Hebron Village Historic District
The Hebron Village 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. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The Hebron Village Historic District encompasses the historic core of Hebron village in the town of Hebron, New Hampshire. The center of the village and the Hebron Village Historic District is the town common, a large open space, almost rectangular in shape, although its southern boundary is somewhat irregular. The common is the meeting place of four important paved roads, the North Shore Road which leads east from the village along the north shore of Newfound Lake to East Hebron, the West Shore Road which leads southeast from the Common along the west shore of Newfound Lake towards Alexandria and Bristol, the Groton Road which leads west towards Groton, and Hobart Hill Road, a local road to the southwest. The first three roads meet in a major intersection on the west edge of the Common, almost in its northwest corner. And Hobart Hill Road intersects with the West Shore Road, just south of that major intersection. Other roads within the Hebron Village Historic District include two nameless roads on the Common, a paved road across the Common from the West Shore Road near its intersection with Hobart Hill Road to North Shore Road at its entry to the Common, and an unpaved road along the north and east boundaries of the Common, which connects at both ends with North Shore Road. Bordering the Hebron Village Historic District on the east is Cross Road, a short unpaved road linking North Shore Road and West Shore Road.
The land within the Hebron Village Historic District is quite flat, the only deviations being the rolling terrain to the rear of two properties, the Union Congregational Church Parsonage on North Shore Road and the Adams House on the south side of the Common. (It should be noted, however, that the north and east boundaries of two properties, the Hebron Village Cemetery (north side of the Common) and the house named "Meadow Wind" (North Shore Road) is a steep bank down to the meadowlands along the Cockermouth River which flows to the north of the village.)
The fifteen properties within the Hebron Village Historic District include two open spaces, the Common itself and the Hebron Village Cemetery on the north side of the village. The thirteen major buildings have ten small outbuildings, making twenty-three buildings in all within the Hebron Village Historic District. All but two of the buildings have normally sized lots. The two exceptions are the two public buildings (Memorial Chapel and Grange Hall) in the northeast corner of the Common which are crowded onto small lots. Generally, however, the buildings are spaced well apart. Most of the buildings are set close to the Common or the roads, although some of the houses are given small front lawns. The buildings on the north, west and south sides of the Common all face the Common, while the other houses face either West Shore Road or North Shore Road. The two houses at the corner of the Common and North Shore Road (Noyes House and Union Congregational Church Parsonage), although facing the road, are set close to the Common. The Common is therefore well framed by buildings.
As might be expected, the majority, of the buildings in the village have always been residential. Characterized by their original uses, the major buildings in the Hebron Village Historic District include eight houses, one store, and four public buildings (a school, a church, a chapel and a grange hall). With two exceptions, all of these buildings still serve in their original capacities. The exceptions are Memorial Chapel which is now town offices and the Grange Hall, now the Hebron Public Library (8 Church Lane).
The architecture of the Hebron Village Historic District is quite homogeneous in character, although the buildings range in date from the early 19th century to the late 1940's. Six of the eight houses and the school were built in the early and mid 19th century. The rest of the buildings were erected in two brief periods of change. Between 1909 and 1915, one house (Wallace Gurney House), the Memorial Chapel and the Grange Hall were built. Another house (Adams House), the store (Hebron Village Store, 7 North Shore Road) and the church (Union Congregational Church, 16 Church Lane) were constructed between 1947 and 1950. Despite the differences in age, the architectural styles used for most of the buildings were quite similar, either the rural vernacular of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the provincial Greek Revival of the mid 19th century, or, in the latest buildings, the Colonial Revival. (Although the early 20th century buildings were built in the styles of the period, the late 20th century buildings were consciously designed to fit in with their older neighbors.) Six of the eight houses are Capes or variants of the cape form. The form of the largest house (Meadow Wind) is that of the two and a half story relative of the Cape. Only the Gurney House uses a non-traditional form, the tri-gable ell. The four public buildings also share a similar form, being all set with their gable ends facing the Common and serving as the main facade. Most of the buildings are one or one and a half stories in height, with only one house, the church and the school rising to two and a half stories. All of the buildings are of wooden frame construction. The major buildings and most of the outbuildings are sheathed in clapboards. (Except for two facades of the store, which are covered with vinyl clapboarding, the clapboarding is all wooden.) Wooden shingles, board-and-batten siding, and vertical boarding are limited to ells, attached barns, outbuildings, and the side facades of one Cape. This homogeneity of style, form, material, and sheathing give the village a pleasing architectural unity.
The Hebron Village Historic District is significant in the area of community planning as a fine example of an early 19th century village built around a spacious central common. In the area of architecture; the Hebron Village Historic District is significant for its attractive early to mid 19th century and early 20th century buildings.
The Town of Hebron was created by a 1792 act of the legislature out of parts of the Towns of Plymouth and Cockermouth (now Groton). The movement to establish a new and more compact town had been prompted in part by the inability of the voters of Cockermouth to agree on a site for a town meeting house. The new town had no such problem. From the beginning, there seems to have been general agreement on the appropriate central site for public facilities. A month, after the Town of Hebron was incorporated, the Town voted to layout the present village cemetery. And in 1795, when the time came to consider the location for a meeting house, the Town chose to place the building on Evan Bartlett's land. It was, however, another four years before the Town took final action on the meeting house. At a town meeting on July 1, 1799, the Town voted to request Evan Bartlett to sell a piece of land for a meetinghouse lot and a common. Bartlett agreed to do so and Deacon Josiah Hobart also offered land for the Common. An eight-man committee was elected to lay out the Common and instructed to report back in a half hour. The committee's report, which, given the short period allowed for committee work, must have been a foregone conclusion, was promptly accepted. Evan Bartlett was voted twenty dollars for his land and Deacon Hobart received the thanks of the Town for his donation. The town meeting then proceeded to settle the details of erecting the meeting house. Two years later, the boundaries of the Common were apparently altered when the Town voted to accept a new plan for the layout of the Common, provided that it was done at no cost to the Town. The end result was a roughly rectangular common, although its southern edge is marked by a small extension to the south, west of the Hebron Academy.
The chosen site, was a natural one for a common and a village, a flat plateau near the mouth of the Cockermouth River. The Common and the meeting house were placed near the center of the township at the junction of the three major natural routes of travel in the area, along the Cockermouth River, and along the north and west shores of Newfound Lake. The early 19th century saw the development of a small village around the Common. This growth was spurred by small industries, notably a sawmill, a gristmill and a tannery on the brook west of the village. But, the area included in the Hebron Village Historic District was primarily residential, although, the Common, of course, was the natural site for the village store and Hebron's major public buildings.
The buildings around the Common are all oriented to that fine open space. On the west, north and south sides, the buildings are set to face the Common directly. The two houses on the east side of the Common (Noyes House and Union Congregational Church Parsonage) face North Shore Road, but they are set close to the western boundaries of their lots, so that they also help to frame the Common. This frame of buildings gives the Common that necessary feeling of enclosure that distinguishes a village common from a park. The formality of the rectangular Common surrounded by buildings was further emphasized by the placement of two major public buildings, the Union Congregational Church and the Hebron Academy roughly in the centers of the Common's long sides, so that they face each other across the open space. (By contrast, the layout of the roads across the Common was quite informal. The present paths of the three major roads reflect the quickest routes to the village store in the northwest corner of the Common.)
Village commons are unevenly distributed in the State of New Hampshire, being concentrated in the south and the west. Hebron Common is only one of two true commons in the Lakes Region, the other being Barnstead Parade, a rectangular common surrounded by four streets and a less distinguished group of buildings. Hebron Common is undoubtedly the finest of the two. And it must be ranked among the best in the state. Hebron's common is a relatively large one. It is substantially larger than the nearest commons in the Baker River valley to the north, in Plymouth, Rumney and Wentworth, although not as large as some of the Connecticut River valley commons to the west, such as those in Lebanon, Hanover, and Haverhill. But more important than its absolute size is the appropriateness of its scale. If the Common was much smaller, the village would lose its feeling of spaciousness. If the Common was substantially larger, the open space would overpower the one- and two-story buildings that frame it. The Common and its surrounding buildings seem to strike the right balance. And that, after all, is the basic characteristic of a good community plan.
Hebron Village Historic District is not distinguished for high style architecture. Most of its buildings were built in the vernacular tradition or as provincial versions of the high styles. Although not noted for their inventiveness, the Hebron Village Historic District's modest buildings are nevertheless pleasing structures.
Most of the houses date from before the Civil War. Four of these early houses are Capes. They are relatively unchanged, although the Elliott House (west side of the Common) has been graced by a veranda. The Hazelton House (West Shore Road) is a simple but pleasingly proportioned early Cape. The Noyes House (North Shore Road) is distinguished by a fine entry and a pedimented gable, as well as good lines. The Powers House (north side of the Common) is a charming three-quarter Cape, again with an attractive, if simple, entry. The Elliot House, although probably a little later in date than the other capes, shares their simplicity and good proportions. The only two-story house in the Hebron Village Historic District is Meadow Wind (North Shore Road). The house has been enlarged and its entry has been embellished by a Colonial Revival portico, but Meadow Wind still retains the simple ornament and attractive proportions that distinguish Hebron's early houses.
The Greek Revival style influenced only two of the buildings now standing in the Hebron Village Historic District. The Parsonage is a good example of the sidehall plan house that became popular in the mid 19th century. The influence of the Greek Revival can be seen here in the heavy proportions of the entry, and, particularly, in the wide box cornice with its deep frieze and large dentils. More significant is the Academy, the finest single building in the Hebron Village Historic District. Still a relatively simple building, the Academy (c.1840) is trimmed with cornerboards and sill boards, and a heavy pedimented box cornice. The central door of the symmetrical building is framed by pilasters and entablature, and the Academy is crowned by a distinguished two-stage tower. The Hebron Academy ranks among the finest school buildings in the Lakes Region.
The 20th century saw several changes on Hebron Common, largely because of fires. Fire destroyed the two houses that stood on each side of Groton Road. The northern house has never been replaced. But, about 1910, Wallace Gurney built a house on the site of the southern house. The Gurney House has the unusual but dignified form, sometimes called the "tri-gable ell." The house is distinguished by its form and its surrounding veranda, but, fortunately, not by any elaborate ornament that would have conflicted with the simple architecture of its neighbors.
The early 20th century also saw the erection of two public buildings in the northeast corner of the Common. The Memorial Chapel, built in 1909-10, is a small building lifted above the norm by its temple style portico facing the Common. In the Chapel, we can see the Classical style that had become the standard for public buildings translated into a modest and provincial structure, but still providing a sense of dignity, if not monumentality. Next to the Chapel, the Olive Branch Grange built its hall in 1914-15. A vernacular building distinguished only by its entry porch, the Grange Hall is still a pleasant building, and a not unsuitable companion to the more impressive Chapel.
A May 31, 1945, fire destroyed two of the most important buildings on the Common, the village store and the church. The store was replaced in 1947 with a vernacular structure, whose form and sheathing recalls the earlier buildings in the village. 1947 also saw construction begun on a new house, and a church to replace the burned structure. The Adams House, later enlarged and remodeled, is a modern Colonial Revival Cape, which is stylistically related to the older village houses. The church, as well, was designed in the Colonial Revival style. Although not a reproduction of the earlier building, the new church did echo the form and plan of the original church. And it does succeed in taking the place of that all important element in the village scene. These three later buildings, although considered as non-contributing, are sympathetic replacements and additions to the village that enhance, rather than detract from, its essential architectural qualities.
The regard for the village's character shown in the design of its most recent buildings can also be seen in the care that has been taken of the older buildings. Most are in good condition and have received only a few minor and usually sympathetic alterations. The same interest shown by the property owners has been shown by the community at large. In 1971, a town ordinance was enacted to protect the historic character of the Common and the area within a quarter mile of the Common. In 1973, when the Town adopted a zoning ordinance, this area, which includes all of the National Register Historic District, was designated a local Historic District and placed under the regulation of an Historic District Commission.
The architecture of the Hebron Village Historic District is with the exception of Hebron Academy, relatively modest in character. But the Hebron Village Historic District's contributing buildings are fine examples of the rural New England architecture of their day, notable for the simple but good taste of their designs. The houses, the four Capes, Meadow Wind, the Parsonage, and the Gurney House, are all pleasing residences. The three public buildings are attractive and dignified. Hebron Academy is the Hebron Village Historic District's outstanding building, while the Memorial Chapel and the Grange Hall are good examples of early 20th century provincial architecture. The similarity of style, the consistent use of the same traditional forms, wooden frame construction and clapboarding, guarantee that the buildings are architecturally cohesive as a group.
In the final analysis, the sum is greater than the parts. It is the combination of the village's fine plan centered on a spacious common and its pleasant buildings that makes Hebron Village one of the most attractive villages in central New Hampshire.
Grafton County Registry of Deeds (manuscripts, Grafton County Registry of Deeds, Haverhill, N.H.).
Hebron Bicentennial Committee — History of Hebron, N.H. (Hebron, N.H., 1976).
Hebron Public Library photo collection (Hebron Public Library, Hebron, N.H.)
"Hebron Town Reports" (manuscript, Hebron Town Offices, Hebron, N.H. and microfilm, Mew Hampshire State Library, Concord, N.H.).
Interview — Isabel Blodgett, August 28, 1984.
Interview — Beverly Smith, September 12, 1984.
H.F. Mailing "Topographical Map of Grafton County, New Hampshire" (New York, 1860).
D.H. Hurd & Co. — Town and City Atlas of the State of New Hampshire (Boston, 1892).
† David Ruell, Lakes Region Planning Commission, Hebron Village Historic District, Grafton County, New Hampshire, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.