1790. Later owned by Farnum's son, the tanning operation continued through the mid-nineteenth century. Between 1806 and 1860, the Farnums also ran the Starrett Brickyard, which supplied bricks for numerous Francestown buildings. In 1816, Simeon Dodge, another of the area's early settlers, erected a water-powered carding and grist mill on Brennan Brook, which flows along the southern edge of the Old County Road South Historic District.

Remnants of all these enterprises survive, adding a historic archaeological component to the Old County Road South Historic District. Three easily-discernible depressions across from the Farnum House are vestiges of Farnum's tannery pits. On the Starrett property, the site of the brick yard is clearly indicted by several piles of discarded bricks concentrated in a ten-square meter area. Foremost among the archaeological resources are the remains of Dodge's gristmill. The stone dam and mill pond, portions of the stone-lined raceway and mill foundation, and evidence of at least one related building survive. The only alteration to the site is the construction of a concrete retaining wall across the raceway. Finally, there is a small cellar hole at the intersection of Old County Road South and Birdsall Road, reportedly the foundation of the original schoolhouse for the southern section of Francestown. Closely related to local industry and growth, these sites complement the range of historical resources in the Old County Road South Historic District. They also could provide information about patterns of economic development, industrial processes, and the interaction/integration of agricultural and industrial/commercial activities in a discrete area; in addition, they could amplify the historical record of social status, entrepreneurship, and sense of civic responsibility among the early settlers of Francestown. It is noteworthy that Cochrane and Wood observe (p.413), "...before 1775 the village was of very slow growth, the people nearly all lived on farms." Sources of the post-Revolutionary economic expansion may have related to local and individual or to larger, regional trends; or to a combination of both. The Old County Road South Historic District is a repository of tangible clues for interpretation of these aspects of New Hampshire's past.

The Old County Road South Historic District is also exceptionally significant for its aesthetic integrity, as an area which offers a complete visual definition of the New Hampshire rural cultural landscape: tree-bordered dirt roads, barns, stone walls, orchards, open fields punctuated by wetlands, ponds and small brooks, and panoramic vistas abound. The visual amenities of the Old County Road South Historic District constitute a scenic as well as historic resource rarely, if ever, equalled in New England.

References

Cochrane, W. R., and Wood, George K., History of Francestown, New Hampshire 1758-1896 Nashua, New Hampshire, 1895.

Schott, John R., Frances' Town, A History of Francestown, New Hampshire, Town of Francestown, 1972.

† Mrs. Robert W. Staub, Mrs. William Mansen and Roger A. Brevoort, Old County Road South Historic District, Francestown, NH, nomination document, 1979, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Old County Road South Historic District Map

Street Names
Birdsall Road • Gerrish Road • Old County Road South • Stevens Road

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