Hollis Village Historic District
The Hollis Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. 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 Hollis Village Historic District is located near the geographic center of the town of Hollis, a southern New Hampshire community in Hillsborough County. The Hollis Village Historic District includes an area of approximately 400 acres in Hollis' historic town center and the majority of properties in the district are residential in nature. In total, the Hollis Village Historic District includes 89 contributing buildings, 31 buildings which are noncontributing, 11 contributing sites, 3 noncontributing sites, 4 contributing objects, 3 noncontributing objects and 1 additional building which was previously listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The centerpiece of the Hollis Village Historic District and the village is Monument Square, a triangular common around which the town's public buildings were constructed beginning in the mid-18th century. To the west of Monument Square, NH Rt. 122 forms the western boundary of the Hollis Village Historic District and extends in a roughly north-south direction. To the north of NH Rt. 130, Route 122 is known as Silver Lake Road, while to the south of this intersection, the road is known as Main Street. Extending to the south of the east side of Monument Square is Depot Road which is roughly parallel to Main Street. To the north of Monument Square the road is known as Broad Street and extends in a north-south direction for a short distance adjacent to the old Burial Ground before making a sharp turn to the northeast. The Hollis Village Historic District also includes several properties at the east end of Ash Street (Route 130) which extends east from Route 122 (Main Street/Silver Lake Road) eastward, terminating at an angled intersection with Broad Street. The terrain within the village center is fairly level and the open agricultural fields which surround the concentration of buildings are a major character defining element. Historic views of the Hollis Village Historic District in the 19th century reveal a landscape which is considerably more open than that seen today. Mature trees have grown up around most of the residential properties.
With the exception of the civic buildings near Monument Square including the town hall, library, church, engine house and high school, the majority of structures within the village are residential in character. Commercial uses include the restaurant and donut shop at the Rt. 122/Rt. 130 intersection ("Four Corners"), the store in Monument Square (which has functioned as such since the mid-19th century) and Brookdale Farm store and the feed store on Broad Street. An additional commercial concentration along Ash Street has been excluded from the Hollis Village Historic District. In some cases, residential buildings have been sympathetically converted to professional offices.
Throughout the village there are visible reminders of the village's agricultural heritage although today there is little in the way of active production other than the Brookdale Farm lands. The former barn at 50 Main Street now serves as a dwelling. A three-story hen house at 60 Broad Street functions as a feed store. Dairy barns/outbuildings are located at 43 Main Street and 60 Broad Street (no longer in active use). Many of the other village buildings retain attached barns although many of these have been converted to other uses. Several properties including 29 Main Street and 11 Main Street retain 19th century cobbler or shoe shops which provided additional income for their owners during winter months.
Buildings in the village are generally 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 stories in height and are in good to excellent condition. Most are of wood-frame construction with clapboards predominating and a few instances of aluminum or vinyl siding. Several of the Federal-era buildings display brick ends and most of the buildings in the Hollis Village Historic District are set on granite block foundations. The buildings of the village illustrate a range of styles popular between the late-18th and early-20th centuries and include examples of the Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Classical Revival, Craftsman Bungalow and Foursquare.
Alterations to buildings in the Hollis Village Historic District have been minimal. Several buildings within the village were moved to new sites, still within the village during the period of significance, including 55 Broad Street. In some cases, damage by fire has resulted in the reconstruction of parts of buildings. As has been mentioned, few buildings have been sheathed in artificial sidings although changes to windows are more widespread. Within the Hollis Village Historic District there are approximately thirty-one buildings that are non-contributing due to their recent date of construction and one which is considered noncontributing due to its degree of alteration.
The Hollis Village Historic District is significant for its range of late-18th to mid-20th century resources which collectively present a unique blend of architecturally-significant properties. The buildings of the Hollis Village Historic District are predominantly residential in nature but also include several architecturally significant public buildings including a town hall, library, engine house and schools as well as several commercial buildings. Although architecturally the Hollis Village Historic District is best known for a number of exceptional examples of the Georgian and Federal styles, additional structures in the district also display the influence of the Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Stick style, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Classical Revival, and Craftsman Bungalow. Most of these buildings were the work of unknown builders although the Hollis Village Historic District also includes designs by several well-known architects including William Butterfield of Manchester (Town Hall, 7 Monument Square) and Boston architects, Oscar Thayer (Congregational Church, Monument Square) and Magee and Rowe (Hollis Social Library, 2 Monument Square).
The Hollis Village Historic District is also significant for Community Planning and Development, as a well-preserved example of the historical evolution of a vernacular village center over two hundred years. Beginning with the establishment of the town common in 1740, and insulated by agricultural development which has historically surrounded the village core, the area has served as the village center since its beginning, a role which it continues to serve today. The period of significance for the Hollis Village Historic District is 1740-1950, reflecting the dates of the earliest settlement in the area and the fifty-year cutoff of the National Register. Despite incremental changes to individual resources and the addition of new buildings over the years, the Hollis Village Historic District possesses considerable integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association.
Hollis Village is a well-preserved example of vernacular community development, illustrating the evolution of the center of a small farming community over two hundred years. The nucleus of the village has always been the small common around which the public buildings were situated. This common, now triangular in shape and known as Monument Square, was first laid out in 1740. Land for the common was given to the town by Abraham Taylor and included, in addition to Monument Square, the sites on which the church and burial ground are located. The first Congregational Church was constructed on the north side of Monument Square in 1743 and was replaced by new buildings, all built on the same site, in 1746, 1804 and 1925. The first minister, the Rev. Daniel Emerson, constructed a house on the east side of the common (what is now 2 Cleasby Lane). In 1794 the Center School was built just to the south, near the site of the present Town Hall, which was built in 1887. The Always Ready Engine House was constructed to the west of the common, but facing Main Street, in 1859. The High School was constructed across the street, on the west side of Main Street, in 1877. Completing the assemblage of public buildings grouped around the common is the Hollis Social Library which was constructed on the north side, west of the church, in 1910. The common itself was fenced in the 19th century and in 1873 was the site for the Soldiers' Monument.
The layout of the major roads which serve the village center today also dates back to the 18th century. These public roads, all three rods wide, which connected Hollis Village to Amherst and Pepperell, Nashua and Brookline survive today as Silver Lake Road/Main Street, Broad Street and Proctor Hill Road and there have been no significant alterations or additions to this layout. Historically, the village consisted of public and a few commercial buildings grouped around the town common with residential development extending beyond, surrounded by a buffer of agricultural fields which survive today and insulate the village core. In addition to Hollis' strong tradition as a farming community, other factors which contributed to the preservation of the town center include the lack of industrial development in the village other than the small cooper and cobbler shops which blended in easily in the village streetscape. The closest local access to the railroad was Hollis Depot, actually located a few hundred feet over the Nashua line and the village center lacked any access to water power necessary for significant industry.
Hollis was one of sixteen present day communities in the Nashua region which was carved out of the township of Dunstable, Massachusetts, chartered in 1673. The town was split off as part of West Dunstable in 1739, a name which it retained until 1746 when it was renamed Hollis by New Hampshire Governor Wentworth. The first recorded transfer of land to a permanent settler indicates that Peter Powers received a deed of 37-1/2 acres of land in the autumn of 1730. Powers erected a dwelling (no longer extant) not far from the present residence at 8 Silver Lake Road. Two years later, a slow but steady immigration began and two garrison houses were eventually erected for protection (no longer extant).
Land for a town common was given to the town by Abraham Taylor in 1740 and included what is now the church site and burial ground as well as Monument Square. The Congregational Church of Hollis was organized in 1743. The Rev. Daniel Emerson was given forty acres of land when he was called to be the first pastor of the Hollis Church. Initially Rev. Emerson built a log cabin here but that building burnt just as it was completed in April 1744. He later rebuilt on the site of what is now 2 Cleasby Lane. In the 18th century, public roads, all three rods wide, led from Hollis Village to Amherst, Pepperell, Nashua, Merrimack and Brookline. Taverns were located at what is now 20 Depot Road, 19 Main Street, 27 Main Street, 28 Main Street and the site of the present 22-24 Main Street. In 1800 Hollis' population reached its pre-20th century peak of 1,557 persons. The Center School was constructed in 1794 near the site of the present Town Hall. Two moves later, the building still stands at 55 Broad Street. The first post office in town was established in 1818 and was operated by Ambrose Gould at what is now 28 Main Street.
Like many rural towns in this region, in the mid to late 19th century Hollis's population experienced a slow decline coinciding with a massive exodus of farmers from the smaller towns. This out-migration was driven in part by the opening of rich lands in the Midwest, the inability of New Hampshire farms to compete and the increasing availability of jobs in urban mill centers. In Hollis as in other towns in the region, long-time residents left in search of new opportunities.
A number of civic structures were erected in the center of town in the mid to late 19th century, affirming the importance of the area. The Always Ready Engine House was constructed in 1859. The Soldiers' Monument on the common was dedicated May 30, 1873. The original high school was built in 1877, made possible by a bequest by Mary Parley. The Hollis Town Hall dates to 1887 and was designed by prominent Manchester architect William Butterfield.
In the late 1800s Hollis was still predominantly a farming community. The town center included a shoemaker, a couple of stores and a post office. There were many small cooper shops scattered on local farms, giving farmers work during the winter months making oak and chestnut barrels and casks for the Boston market. The Hardy homestead included a shop which employed a few workers. The Worcester Brothers had a large cooper shop in the center of town behind what is now 28 Main Street. The shop employed from ten to twelve men who made barrels used for apples, fish kits, flour, sugar, vinegar, molasses, etc. One surviving cooper shop is found at 11 Main Street. A printing business was established by James Hildreth in 1869 in a room of his home but a few years later he purchased the Center Schoolhouse at 55 Broad Street to house his business. The Hollis Times was established by Hildreth in 1886.
Beginning in the late 1870s, Hollis experienced some popularity as a summer home destination. In some cases the summer residents were children of the first families of Hollis who had established themselves in cities in Massachusetts and New York. For example William and James Pool frequently brought their six children to Hollis in the summer months. James daughters', Isabel, Susan, Caroline and Marion all lived elsewhere the bulk of the year but shared, with their families, the house at 19 Main Street during the summer until Marion and Charles Nichols purchased Buttonwood Farm at 45 Main Street in 1917. The farm was later owned and operated for many years by their nephew, Jeff Smith, son of Susan Pool Smith. Other summer residents included William Canavan of Somerville, Massachusetts who built a house at 39 Main Street in 1885. In 1909 Franklin Worcester built an inn and store named the Cranford Inn on the site of what is now 22-24 Main Street (the building burned in 1912 and was replaced by the present structure).
The last quarter of the 19th century witnessed the peak of individual, small self-sufficient farms in Hollis which included dairying, poultry and orcharding as well as growing strawberries. Dairying began to develop to a large degree in the first quarter of the 20th century. By the mid-1920s poultry raising was no longer a minor part of the town's agriculture. Dairy barns were converted to hen houses and multi-story hen houses were built on many farms. From about one thousand fowl in the 1890s, Hollis boasted over 40,000 layers by 1944 and hit a peak of more than 150,000 in 1968 before virtually all of the small local poultry farms went out of business. Apple orcharding has always been a part of nearly every Hollis farm. In the early days, trees were planted along the edges of fields and stonewalls, leaving the center field open for crops. Aided by excellent soil and elevational conditions, by the 1880s local orchard production had reached a level such that even smaller farms would harvest two or three hundred barrels. Hollis pioneered the commercial use of dwarf and semi-dwarf trees and much of the land near the town center was planted in orchards. More recently, roadside stand selling and pick-your-own opportunities have developed into profitable sidelines for local farms. Brookdale Farms has been in the Hardy family since the middle of the 19th century and produces a major portion of the fruit grown in Hollis.
The twentieth century brought its share of changes to the village. In 1901 it was proposed to run an electric railway through the center of town but nothing came of the idea. Locke's Ice Cream parlor opened on Broad Street in 1901 (no longer extant). The Hollis Social Library at 2 Monument Square was constructed in 1910 according to plans by Boston architects Magee and Rowe. In 1914 "The Block" was completed at 22-24 Main Street, replacing the Cranford Inn which burned in 1912. The present Congregational Church at Monument Square, the fourth to be erected on the site, was constructed to replace a 1804 structure which burned in 1923. An addition was constructed to the high school in 1922. In 1950 the fire station vacated the Always Ready Engine House which continued to be used by various organizations and later by the police station. A new fire station was constructed in 1950 adjacent to the town hall. A new elementary school was built a mile north of the town center in 1951. The bell tower on the high school was removed in 1958 after it was struck by lightning. A new high school was constructed in 1962. In 1971 Hollis created a local historic district including over one hundred buildings in the center of town. Many buildings have been rehabilitated in recent years for new uses. A large shopping area, the Village Marketplace, was constructed off the north side of Ash Street in 1985.
Beebe, Lucie. "Historic Hollis Homes," Vol. II, 1977-78.
Burge, Abbie. "Hollis: An Agricultural Town," Granite State Monthly, Feb. 1898.
Gerould, Samuel L. The New England Meetinghouse with a history of the Congregational Meeting Houses in Hollis. Nashua, NH; Telegraph Publishing Co., 1904.
Hayden, Bertha. Hollis, N.H., Along the Line of the Proposed Electric Railroad. Hollis: Hollis Steam Press, 1902.
Hildreth, A.F. Happy Hollis Homes. Hollis: Hollis Times Publishing Co., 1910.
Hillsborough County Registry of Deeds, Nashua, NH.
Hollis History Committee. Where the Past has been Preserved: Hollis, New Hampshire, 1879-1979. Canaan, NH: Phoenix Publishing, 1980.
Hurd, D. H. Town and County Atlas of the State of New Hampshire. Boston: D.H. Hurd & Co., 1892.
Little, Henry Gilman. Hollis, Seventy Years Ago: Personal Recollections. Grinnell, Iowa: Ray and MacDonald, Printers, 1894.
Lovejoy, D.E., editor. "D.A.R. History of Hollis Homes," 1953.
Maneche, Diana. "Hollis Fireplaces," for the Hollis Historical Society, Winter 1974.
Tinklepaugh, Joan Child. Hollis Family Album: Folk Tales and Family Trees of the First Settlers of Hollis, NH 1730-1950. Penobscot Press, 1977.
Wehrle, William E. "National Register Nomination for The Meeting House," Listed 3/1982.
Wright, Lucy P. "History of the Hollis Fire Department," 1968.
† Lisa Mauslof, consultant, Hollis Historic District Commission, Hollis Village Historic District, Hillsborough County, NH, nomination document, 2000, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.