Jackson Falls Historic District
The Jackson Falls Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. 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 Jackson Falls Historic District is a district of contiguous properties located at and near the intersection of NH Route 16A (Jackson Village Road) and NH Route 16B (Five Mile Circuit Road) in Jackson Village, in close proximity to the Wildcat River. The Jackson Falls Historic District is comprised of twenty-three contributing buildings, one contributing building and two contributing objects as well as two buildings, a structure and two objects which are all noncontributing due to age.
The resources covered by this area form range in date of construction from the mid 19th century to the present day. The earliest building in the area is the Jackson Community Church (1846-7), which reflects elements of the Greek Revival style. Other early resources include the vernacular Trickey Barn (c.1858), the Jackson Grammar School (c.1860) and the Old Town Hall (1879). However, most of the buildings in the Jackson Falls Historic District were constructed between 1881 and 1920 and were connected in some way to the town's popularity as a resort/tourist destination. Nearly all of these buildings exhibit characteristics of the Queen Anne and Shingle styles including variety in wall color and texture, fancy-cut shingle courses, bay windows, polygonal turrets, intersecting roofs and verandahs. The stone Wentworth Castle (1891) is a unique structure which reflects the influence of both the Chateau and Richardsonian sources. Many of the buildings constructed after 1881 were architect-designed. Included are at least seven buildings designed for the Wentworth Family by New York City architect, William Bates. Within the Jackson Falls Historic District there are also two buildings designed by prominent Boston architect, William Ralph Emerson.
Resources in the Jackson Falls Historic District are all in good to excellent condition. With the exception of Wentworth Castle, all are of wood-frame construction with clapboard or shingle sheathing; the only instance of aluminum siding is visible on a barn. Two buildings, the Jackson Public Library and Wildwood Cottage, were moved to new sites, still within the district, in 1931 to make way for a new bridge crossing. Among the significant losses within the Jackson Falls Historic District are additional buildings which were part of the Wentworth Hall property and the Jackson Falls House.
The Jackson Falls Historic District is listed on the National Register for Community Development and Planning as well as Entertainment/Recreation for its associations with the development and growth of Jackson Village in the mid 19th century and its flourishing as part of the town and White Mountain Region's grand resort hotel era in the late 19th and early 20th century. Beginning with the opening of Joshua Trickey's Jackson Falls House in 1858 and the later construction of Thorn Mountain House/Wentworth Hall and other establishments, Jackson developed into one of the region's most active and successful tourist centers. With thirty-nine buildings and a capacity of 350 guests, Wentworth Hall and Cottages was the largest of the town's numerous lodging establishments. Although only nine of the original buildings survive today, the Wentworth is significant as one of only four White Mountain grand resort hotels which is still in operation today and which is still able to offer a reflection of White Mountain village hotel life in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The Jackson Falls National Register Historic District is listed on the National Register for Architecture, as a significant assemblage of 19th and 20th century buildings reflecting excellent examples of several architectural styles including the Greek Revival, Queen Anne and Shingle styles. The Jackson Falls Historic District encompasses at least seven designs by New York City architect William Bates (1853-1922) including Wentworth Castle, Wentworth Hall and its related cottages. Constructed between 1881 and 1915, the buildings of Wentworth Hall display a common broken asymmetry and ornamental detail characteristic of the Queen Anne style including variety in wall color and texture, fancy-cut and arranged wood shingles, bay windows, polygonal towers, porches and balconies. The Jackson Falls Historic District is also architecturally significant for the existence of two buildings designed by prominent Boston architect William Ralph Emerson (1833-1917). Both the Frank Shapleigh House (Maple Knoll) and Jackson Public Library are unique and distinctive examples of the Shingle style, historically associated with northeastern resort architecture. Typical of its style, the Frank Shapleigh House displays an exterior of natural wood shingles and stone with generous verandas and a free-flowing floor plan. Despite its small size, the Jackson Public Library is also an excellent example of the style.
The resources within the Jackson Falls Historic District are significant to the history of Jackson both for their associations with the development of a town center in the early 19th century, as well as the later popularity of the town as a summer resort in the 19th and 20th centuries.
As early as 1772 a road had been constructed through Pinkham Notch although the first recorded settlement in what is now Jackson dates to 1778 and the arrival of Benjamin Copp and his family. The town was first named New Madbury but was incorporated in 1800 as Adams, in honor of then-president John Adams.
The first church in town, a Free-Will Baptist Church, was built in 1803 at the triangle where Black Mountain and Wilson Roads intersect. (It is no longer extant.) A schoolhouse was constructed in 1806 near the house of William Copp, son of Benjamin. A social library was incorporated in 1827. Town meetings were held in homes and later in a school.
In 1828 the name of the town was changed to Jackson after the town gave John Quincy Adams just one vote in the presidential election in which he was opposed by Andrew Jackson. In 1853 Jackson was disannexed from the Coos County to Carroll County which had been established in 1840. In 1846 a group split from the Free-Will Baptist Church, forming the Protestant Chapel Association. A church building was constructed the following year and still stands today (Jackson Community Church).
In the early 19th century, the town's hillsides afforded good grazing and large numbers of cattle and sheep were raised in Jackson. In the mean time, people from the cities were visiting the White Mountains in increasing numbers. In the early 1800s Rosebrook established the first inn at what is now Fabyan's. The inn was later taken over by Rosebrook's grandson, Ethan Allen Crawford, a pioneer in the summer hotel business. Among those attracted to the White Mountains were writers, scientists, artists and statesmen.
The town of Jackson became a significant summer resort later than North Conway, Intervale or other White Mountain communities. Artists including Boardman, Geary, Clark, Hoit and Brackett were among the first visitors to discover Jackson; the earliest came as early as 1847. But it was not until the summer of 1858 that Joshua B. Trickey opened a lodging establishment, the Jackson Falls House, in Jackson. This was followed by the opening of the Iron Mountain House in 1861 (it burned in 1877). The Thorn Mountain House was built and opened to the public in 1869, followed by the Glen-Ellis in 1876 and the first Eagle Mountain House in 1879. The opening of the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad in the early 1870s gave a tremendous push to the popularity of the area as a tourist destination. Many of Jackson's visitors were transported from the Glen train station in nearby Bartlett which was on the Portland & Ogdensburg line.
In 1860 Jackson village included approximately fifteen buildings on both sides of the Wildcat River. On the west side of the Wildcat River there was a clothespin factory and saw mill, a post office, a church, a school, a blacksmith shop, two stores, and grist mill. Today, only the Jackson Community Church remains. Other buildings located on the east side of the river were a store, a school, several houses and the Jackson Falls House. In 1879 George Pinkham deeded a parcel of land to the Town of Jackson. The land, located below a bowling alley, formerly housed a shop. The Town Hall was later built on the site.
By the late 19th century Jackson had developed into one of the region's most active and successful tourist centers. In 1885 the Jackson Falls House was raised and an additional story was inserted underneath the original building. The second Iron Mountain House and the first Gray's Inn were also constructed in 1885. The most significant local development in the category of tourism however, undoubtedly was the redevelopment of what had been known as Thorn Mountain House into Wentworth Hall in the 1880s under the watchful eye of General Marshall C. Wentworth and his wife Georgia. The Wentworths based their plan for the property on the "cottage system" hotel management then popular in Great Britain. A complex of a group of buildings was designed, providing most of the lodging in separate cottages grouped around a main service building. New York City architect William Bates (1853-1922) was retained to design the various Queen Anne style buildings and illustrations of the plans were published in an 1885 issue of the national publication, American Architect and Building News. The first building constructed as part of the new plan was Arden Cottage, completed in 1881. This was followed by Wentworth Hall in 1882-3, the remodeling of the original Thorn Mountain House, and the construction of Thorneycroft Cottage, Glenthorne Cottage and Elmwood Cottage in 1885. In 1886 Wildwood Cottage was added, the Casino was erected and attached to the south side of Thorn Mountain House and a large stable was built, able to accommodate 30 to 60 horses. A hydroelectric plant was constructed in 1894 and by the end of the century, the complex consisted of over twenty buildings. The resort was largely self-sustaining with all of the hotel's vegetables, milk, cream and flowers produced on the hotel's own farm which included extensive greenhouses. It also included a laundry, a dairy and pasteurization plant, a blacksmith shop, a printers shop, a telegraph office, a gift boutique, a casino, an auto service station, a barber shop/beauty shop, and a six-hole golf course, the first in the village when it was constructed in 1895 and later enlarged to nine holes in 1905. The facility boasted three dining rooms — one for employees, another for chauffeurs and musicians and a third for guests. In 1885 the name of the full establishment was changed from Thorn Mountain House to Wentworth Hall and Cottages to reflect the new organizational arrangement. In the 1890s General Wentworth built a water-powered generator on the Wildcat River which totally electrified the hotel and remained in working condition until 1975.
Supplementing the accommodations available at Jackson's larger hotels, the village also saw the construction of other seasonal residences including smaller cottages and converted farmhouses, situated on the surrounding hillsides, in close proximity to the village center. General Wentworth constructed houses across from Wentworth Hall for the hotel chauffeur, James Pratt (Falls Cottage) and superintendent of buildings and grounds, J. Brackett Hurlin. In other cases, summer folks built residences of considerable size and sophistication. William Bates helped the Wentworths design an impressive stone mansion, Wentworth Castle, on the hillside above Wentworth Hall in 1891 while renowned Boston architect William Ralph Emerson designed a Shingle style residence for artist Frank Shapleigh (Maple Knoll) on the hill above the Jackson Falls House and the Town Hall in 1896. The cottage, including the painter's studio, became an important gathering place for the artists, musicians and writers who made Jackson their summer home.
The summer residents, mostly from Boston but also from New York, Philadelphia and other eastern locations, left their imprint on the larger village as well. The Jackson Free Public Library was constructed in 1901 with Frank Shapleigh securing plans for the building from architect William Ralph Emerson. An addition was made to the town hall about 1910. Its gambrel roof bears the imprint of the Shingle and Colonial Revival styles favored by the summer residents. The village school was also added onto at about the same time. In 1911 a new Parsonage was constructed with the assistance of donations from summer residents.
By the 1920s, up to forty trains per day were delivering travelers to Jackson. In the early 20th century the capacity of Wentworth Hall and Cottages peaked at 350. Constructed in 1915, Sunnyside Cottage was probably the last building constructed during Governor Wentworth's lifetime. He died the same year and Mrs. Wentworth sold the hotel complex to Nathan and Estelle Amster, a wealthy Jewish couple from New York. Nathan Amster had made his fortune in mining, railroads and as a founder of New York's Third Avenue El. Under their ownership, the Wentworth became the exclusive domain of wealthy Jews from the northeast and anyone wishing to stay would have to be recommended by other patrons. In 1916 the new owners acquired the Glen Ellis House, a mansard-roofed hotel originally constructed in 1875-6 and utilized it as a 100-guest annex, bringing the total capacity of Wentworth Hall to 350. (The building was demolished in 1982.) Two group annexes known as Fairlawn Cottage and Amster Cottage were built during the 1920s and a clubhouse and final nine holes were added to the golf course. During this period the Wentworth Hall Company also acquired the Charles Hurlin store.
A fire destroyed most of the businesses in the village in 1924. In 1931 the bridge which crossed the Wildcat River near the Town Hall was replaced by a new stone bridge located downstream. The Wildwood Cottage and the Jackson Public Library were moved a short distance to new locations to make way for the new bridge.
Estelle Amster continued to own the Wentworth Hall hotel complex as well as Wentworth Castle until 1946 and the hotel continued to thrive. In the 1940s and 1950s guests could dine and dance at the Silver Patio, watch movies in the hotel's 250-seat Cinemascope theater, enjoy an "Electric Spray Shower" in the flying spray from the huge steel paddle wheel, dine at the Marine Terraces constructed adjacent to the natural pool and golf at the private 18-hole golf course. In the 1940s famed pianist Vladimir Horowitz spent a summer at Wentworth Hall practicing the piano eight hours a day.
The Wentworth Hall property was bought by Harry Schiener and E.M. Loew, the movie theater magnate, in 1950. Two orchestras played in the casino which could seat 400 people. Among the entertainers who brought their acts here were Alan King, Harry Belafonte, Zero Mostel and Jackie Mason. However, the days of summer vacationing at grand hotels were quickly becoming a thing of the past. In the years following World War II, escalating costs and changing vacation patterns made large hotels increasingly unprofitable to operate. The decline of Wentworth Hall and most of New England's resort hotels began in the early 1960s.
Gray's Inn, a 250-guest hotel also located in Jackson Village but to the south of the present district, closed in the 1960s and was vacant until it burned to the ground in 1983. (The town offices were recently built on this site.) In 1971 the Wentworth was temporarily closed and sat boarded-up and dilapidated for the next decade. Wentworth Hall was purchased by new owners in 1972 who intended to tear it down and build a modern hotel and vacation chalets. The Jackson Falls House was removed, leaving only a barn. A post office was built prior to 1979 and was followed by a commercial/office building.
In 1982 the 233-acre Wentworth Hall property was purchased by developer Ernest J. Mallett, Jr. who invested more than $2 million into the complex. The structurally unsound and functionally unstable buildings including the casino, Fairview, Riverside and other surrounding cottages were removed until just nine of the thirty-nine buildings remained. A total of seventy-six townhouse units were constructed in 19 buildings around the perimeter of the golf course on an 86-acre parcel which was subdivided from the original property. The old clubhouse was moved 100 feet back from its former site on Main Street to a new foundation adjacent to the first tee.
The Wentworth was acquired by Fritz and Diana Koeppel in 1988 and continues to serve as an elegant country inn. Of the thirty grand resort hotels that were once present in the White Mountain region, Wentworth Hall is one of only four grand resort hotels remaining open for business today (the others being The Balsams, the Mount Washington Hotel and the Mountain View House.) The acreage of the property now consists of a 3.6 acre parcel north of Jackson Village Road and a 5.7-acre parcel on the south side of the road.
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† Lisa Mausolf, consultant for Jackson Historical Society, Jackson Falls Historic District, nomination document, 2002, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.