Waumbek Cottages Historic District
The Waumbek Cottages Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. 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 Waumbek Cottages Historic District is located on the sloping foothill of Starr King Mountain on the north side of Route 2 in Jefferson, a small community in the White Mountains region of New Hampshire. The Waumbek Cottages Historic District includes six cottages situated on approximately eleven acres. They are dramatically sited at 1,500 feet above sea level and command astonishingly beautiful mountain views.
Originally there were eleven cottages that comprised the Waumbek Cottage Colony. These cottages were acquired or built between 1890 and 1899 on property adjacent to the fabled Waumbek Hotel, a grand resort that burned in 1928. Three cottages were lost in the 1928 fire; one was demolished in 1972; and another burned in 1996. Of the remaining six cottages, one cottage was built by the hotel, two by owners of the hotel company, and three by long-time hotel patrons. The cottages were used as summer residences by their owners or leased to hotel guests desiring private accommodations while enjoying the cuisine, social and recreational life of the resort. The cottages were featured in Waumbek Hotel advertising and brochures of the period. All six cottages are contributing resources; two small, detached garages are non-contributing. Significant landscape features include panoramic views of the White Mountains and Israel River valley, stonewalls, paths and walkways, flower gardens, statuary, open fields and wooded lots.
Similar to the Wentworth Hall and Cottages in Jackson, New Hampshire, but about 10 years later, the Waumbek Hotel and Cottages was developed in the period from 1889 to 1899 as a grand hotel with dependent elegant rental cottages bound aesthetically and functionally together under the principles of the "cottage system" made popular in Great Britain. "Under this system, the complex was designed as a group of buildings, rather than as a single unit, allowing guests privacy in separate cottages and social interaction in the public spaces of the main hotel." (Tolles, Grand Resort Hotels, p.84) All Wentworth cottages were owned and maintained by the hotel; in contrast, five Waumbek cottages were privately owned (the hotel owned six), but, in similarity, all the cottages "centered their social, recreational, cultural, and dining pursuits on the main hotel facility." (Tolles, p.39), and the hotel provided services for all the cottages. The Jackson hostelry was designed by architect William A. Bates (1853-1922), a close friend and associate of architect Alfred E. Barlow (1855-1926), who designed a major addition to the Waumbek and quite possibly, based on design similarities, several of the Waumbek cottages.
There are strikingly similar design elements between General Wentworth's "Thorncastle" and Waumbek's "Onaway." Bates designed Wentworth's cottage in 1885 and 1891; Barlow designed the Waumbek cottage in 1895. Both cottages feature cylindrical fieldstone corner towers with conical roof caps.
According to Tolles' Summer Cottages in the White Mountains, the Waumbek Cottages "comprise one of the largest hotel-related groups in the White Mountains. They rival in architectural and historical significance similar assemblages constructed for the Profile House in Franconia Notch, the Maplewood Hotel at Bethlehem, and Wentworth Hall at Jackson." "Like other hotels in the region that possessed cottage groups, the Waumbek provided maintenance services and encouraged tenants to take their meals at and participate in the social and recreation life of the resort." "The [Waumbek] cottages were at one time satellite buildings to a huge grand resort hotel complex, one of America's most famous and sumptuous." (pp.87-88)
Located west, east and north of the hotel, the cottages were laid out in a park-like setting with ornamental planting, stonewalls, and cement walks connecting the cottages with each other and the hotel. Despite the term, the cottages are all sizable structures with floor plans arranged to be conducive to entertaining with large living rooms, wraparound porches, and wide rooms to invite cool summer breezes. Cottage kitchens were diminutive because most meals were taken at, or provided by, the hotel.
One of the cottages — Onaway (18 Cottage Road) — was designed by architect, Alfred E. Barlow of New York. Mr. Barlow also designed a large expansion of the Waumbek Hotel in 1898. There is evidence that other Waumbek cottages were architect-designed. Adding to the similar nature of the cottages is the actual construction of the buildings. Where evidence of the identity of the contractor exists, Moses McDonald of Whitefield, New Hampshire, was head carpenter under the general superintendency of the Waumbek's Maintenance Superintendent (and board member of the hotel company) Manasah Perkins.
The cottages were all built in the Shingle style, a brief episode in American architecture presaging the full-blown Colonial Revival style. The extensive use of porches/verandas was borrowed from the Queen Anne style, but in the Shingle style, as evidenced in the Waumbek Cottages, it was used to integrate the cottages to their summer environment. Like the extensive verandas and porches of the resort hotels, the cottage porches were places to enjoy resort life conversation, scenery, and people watching.
The cottages exhibit the three dominant aspects of the Shingle style: emphasis on the antiquarian precedents of early vernacular colonial architecture; reliance on design features such as steeply pitched roofs, dormers, varied fenestration, and gable-ends; and a subdued horizontal massing with an intent to create a more disciplined composition with less reliance on variety of design features and eruptive Queen Anne vertical picturesqueness.
The Waumbek Cottages are an excellent collection of well-preserved Shingle style buildings in New Hampshire.
The Waumbek Cottages Historic District is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as an excellent representative of a summer cottage community connected with the grand resort industry, an important local historic context. The area is included in Bryant Tolles' Summer Cottages in the White Mountains, a recent and thorough account of the subject. The Waumbek Cottages Historic District follows the typical pattern of cottage development, from hotels to hotel cottages to private cottages. Though the Waumbek Hotel is gone, six of the cottages are present, as well as other resources associated with summer cottage communities, including stone landscaping, connecting pathways, open vistas, cottage gardens and proximity to woodlands. The Waumbek Cottages Historic District's appearance (with the exception of the Waumbek Hotel) is little changed since 1899 when the last cottage was constructed. It is an excellent representative of a summer cottage community that continues to embody the physical characteristics of that property type, through architectural styles, landscape features, setting and overall feeling. Two of the three architectural styles most associated with the summer cottage phenomena, as identified by Bryant Tolles, the Shingle and Colonial Revival styles, are represented by the cottages. Alterations to the buildings convey modifications made by summer residents through successive generations. Collectively, the resources retain a high degree of integrity. Over the years, fire, alteration, disuse, and demolition have decimated New Hampshire's White Mountain hotel cottage colonies. Today, the Waumbek Cottages survive as the largest and most intact grouping of its type.
The Waumbek Cottages Historic District possesses integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association for the period 1894, when the earliest resource in the district was constructed, to 1956, the 50-year cut-off for National Register consideration. The integrity of their original association with the Waumbek Hotel has been lost due to the loss of the hotel, but their original association with summer resort and summer home tourism is very intact. Neither of the two non-contributing resources detracts from the district's high degree of integrity: both are small structures simply designed and discretely placed. Virtually all of the alteration to the cottages occurred at the hand of summer residents within the period of significance. The small amount of restoration undertaken recently on The Bungalow is historically correct. The changes are stylistically in keeping with the overall architectural design of the cottage and colony and do not compromise the integrity of the house.
Originally settled in 1796, Jefferson developed into an important summer vacation community in the last half of the nineteenth century. Thomas Starr King, a Unitarian theologian from Boston who traveled widely and hiked throughout the White Mountains in the mid-1800s, was largely responsible for Jefferson and the Waumbek Hotel becoming a successful summer resort. His book The White Hills: Their Legends, Landscape and Poetry (1860) opened up a whole new vista for tourists and others who came to enjoy the scenery, and explore and map out trails that are still used today by hikers. While exploring the White Mountains, Starr King made his home in Jefferson at a small wayside inn owned by Benjamin Hunking Plaisted. Starr King thought if "a good hotel should be erected there, the village would soon become one of the most popular resorts among the mountains." (White Hills, p.384) He persuaded Plaisted to build the original hotel and gave it its Indian name "Waumbek," meaning "snowy or white mountains." The hotel was established in 1860, and its meteoric success resulted in a series of significant additions in 1865, 1874, 1889, 1891 and 1898 to accommodate the increasing demand for rooms.
By the late 19th century, there was a greater concentration of grand resort hotels in New Hampshire's White Mountains than anywhere else in America. Between 1885 and 1910, the height of the era, more than 12,000 people could be accommodated in the region's 200 hotels, inns and boarding houses. More than 60 trains a day carried visitors to and from the region.
The building of railroads and the area's proximity to major east coast cities spurred hotel development. Jefferson was directly and easily accessible from the chief cities of the east. Through parlor cars ran daily from New York and Boston to within 500 yards of the Waumbek doors after the 1892 railroad spur was completed. Five mail shipments arrived daily at the Jefferson post office from all over the U.S. and Canada. Newspapers from Boston, Worcester, Providence, Springfield and New York were received on the day of their issue. The expanded wealth made possible by the industrial revolution produced a newly emerging upper middle class with the time and resources to spend long summer vacations in the mountains. Families would come for extended vacations and often for the entire summer. The excellent communications and accessible rail transportation allowed businessmen to monitor their concerns from the hotel or to travel back home when necessary.
Like many of the early hotels in the area — the Crawford House, Profile House, and the Maplewood — the Waumbek grew to the status of a grand resort. Each of these hotels accommodated more than 400 guests, had its own train station and livery service and its own versions of comfort and elegance. There was cool weather, healthy air, and lively social and recreational activities.
The Waumbek grew from the first small 60' x 40' building to its grandest stature accommodating more than 500 guests at the turn of the 19th century. Due to demand for accommodations, the hotel owners purchased three other Jefferson hotels and added them to the Waumbek resort complex. Visitors arrived by rail and were met at the station by carriages from the hotels. The Waumbek drew people of means from the Northeast's urban areas who frequently stayed at the hotel or one of its cottages and then eventually constructed a cottage of their own. By 1899 there were eleven cottages in the Waumbek complex, all located near the hotel: the hotel owned six and five were privately owned. Cottage owners and renters could have the privacy and independence of a separate living environment while enjoying the social and recreational activities of the hotel. The hotel provided maintenance service for the cottages. The cottages had minimal kitchens because meals were taken at the hotel; however, they had quite large closets for the extensive wardrobes required for their occupants' numerous social activities.
The Waumbek Hotel was the only grand resort in Jefferson, but there were at least ten smaller hotels and numerous boarding houses. From 1880 to the present, the town population has remained fairly constant — approximately 1,000. The population of Jefferson swelled in the summer months with all the summer visitors. The capacity of the Waumbek alone was more than 500. The growth of summer tourism in the White Mountains offered a new source of income for rural residents, particularly in Jefferson. The hotels and cottages offered many opportunities for employment in construction and maintenance, hotel management and service, livery, a market for farm produce, an impetus for new businesses catering to summer guests (personal grooming, dressmaking, gifts and notions, millinery, confectioneries, photography). Many owners of abandoned farms sold or let their properties to hotels for golf clubs, as at the Waumbek. The positive effects of summer tourism on Jefferson were described in a 1904 Waumbek Magazine: "[Jefferson] is small and straggling, but has grown more cleanly and progressive each year with the coming of summer guests, and is now a model of neatness. There are [three] churches and a well-stocked library."
To accommodate the growing demand for private cottages, the Waumbek Hotel planned to sell land for building cottages near the hotel (the earlier cottages were hotel owned or built for hotel directors). A Map of the Waumbek Property showing Lotting for Cottage Sites, dated 1897, shows the location of six cottages (Brookside, Swan, Bashaba, Wigwam, Wayonda and Onaway); two lots with cottages planned (Wyndybrae & Bait-ul-Hakeem); and 12 more lots platted for cottages. Three of these 12 lots were sold but only one cottage was built (The Bungalow).
The cottages were given romantic names harkening to nature and Native American significance or to the exotic: Bait-ul-Hakeem, Wigwam, Wayonda, Onaway, Maples, Wyndybrae, The Bungalow, Bashaba, Cherry, Swan, and Mountain View.
The earliest cottage associated with the Waumbek was Bashaba Cottage. (14 Starr King Road). The hotel constructed it, perhaps as early as 1889, possibly for use by managers of the hotel and used by hotel guests until 1918. It was first mentioned by name when the F.W. Devoe family of New York rented it in 1895. Mr. Devoe of New York was the owner of the Devoe Paint Company. Frank and Ethel Shute retained it as their private cottage when they sold the Waumbek Hotel in 1929. Today it is the full-time residence of a descendant of Mrs. Shute.
Wigwam was the second cottage built. It was constructed in 1890 for Mr. & Mrs. Samuel D. Davis, a prominent banker and realtor from New York and Lakewood, New Jersey. He was president of the Jefferson Hotel and Land Company, owner of the Waumbek Hotel, 1889-1915. Wigwam burned when the hotel burned in 1928.
Brookside (1893) and Swan (1894) were also constructed by the hotel for use by guests. Both of these cottages burned in 1928. The hotel purchased two existing cottages located near the hotel (Cherry Cottage in 1889, and Mountain View Cottage in 1902) and used them for hotel guests. Cherry Cottage was dismantled in 1972, and Mountain View Cottage burned in 1996.
Davis also built the third cottage, Wayonda Cottage (36 Cottage Road), in 1895, for his family's private summer cottage. Wigwam was then leased to hotel guests. Wayonda has been owned by successive hotel owners and is today  the summer cottage of Mrs. Kenneth Kenyon, owner of the Waumbek Hotel 1951-1963.
Hon. & Mrs. Charles J. Fisk, mayor of Plainfield, New Jersey, and a director of the Jefferson Hotel and Land Company, built Onaway Cottage (18 Cottage Road) in 1896. Tolles describes it as "perhaps the most ambitious and attractive of the existing group." (Summer Cottages, p.88) It was designed by architect Alfred E. Barlow of New York who designed a major addition to the hotel in 1898.
In 1898, families who were patrons of the hotel built two cottages near the hotel. Bait-ul-Hakeem, later known as The Maples, (25 Cottage Road) was constructed for Dr. & Mrs. William G. Schauffler, Lakewood, New Jersey, and hotel physician. Wyndybrae Cottage (13 Cottage Road) was constructed for Rev. Harris E. Adriance, a Presbyterian minister who conducted services at local churches in the summer.
The last cottage built was The Bungalow (38 Starr King Road) in 1899. It was built for Mr. & Mrs. Charles L. Raymond of Chicago. Mr. Raymond was president of the Chicago Board of Trade.
Waumbek cottage property owners left their mark in many ways in the Jefferson community. They raised funds for the Jefferson Library and to purchase a church organ. Samuel Davis donated a school steeple clock. The D'Oliers and Dimonds (associated with the Maples and The Bungalow) provided funds to construct the Episcopal Church and were board members for many years. Dr. Schauffler opened and operated a sanitarium for several years.
It is interesting to note that all of the land upon which the private cottages were built was originally deeded to wives of the men who built them. This may bear significance in the area of legal history as it relates to the Women's Rights Movement, specifically the long development of New Hampshire's version of the Married Women's Property Act. New Hampshire was one of the first states to establish property rights for married women beginning in 1846. By 1892 a married woman's property could not be seized to cover the debts of her husband, barring fraud. The fully matured Women's Property Act was an interesting and significant factor in the creation of the Waumbek Cottage colony. (Stilphen v. Stilphen, 64 NH, 126, 129 (1889) and Cressey v. Wallace, 66 NH 566 (1891).
As was the case with many of the beautiful old wooden hotels, the Waumbek burned in 1928. Three of the nearby cottages burned as well. After the fire, the large hotel structure was not rebuilt, but the resort continued to operate utilizing the three smaller hotels (Starr King House, Waumbek Hall, and Jefferson House) and the Golf Club. In 1972, while ex-Governor of New Hampshire Hugh Gregg owned the resort, Starr King House, Cherry Cottage and the original Golf Club House were dismantled, and the pro shop was relocated to the Mountain View Cottage. Waumbek Hall was dismantled in 1981, and the once grand Waumbek Hotel ceased to exist. The Golf Club was sold in 1986 and continues as a public course. The Jefferson House was destroyed in 1993. The Mountain View Cottage burned in 1996.
Tolles describes the Waumbek Cottages as conveying a "feeling of enduring permanence within a changing, often harsh, but invariably beautiful natural environment. Stone and wood-shingle building materials are effectively combined in each of the cottages, and link them aesthetically as well as practically to the rocky terrain and abundant forests of the North Country." (Summer Cottages, p.88) It is the awe-inspiring mountain scenery from this location that was the primary impetus for the establishment of the Waumbek Hotel and Cottages, and it was the key element which made it a successful mountain retreat, and which continues to inspire the present owners of the Waumbek cottages and golf enthusiasts utilizing the adjacent historic Waumbek Golf Club.
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† Nancy S. Greenlee, Waumbek Cottages Historic District, nomination document, 2005, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.