Lyndeborough Center Historic District
The Lyndeborough Center 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 Lyndeborough Center Historic District is a group of three structures standing on an elevated site which since 1772 has been regarded as the geographical center of the irregularly-shaped township. Two of the structures are public buildings (a town hall and a church); these replaced a meeting house which had been built in 1772 and had served both functions later performed separately by these two buildings. The third structure is a stone enclosure for impounding stray animals; as in many New Hampshire communities, this was built close to the geographical center of the township for convenience. All three of these structures stand on a hilltop with light vegetation (mostly red maples and sugar maples) and several rocky outcrops. Until the early twentieth century a fourth structure, a long unpainted shed divided into stalls for horses, stood immediately south of the church.
The two buildings in the Lyndeborough Center Historic District are nearly contemporary with one another and were constructed to serve the two functions formerly performed by the old meeting house. Both buildings are-good examples of a simple, rural interpretation of the Greek Revival style, both share a common scale and a common aesthetic. The two buildings, with the pound between them, are placed essentially parallel to one another facing Center Road. The principal axis of each runs east and west, and the similar orientation of the two buildings reinforces a sense of coherence and focus at this small town center.
Early photographs suggest that the Lyndeborough Center Historic District has changed only superficially since these structures were erected in the years before 1850; nor has the surrounding neighborhood been much altered. Beyond the borders of the Lyndeborough Center Historic District, but strengthening its sense of integrity, are scattered wood-frame dwellings which are similar in date and style to the structures at the Center. Because commercial growth in Lyndeborough was attracted to a southern hamlet in the township by waterpower and by the coming of the railroad in 1873, the district has remained essentially unaltered since assuming its present form.
There are no nonconforming intrusions within the boundaries of the Lyndeborough Center Historic District.
Structures which contribute to the integrity of the Lyndeborough Center Historic District are:
Town Hall. The Lyndeborough Town Hall (1845; 1883) is a rectangular framed structure measuring approximately 40 feet wide by 50 feet long, with clapboarded walls, a roof covered with asphalt shingles, and a foundation of split granite slabs resting on fieldstone underpinning. The gable end of the structure faces the road and is treated as the facade. Two single-flue brick chimneys pierce the roof, one on the south slope near the front and the second on the north slope near the rear of the building.
The building is treated with simple Greek Revival detailing. Its facade has a central doorway, flanked by two windows with 12-over-12 sashes. Both the door and the windows have flat casings with applied fillets at their outer margins and with square blocks at their upper corners. The door of the building has flat panels surrounded by Grecian ogee mouldings. The doorsteps are two blocks of hammered granite.
The corners of the facade are defined by flat boards which rise to support a cornice; this extends across the front of the building, creating a closed triangular pediment in the gable. The clapboarded tympanum of this pediment is pierced by two windows with 6-over-6 sashes and flat undecorated casings.
The north side of the building has five windows with casings like those on the first floor of the facade.
The south elevation has four windows like those on the north. The location of the fifth window is occupied by a small gable-roofed wing which has a single small 6-over-6 window and a door in its east elevation.
The interior originally had a single plastered room on the main story. At sometime following the construction of the building, a stage was added. In 1883 the building was remodelled for more versatile use, largely under the efforts of the local Pinnacle Grange which had met there since its founding in 1873. The roof pitch was increased for greater headroom in the attic, and the attic was finished as a second story. A kitchen was provided and the attic became a hall used for dinners. Following this alteration, the building was used increasingly for a variety of social gatherings, a function which it retains to a degree today. Use of the building for town meetings ceased in 1964 and Grange use ended in 1973. Today the building is the home of the local Lyndeborough Historical Society and continues to accommodate various social events.
The exterior appearance of the Town Hall has changed relatively little. Originally covered with wooden shingles, the roof of the building was given a sheathing of tinned steel in the late nineteenth century and now has asphalt shingles. The building originally had louvered wooden blinds at each of its main first-floor windows; only those on the front remain.
Town Pound. About 125 feet north of the Town Hall is the town animal pound. Built on a natural outcrop of ledge and measuring about 32 feet square, the enclosure is constructed with fieldstone walls laid without mortar to a height of some 5-1/2 feet. The structure was built in 1774 at a cost of four pounds, and originally stood next to the meeting house which had been built two years previously as the political and religious focus of the town.
Congregational Church. The northernmost structure in the Lyndeborough Center Historic District is the Congregational Church. Built in 1837 to replace the Old Center meeting house as a place for religious meetings, the church is a rectangular framed structure about 44 feet wide and 52 feet long. One story high with a gable roof covered with asphalt shingles, the building has a foundation of split granite slabs and front steps of split and hammered granite. The gable end of the structure faces the road to the east and is treated as the facade. Two single-flue brick chimneys pierce the roof at the rear wall of the building.
The church has pronounced Greek Revival detailing. The facade has two symmetrically placed eight-panel doors which are flanked by sidelights and surrounded by moulded casings with applied fillets at their inner and outer margins and with square corner blocks, also with marginal fillets, at their upper corners. In the center of each of the top casings is an ornamental tablet of a type suggested by the later books of Asher Benjamin. Above the doors are two second-story windows with 6-over-6 sashes and Greek Revival casings; these originally lighted a gallery at the east end of the church auditorium.
The Greek Revival character of the facade is further emphasized by two broad wooden antae or pilasters at the corners; these rise to support a full three-part entablature at the level of the eaves of the building. The cornice of this entablature defines a triangular pediment in the gable. The tympanum of the pediment is clapboarded and has two rectangular windows with 6-over-6 sashes which light the attic of the church. Above these, in the center of the tympanum just below the peak of the roof, is a semicircular louvered fan.
Rising from the ridge at the front of the building is a three-stage tower. The lowest stage is a square clapboarded base with simple pilasters at its corners and a deeply projecting cornice above. The second stage is an open octagonal belfry with eight faceted columns rising from a panelled base and supporting a cornice. The belfry contains a bell cast in the bell-founding city of Troy, New York, in 1857. Above the belfry is a faceted roof which rises to support a tall octagonal spire with an ornate vane at its peak.
Each side of the church has three tall windows with moulded casings similar to those at the front of the building. In 1896 the earlier sashes of these windows were replaced with sashes bearing four large lights of clear glass surrounded by narrow strips of stained glass. All windows of the church except those in the gable have louvered blinds; those in the gable had such blinds well into the twentieth century.
The interior of the church was remodelled in 1886 and many of the present appointments of the auditorium date from that change. The main room is entered through two six-panel doors leading from a front vestibule through a gently curved plastered partition. Above these doors are interior windows which transmit some of the light from the second-story windows of the facade to the interior of the church. Along each side of the room are three windows which, like those in the east wall, have moulded Greek Revival interior casings with square corner blocks. The room is filled with "slip" pews in a Renaissance Revival style with bosses and panels of dark wood on their ends. These are arranged amphitheater-fashion to face choir pews and a dais which extend across the west wall of the room. On the dais is a reading desk or lectern in the Renaissance Revival style and three Gothic chairs. At the east end of the room, between the two doors, is a low enclosure of vertical ceiling boards for musical instruments.
The auditorium is given marked character by careful plastering. The ceiling is gently coved, and the bays between the two chimneys on the west wall are treated with arched niches which have painted texts and trompe l'oeil cloud effects. The room is lighted by two chandeliers which bear six electrified kerosene lamps.
The exterior of the church has changed little since 1837, although records suggest that occasional repairs have been made to the tower due to lightning damage and have reduced the height of the spire. The interior was greatly altered in 1886. A gallery which had once extended across the east end of the room was sealed off, the pews were replaced, a former high reading desk was replaced by the present low dais with its furniture, and the room was carpeted.
The Masonian Proprietors typically required that a "ministerial lot" near the center of the township have a six- or ten-acre plot carved out of it for a meeting house, burying ground, training field, and other "public" uses. This requirement led to a decision in 1768 to build the meeting house at the Center; the structure was completed in 1772, and the town pound was constructed two years later at the same convenient site.
When repairs were being carried out on the meeting house in 1793, a desire manifested itself to obtain a more spacious lot surrounding the building and the adjacent pound. Since the terms under which the Masonian Proprietors had granted Lyndeborough called for a ten-acre meeting house lot "for public use, notwithstanding such Lott should be laid out to any particular person or person," and since the meeting house lot was considerably smaller than ten acres, a committee was chosen to negotiate with the private owner of land was set off as a common around the meeting house; this is the origin of the land that composes the Lyndeborough Center Historic District of today.
The Lyndeborough Center Historic District is a group of three structures which represent the administrative center of a rural New Hampshire township from the eighteenth century until well into the twentieth century. Continuing to occupy the site and the functions of the long-removed 1772 meeting house, the two buildings that survive at the Center symbolize a political and religious focus that was planned by the town proprietors and has been preserved intact by the movement of economic activity to other parts of the township.
Architecture: The two buildings within the Lyndeborough Center Historic District are excellent rural examples of the Greek Revival style. Replacing an outmoded eighteenth-century meeting house, the town hall and the church reveal a consciousness among the inhabitants of a small New Hampshire community of the current style of more urbanized areas. Retaining their integrity despite some remodellings in the late-nineteenth century, both buildings remain as symbols of the taste of rural New Hampshire in the decades before 1850. Due to the movement of the town's commercial activity to a more southerly hamlet with the combined attractions of waterpower, minerals, and the railroad, the Lyndeborough Center Historic District has been preserved essentially unchanged from the period of its final evolution in the 1840s. Present uses of the buildings serve to maintain them and to reduce the threat of future intrusions. The Town Hall has been supplanted for regular meetings by another public building at South Lyndeborough, but continues to serve for occasional functions and to provide a home for the local Lyndeborough Historical Society; the church continues in use for summer services by a merged community congregation. Thus continuing in a diminished but still active role, the buildings at the old Center preserve a strong sense of the time and place of their origins. In this sense, the Lyndeborough Center Historic District compares with other eighteenth century centers in Masonian townships which, like Lyndeborough, have often been supplanted by other sites that have attracted economic and political activity.
Community Planning: The Lyndeborough Center Historic District is a surviving relic of a decision which was made in 1768. Prior to that time, the inhabitants of the townships had erected two meeting houses, the first apparently never finished and the second built in an inconvenient location. Due to several alterations in the territory encompassed within the township, the inhabitants again found it necessary in 1768 to determine the geographical center of the tract and to build a third meeting house on that site.
Construction of the third meeting house at the geographical center of the township was dictated not only by the preferences of the inhabitants, but also by the general rules of the original proprietors of the lands. Like many New Hampshire townships, Lyndeborough was part of a tract owned by a group of private landowners whose speculative enterprise was centered in Portsmouth, the provincial capital. In 1746 these men, known as the Masonian Proprietors, purchased the proprietary claim to New Hampshire lands that had descended to the heirs of Capt. John Mason, the original grantee of New Hampshire in the early seventeenth century. This huge tract embraced the territory of Lyndeborough, which was divided into lots for settlers.
† John Miles Keefe, Lyndeborough Center Historic District, Lyndeborough, NH,nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.