Photo: Lord Mansion, Lords Hill Historic District, Route 153, Effingham, NH. The Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Photographed by User:Magicpiano (own work), 2014, [cc-by-3.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed October, 2014.
The Lord's Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
The Lord's Hill Historic District encompasses an attractive early village on Lord's Hill in the town of Effingham. The hill is actually a long ridge, whose axis runs from the northwest to the southeast. The land slopes more dramatically on the southwest slope of the ridge than it does on the northeast slope. The top of the ridge is fairly flat, interrupted only by a dip, in which is found the Lord's Hill Historic District's only water bodies, a small artificial pond on Hobbs Road at the Isaac Lord House property and a small brook that flows to the southwest from the pond. Running along the top of the ridge is an old range road. The range road, although a straight line in its course, is now considered three different roads, with Plantation Road to the east and Hobbs Road to the west. The central section of the range road is now part of Route 153, which climbs up to the ridge from the southwest, takes a right angle turn onto the range road to follow it to the northwest for about six hundred feet, then bears north at the dip in the ridge to descend the northeast slope of the hill. The corners of Route 153's intersections are cut off by short roads. A short dirt road at the intersection of Route 153 and Hobbs Road leaves a grassed triangle. (The sloping triangle is distinguished only by a telephone pole and a state historical marker describing the normal school in the Effingham Union Academy building.) A paved road cuts across the sharp right angle made by Route 153 as it reaches the top of the ridge, thereby isolating the Parade (a small park), with its bandstand, from the rest of the Congregational Church property. Route 153, a state highway, is paved, but Hobbs Road and Plantation Road are both unpaved town roads.
The Lord's Hill Historic District contains twenty-one properties. (One property consists of two parcels, the Leavitt House on the east side of Route 153 and the garage and family cemetery on the west side of the road.) One property is a small park, the Parade, with the already mentioned bandstand. There are also five small cemeteries, four of which (Lamper Cemetery, Hobbs Cemetery, Lord Cemetery and Dearborn Cemetery) are separate properties, The remaining sixteen properties have sixteen major buildings and nineteen outbuildings. Counting the bandstand, there are therefore thirty-six buildings in the Lord's Hill Historic District. Of the sixteen major buildings, fourteen were built as houses, one as a church (or, more properly, as a meetinghouse) and one as an academy. With the exception of the Effingham Union Academy, restored by the local historical society for use as a museum and a meeting place, all of the buildings serve in their original functions. The major buildings are all set near the roads behind lawns of varying depths. With two exceptions, (Leavitt House and Dearborn-Keay House), their main facades face the road. The lots vary substantially in size, but the buildings are generally set comfortably apart. The greatest density of buildings is found in the center of the village, on Route 153 around the Parade. Away from the Parade, the buildings are more widely spaced.
The village is remarkably homogeneous in its architecture. All thirty-six buildings are of wooden construction. With the exception of two houses (Chase House and Close-Wronsky House), which have been sheathed in recent years with aluminum or vinyl "clapboarding," all of the major buildings are sheathed with wooden clapboards, painted white. (A few of the attached sheds and barns do, however, have facades with wooden shingles or boarding, and, in one case each, asphalt shingles, asbestos shingles and composition board.) Clapboarding is also the preferred sheathing for the outbuildings although wooden and asphalt shingles, vertical and horizontal boarding, tar paper, and novelty siding can also be found. The major buildings are similar in height, being one-and-a-half, two, or two-and-a-half story buildings, with only the church steeple and the three-story Isaac Lord House rising to greater heights. In form, the major buildings are also similar. The two public buildings, the Congregational Church and the Effingham Union Academy, are rectangular, gable roofed buildings with their gable ends serving as the main facades. The houses include three Capes, eight larger relatives of the Cape (that is to say, the five-bay wide, two- to three-story house type, with a central entry, and a hip or gable roof) and three gable-end houses of the type popular in the mid to late 19th century, with the gable end serving as the main facade. Although ranging in date from the 1770's to the 1940's, the major buildings were mostly erected in the late 18th century and early to mid 19th century. Only four of them were erected after the 1860's. In style, they represent the vernacular of the 18th and 19th centuries, the Georgian and Federal styles, and the Colonial Revival style, all related and compatible styles. Only the Greek Revival church represents a later high style, and it, of course, still fits well with its neighbors. As a result of this compatibility of style, form and material, the village of Lord's Hill has a very pleasing architectural unity, which makes it exceptional among the villages of central New Hampshire.
The Lord's Hill Historic District is significant as a well preserved early New England village, distinguished by its architecturally important 18th and 19th century buildings.
The village's roads all date from the late 18th century settlement of Effingham. The straight road formed by Plantation Road, Hobbs Road, and the central section of Route 153 is, in fact, one of the town's range roads, laid out in the original survey and division of the township. Route 153 was also built during the period of settlement as a major road from the north to the south. (That section of this main road north of the range road was at first located more to the west, parallel to the present road. But, because of the difficulty of that section of the route, the road was soon moved to its present course.)
Not surprisingly, therefore, Lord's Hill was settled very early in the town's history. The oldest building in the Lord's Hill Historic District, located on Route 153, was begun by Benjamin Dearborn in 1772, and enlarged by his nephew Asahel Dearborn in the early 1790's. The Dearborn-Keay House is an impressive Georgian house, simple in design, but distinguished by its fine proportions. (One other house in the Lord's Hill Historic District dates from the 1770's, although it was not moved into the village until the 19th century. The Glidden House on Plantation Road is a fine, simple, early vernacular cape, significant for its architectural quality and therefore considered here as a contributing property.)
Isaac Lord (1772-1838), the namesake of Lord's Hill, came to Effingham in 1790 or 1791. An enterprising man, he was the most important figure in the village's early history and in its architectural development. About 1792, Lord opened Effingham's first store on the Hill, and soon thereafter began building a house that also served as the local tavern. As Lord prospered as a merchant and innkeeper, he enlarged the Tavern. The fine Georgian main block was embellished with a vestibule and a triple window, whose design, more typical of the Federal period, suggest that they were later but sympathetic additions. The long ell and the barn make the Tavern an imposing building which dominates the center of the village. The high quality of the Tavern foretold the character of Isaac Lord's later works.
Isaac Lord was instrumental in obtaining the town meetinghouse for his village. The rivalry between the villages of Lord's Hill and Drake's Corner for Effingham's most important public building was settled in 1798, when the Town, unable to decide the question on its own, voted to leave the location of the meetinghouse to a committee of distinguished and, hopefully, impartial non-residents. Isaac Lord entertained the committee at his Tavern, apparently with some success, as they decided to locate the meetinghouse on Lord's Hill, just opposite the Tavern. The Town accepted the committee's recommendation. And Isaac Lord promptly erected the meetinghouse (Congregational Church) the same year. The meetinghouse not only increased the Tavern's business, but it also made Lord's Hill, at least during the early 19th century, the center of Effingham's governmental and religious life.
The 1820's saw a spurt of growth on Lord's Hill. The Effingham Union Academy building was erected by September 1820, when the Academy first opened. A relatively simple, two-and-a-half-story building set with its gable end facing the road, the Academy is ornamented primarily by its wide corner pilasters and cornerboards, its heavy box cornice and the pilasters and entablature framing its entry. These simple but effective elements and its good proportions give the building a pleasing dignity, appropriate to its public function.
More significant architecturally was the construction of the four Federal style houses that are still Lord's Hill's best residences. Isaac Lord led the way, erecting the Jameson House for his daughter and son-in-law in 1822. The Josiah Dearborn House opposite the Jameson House, had been begun in 1820, but it was not finished until about 1824. The John Shepard Dearborn House was probably built a little later, about 1830. But all three of these two-story, hip roofed houses are quite similar and are obviously the work of the same builders. The main blocks, all five bays wide and two bays deep, each have a fine entry with pilasters supporting a blind semi-elliptical arch, a second-story triple window with pilasters, and a box cornice with reeded panels in its frieze. The details vary somewhat from house to house but the carving must have been the work of the same talented craftsman. The Jameson House and the Josiah Dearborn House, with their long two-story ells and attached sheds and barns, are larger than the John Shepard Dearborn House, but all three rank among the Lakes Region's finest examples of the Federal style.
These three fine houses were, however, overwhelmed by Isaac Lord's new house, built between 1822 and 1826. Inspired by the mansions of Portland, Lord set out to build the grandest house in the area. And he succeeded. It is apparent that the craftsmen who worked on the other three houses also worked on the Isaac Lord House, as many of their features and details can also be found here, from the entry with its pilasters and semi-elliptical arch to the box cornice with its reeded panels decorating the frieze. But, Lord went further even in the details, as evidenced by the louvred fan and the semicircular sidelight muntins of the entry, and by the grand Palladian window in the second story. Although following the same general layout as the Jameson House and the Josiah Dearborn House with a hip roofed main block and ell, Isaac Lord built his house a full three stories high, in an area (and a period) where three story houses were extremely rare. And to crown the building, Lord erected a grand octagonal cupola, ornamented with corner pilasters, a box cornice, and a metal sheathed dome with a large wooden urn. The Isaac Lord House has been described by one architectural historian as "unequaled in its own region," and it certainly must be considered the most impressive Federal style house in the Lakes Region. Taken as a group, these four Federal style houses mark the high point of the village's architectural history.
But, this is not to say that the village's later architecture was not also notable for its quality. In 1845, the meetinghouse, by then the Congregational Church, was remodeled in the Greek Revival style. Further embellished in 1898 by a simple spire, the church is still one of the region's best examples of the style, notable for its wide pedimented cornice supported on the main facade by four pseudo-pilasters, and for the paneled pillars of the belfry, as well as its fine proportions. The influence of the Greek Revival can also be seen in the Leavitt House of 1857, in the wide box cornice and the heavy trim of this cape. (The later addition of bay windows served simply to make the house more interesting.) The Smith House, built in the 1860's, with a pedimented box cornice and window entablatures reflects the continuing influence of the Greek Revival style. The result, in this case, was an attractive building whose dignity is not compromised by the later veranda.
(We should not ignore the five small 19th century cemeteries that dot the village and are here considered contributing properties because of their importance in the village scene. The Lamper Cemetery, the Hobbs Cemetery, and the Dearborn Cemetery are typical country cemeteries distinguished by an occasional monument and surrounded by granite posts or stone walls, but, nevertheless, are pleasing and attractive reminders of the past. The Leavitt family cemetery with its raised bed, surrounded by a granite block wall with coping and steps is more impressive. And the Lord Cemetery, with its granite wall topped by a metal fence, its arched granite entry, octagonal granite posts, and earth mound topped by a table tomb, is perhaps the Lakes Region's grandest small cemetery. All together, these five cemeteries add considerable interest to the townscape of Lord's Hill.)
In the last quarter of the 19th century, new construction was limited to the Parade and its immediate surroundings. On this small but pleasant park, which contributes so much to the charm of the village, was erected the Bandstand, a simple square structure with a pyramidal roof that nevertheless has an appropriate air of festivity. Three houses were erected around the Parade, the Chase House about 1875, the Sanborn House in 1897, and the Jellison House about 1900. All three are relatively simple late 19th century vernacular buildings, whose gable ends serve as their main facades. Ornament is fairly limited on the three houses, an oriel window on the Sanborn House, and decorative shingling on the Jellison House barn. This restraint is quite fortunate, for the typical richly ornamented Victorian building would have been quite out of place on Lord's Hill. These three modest houses, with their clapboarded walls, cornerboards and box cornices, fit in well with their earlier neighbors.
The 20th century has seen some change in the village, but most of it has been compatible with the already existing architecture. The Emerson-Otis House was completely rebuilt, raised another story, and given triple windows with diamond paned sash. But, the house still has the clapboarded walls, the two-story, gable roofed form, and other details that echo the older buildings, so it does not seem out of place. Its northern neighbor, the Deacon Clark House, burned in 1945. The replacement, the Close-Wronsky House, was a clapboarded cape, deliberately designed in the Colonial Revival style to fit into the village. The Close-Wronsky House has been resheathed with modern vinyl "clapboarding," just as the Chase House has been covered with aluminum "clapboarding." But, the other major buildings retain their original sheathings. Additions have been made to a number of the houses in this century, but these have usually been porches and sheds. None of the additions have obscured the main block of their houses. So, with the possible exception of the Chase House, all of the major contributing buildings retain their architectural integrity. Although levels of maintenance vary, most of the village's buildings are in good condition. The restoration of the Effingham Union Academy on Hobbs Road by the Effingham Historical Society and the ongoing efforts of the private owners, bode well for the future of the village and its important buildings.
Lord's Hill is a remarkably cohesive village. All of its major buildings are wooden, and with the two exceptions noted above, are sheathed with white painted clapboards. This unity of material and sheathing, the similarity in size, the consistent use of similar forms and roofs, and most importantly, the dominance of the "early American" styles, the vernacular, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, and Colonial Revival styles, give the village an exceptional architectural unity. The high quality of its buildings, notably the two charming capes, the Glidden House and the Leavitt House, the two Georgian style houses, the Dearborn-Keay House and the Lord Tavern, the four Federal style houses, the Jameson House, the Josiah Dearborn House, the John Shepard Dearborn House, and, particularly, the Isaac Lord House, the Greek Revival Congregational Church and the mid 19th century Smith House, raises Lord's Hill above all but a few of the villages in the Lakes Region. Only a few other early villages in the region, Wakefield, Center Sandwich, Gilmanton Corner, Sanbornton Square, and Hebron, can be compared with Lord's Hill for their architectural quality and integrity. Lord's Hill must be considered one of New Hampshire's finest early villages.
Effingham Master Plan (Meredith, 1981) (includes Effingham Historical Resources Survey).
Georgia Drew Merrill, ed. History of Carroll County, History of Carroll County (Somersworth, 1971 reprint of 1889 edition).
H.F. Walling, "Topographical Map of Carroll County, New Hampshire," (New York, 1861).
Interview — Lawrence Hall, December 12, 1984.
Interviews — Paul Potter, January 21 & 25, 1985.
‡ David Ruell, Lakes Region Planning Commission, Lord's Hill Historic District, Effingham, NH, nomination document, 1985, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Hobbs Road • Plantation Road • Route 153