The Centre Harbor Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
The Centre Harbor Village Historic District is, as the name implies, the historic core of the village of Centre Harbor (Center Harbor), located at the head of Lake Winnipesaukee's Centre Harbor Bay. The Centre Harbor Village Historic District is laid out along three streets which meet in a wide intersection, marked by a public fountain. Old Meredith Road, which leads southwest from the intersection, formerly connected the villages of Centre Harbor and Meredith. Plymouth Street, to the northwest, is still an important highway (N.H. Route 25B) leading to Holderness and Plymouth, as is Main Street to the northeast (also part of Route 25B) which leads to Route 25, and thence to Moultonboro and the towns east of Centre Harbor. The northeastern edge of the Centre Harbor Village Historic District is Bean Road, a road historically important to the development of the District, as it links the village with Center Sandwich [see Center Sandwich Historic District] to the north.
Besides the early 20th century fountain, the Centre Harbor Village Historic District includes nine buildings. Two buildings face Main Street, while the other seven face Plymouth Street, six on the north side of the street and the Nichols Memorial Library on the south. The library is the only 20th century building and the only masonry building in the Centre Harbor Village Historic District. All of the other buildings are 19th century wooden residential and commercial structures. (One of these, however, the Kahle House, was substantially enlarged and completely remodeled in the early 20th century.) The buildings on the north side of Plymouth Street stand close to the sidewalk; and five of the six are set closely together, separated only by driveways and alleys. The other buildings in the Centre Harbor Village Historic District have more spacious lots and are set back from the road. Currently, four of the buildings (Raines House, Coe House, Kahle House, and Dane House) are vacant; three (Locust Cottage, Dr. Morrill House, and Page House) are single family homes; one (Morse & Stanley Block) is used for both offices and apartments, and one serves as the local public library (Nichols Memorial Library).
The Centre Harbor Village Historic District is significant for its concentration of architecturally interesting buildings of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The establishment of the village of Centre Harbor was not planned, but was virtually dictated by the geography of the Lakes Region. Lake Winnipesaukee and Big Squam Lake, New Hampshire's two largest lakes, almost divide the region in two. Because of the mountainous terrain north and south, of the lakes, the most practical route for east-west travel within the region is through the two mile wide gap between the two lakes. Route selection is further limited by a small mountain, Red Hill, and another water body, Lake Kanasatka, just east of the gap, which force any road to the south side of the gap, skirting the head of Center Harbor Bay. As a result, there developed in the late 18th century at the head of the Bay, an intersection of four important roads, a road west skirting the south shore of Squam Lake to the Pemigewasset Valley towns of Holderness and Plymouth (Plymouth Street), a road southwest to Meredith, and the towns of the Winnipesaukee and Merrimack River valleys (Old Meredith Road), a road northeast to Moultonboro and the towns east of the lakes (Main Street and Route 25), and a road north between Squam Lake and Red Hill to the village of Center Sandwich (Bean Road). Around this important crossroads, there grew up a small hamlet, which, by 1837, contained some twenty houses, three taverns, three stores, two blacksmith shops, a cider mill, a schoolhouse and a Congregational Church,
Another factor in the growth of the village was Lake Winnipesaukee as sailboats, horseboats, and, later, steamboats were important means of transportation in the Lakes Region in the 18th and 19th centuries. Center Harbor, with, its broad bay, was a major lake port. After two railroad lines were built to the Lake, reaching Lakeport in 1848 and Alton Bay in 1849, regular steamboat service was established on the Lake. Until railroads were built directly to the White Mountains, the major route for tourists was to the Lake by railroad, then by steamboat to Centre Harbor, where the travelers boarded stages for Conway and the mountains. Lake Winnipesaukee itself became an important destination for vacationers. And Centre Harbor village entered a period of prosperity based largely on the tourist trade. Major hotels were built in the village the old Senter House which stood on the site of the Library, the Colonial Hotel and the Moulton House, both of which stood just outside the Centre Harbor Village Historic District on the other sides of Old Meredith Road and Plymouth Street. Summer homes, many the large estates of the wealthy, were built on the lakeshore and hillsides near the village.
Most of the buildings in the Centre Harbor Village Historic District date, in their present forms, from this prosperous period between the establishment of the steamboat lines and World War I. Only one building, the Locust Cottage is a reminder of the earlier hamlet, as it remains, despite a later porch, an attractive early 19th century vernacular house. While the period of construction is not known for the Raines House, its style is that of the late Greek Revival with some Victorian details in the entry and porch. So, this pleasing building may well date from the 1850's. The other houses are all representative of the Victorian period. The Dr. Morrill House is a rather modest Victorian vernacular building, and the other two are well-preserved buildings of obvious architectural merit. The Coe House, notable for its proportions and ornament, is one of the best surviving early Victorian houses in the region. The Page House, although less important, is nevertheless a fine mid-Victorian house that is an ornament to the village. The one Victorian commercial building surviving in the Centre Harbor Village Historic District is the Morse & Stanley Block which, despite some alterations, notably on the first floor, is still a good example of its type.
The 20th century has seen a few changes in the Centre Harbor Village Historic District. In 1907, a wealthy summer resident gave the Kona Drinking Fountain to adorn the village's major intersection. The fountain is unique in the Lakes Region as the only public fountain boasting sculpture, here a charming piece by Massachusetts sculptor, Samuel Russell Gerry Crook. Another public benefactor, James E. Nichols, gave an even more impressive gift to the town in 1910, the Nichols Memorial Library. Designed in a Classical style by prominent Boston architect Charles Brigham, the Library is one of the best small public libraries in the state, and the most architecturally significant building in the town of Centre Harbor. Its exterior, like the fountain's has not changed since the day of its dedication. Two 19th century buildings (Kahle House and Dane House) were enlarged and remodeled in the 1920's to form the new Garnet Inn complex. Kahle House was completely remodeled and therefore, has a more coherent design than the Dane House, which still retains much of its 19th century character. Both, however, are attractive buildings, particularly if considered separately.
Since the 1920's, the District has survived almost unchanged. This stability can be attributed partially to the new section of Route 25, built nearer the lake in 1953 and 1954 to bypass the village. Strip commercial development has been diverted to the new road, thus sparing the Centre Harbor Village Historic District. Several of the buildings in the Centre Harbor Village Historic District were used by the short-lived Belknap College (1963-1973). Page House was the college president's residence, while the property now owned by Centre Harbor Village Associates (Raines House, Coe House, Kahle House, and Dane House) served as the College's Lower Campus. But only Coe House saw any important external changes, and then only in the wings. One building within district boundaries, Harper House, located on Main Street just north of Raines House, did burn in 1972, while being used as a college dormitory. Basically, however, the Centre Harbor Village Historic District appears today as it did over fifty years ago, a pleasant village core notable for the quality of its buildings.
Centre Harbor Historic Resources Survey (1982 and 1983, manuscript, Centre Harbor Historical Society, Centre Harbor) — survey forms prepared by the following volunteers, Gladys Bickford — Coe House, Garnet Inn, Locust Cottage, Nichols Memorial Library; Dorothy K. Simonds — Raines House, Dr. Morrill House, Page House; Nancy Kelley — Kona Drinking Fountain; supplementary fact sheet prepared by Gladys Bickford.
Smith F. Emery, "Sketch of Village of Centre Harbor, 75 Years Ago" (1914, manuscript, Centre Harbor Historical Society, Centre Harbor).
Interviews: Gladys Bickford, December 28, 1982, February 15, 1983, Gladys Bickford and Dorothy K. Simonds, January 19 and February 8, 1983.
‡ David L. Ruell, Lakes Region Planning Commission, Centre Harbor Village Historic District, Belknap County, New Hampshire, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Main Street • Plymouth Street • Route 25B