Concord Historic District
The Concord Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. 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 Concord Historic District is composed of buildings ranging in date from the 1730s to the mid-twentieth century. Most structures within the Concord Historic District are dwelling houses, although the limits of the district include part of an insurance office, a school, and a church. In style, houses in the Concord Historic District range from early Georgian (Rev. Timothy Walker House, 276 North Main Street), through Federal (Timothy Walker brick house, 217 North Main Street), Greek Revival (Franklin Pierce Manse, 14 Penacook Street), Gothic Revival (Walker Gothic cottage, 278 North Main Street), 1 Victorian (Kimball House, 266 North Main Street), Colonial Revival (274 North Main Street), and Modern (213 North Main Street). Several of these styles are represented by more than the single dwelling cited above as an example. A still greater diversity of styles is presented by the Walker School (designed in the classical Beaux Arts style of the early twentieth century) and by the Lutheran Church (in a contemporary mid-twentieth century style).
The scale of buildings within the Concord Historic District is generally harmonious because most structures are dwelling houses. Larger buildings (the Kimball House, the Lutheran Church, the Walker School, the Concord Group Insurance Office) are set apart from their smaller neighbors by lots of considerable size, and so do not appear to contrast in scale with smaller houses.
In keeping with their various styles, buildings within the Concord Historic District display a great diversity of facade proportions, materials, color and decoration. The effect of this diversity is aesthetically pleasing rather than disruptive, however, due to the generous set-backs of the buildings on their lots, the unifying and screening effect of plantings, and the generous open spaces that characterize the area (see below, "General Physical Relationships of Buildings"). In workmanship and design quality, the buildings in the Concord Historic District are uniformly of high standards except for a few nondescript modern houses.
General physical relationships of buildings
This section of Concord was the first part of the community surveyed and laid out into houselots in 1726. These lots each contained about 14 acres, or enough land to sustain a number of outbuildings and gardens around each dwelling. The generous proportions of these early lots have been perpetuated to the present day, and result in a neighborhood with a considerable amount of open space. Main Street (though it had existed since the first settlement) was officially laid out on June 23, 1785. It had originally been intended as a street ten rods (165 feet) wide, and although its width was contracted to about 100 feet in 1785, it is nevertheless a broad thoroughfare that imparts a sense of spaciousness to the district. The facade lines of the houses along North Main Street are uniformly set back from the street itself, and thus produce a still more spacious effect. From the early days of Concord's settlement, elm trees taken from the intervales of the Merrimack River were set out along Main Street; this practice has resulted in a heavily shaded and venerable aspect to the streets of the entire Concord Historic District
A still greater amount of open space in the Concord Historic District has been provided by the creation of Fiske Park at the intersection of North Main and Bouton Streets. This park was established on the site of the W.P. Fiske House.
The structures within the Concord Historic District all relate closely to important nearby natural features. The district was originally laid out on the first rise of land directly above the expansive intervales (flood-plain) of the Merrimack River. The fertile flatlands below the district form a major element of the landscape of the area, and the nearby "Great Plain," formed by bends in the river, provided some of the first agricultural lots laid out as an adjunct to the early house lots along present-day North Main Street. Close to the Concord Historic District, and partly included within it, is Horseshoe Pond, a curved body of water which is part of the pre-historic stream-bed of the Merrimack. In historical times, Horseshoe Pond has been important for agricultural purposes, for fishing and recreation, and for the harvesting of ice. The Franklin Pierce Manse has been relocated on the shores of Horseshoe Pond.
Present and original uses of buildings
Most structures within the Concord Historic District retain their original uses, either as dwellings or, in the case of several modern structures, as churches, schools, or office buildings. In one house (225-227 North Main Street), the New Hampshire Legislature met in March, 1782; this structure was originally a store belonging to Judge Timothy Walker, Jr. The Franklin Pierce Manse, moved to the district in 1971, was originally a dwelling but is now a memorial to President Pierce and is open to the public.
General conditions of buildings
The majority of structures in the Concord Historic District are in excellent physical condition. The Franklin Pierce Manse is in the process of being fully restored as a museum house by the Pierce Brigade, which raised funds to move the structure from a Concord urban renewal district.
Because the Concord Historic District has evolved since the eighteenth century, with architectural examples of all succeeding periods and styles, it is difficult to define certain structures within the area as intrusions. If an arbitrary date of 1900 is selected as a limit to the historical nature of buildings within the district, then the Concord Group Insurance Office, the Walker School, the Lutheran Church, and several houses would be defined as intrusions. Using such a definition, the ratio of intrusions to the total number of buildings would be 8/18.
Qualities which make the Concord Historic District distinct from its surroundings:
Historical sites — The Concord Historic District includes several sites that render it the focal point of Concord's history, and that cannot be duplicated in any other part of the city. These include the site of the first framed meeting house (now the Walker School lot), built in 1751, and enlarged in 1784 and 1802. Here also was the location of one of the first palisadoes or garrisons, established in 1746 around the Walker House; a portion of this stockade is in the New Hampshire Historical Society collections. The New Hampshire Legislature first met in Concord on March 13, 1782, in the North Meeting House, but due to the cold the house adjourned to the Judge Timothy Walker, Jr., store, which stood on the east side of North Main Street, while the council met in the south parlor of the minister's dwelling. The original site of the Walker Store is marked by a granite monument, and the structure itself has been moved across the street.
Adjacent to the Concord Historic District is the "Old Burying Ground," where the earliest settlers of the community are buried.
Buildings — The first 71 house lots in Concord were laid out in 1726 on both sides of Main Street, along much of its present-day length. Only the section at the extreme north end of the street, however, has retained a semblance of the nucleated village that was intended by the first settlers. In this district is the Rev. Timothy Walker House, "the oldest two-story house between Haverhill, Massachusetts and Canada." Here, too, are other early dwellings, most of which (217, 225-227, and 278 North Main Street) were built as part of the Walker estate. Later structures, in the Victorian and modern styles, do not destroy the early character of the neighborhood. The area south of the Concord Historic District, however, has almost completely become a modern) business thoroughfare, so that only the Concord Historic District preserves the early appearance of the first Concord settlement.
Concise statement of significance
The Concord Historic District is significant as the only portion of Concord's early compact area that has not been radically altered. Historically, the Concord Historic District is significant as the site of the town's first framed meeting house, as the location of one of the first garrisons or stockades, as the location of one of the community's first schoolhouses, as the site of the first meeting of the State Legislature in Concord, and as the location of an important religious institution which eventually evolved into the School of Theology of Boston University. The area is important also for the several styles of architecture that are preserved there, and for its associations with Concord's first minister, the Rev. Timothy Walker, and New Hampshire's only President, Franklin Pierce.
Origins and historical development of the district
The Concord Historic District is located along the north end of Main Street, which runs along the first of several natural terraces above the Merrimack River flood plain. This location, offering high ground yet easy access to the fertile river intervales, was the first site chosen by Concord's settlers for the nucleus of their village. Their Surveyor, Richard Hazzen, Jr., laid out 71 lots along this terrace in 1726, beginning at Horseshoe Pond. The first-numbered, and least changed, of these lots are included in the Concord Historic District. The earliest intervale lots, laid out to provide croplands for the settlers of the village, were located to the eastward of the Concord Historic District.
The earliest surviving house in the Concord Historic District is the Rev. Timothy Walker House, constructed in 1733-1735, and provided with interior woodwork in 1757 and 1764.
Other houses were subsequently built in the district, several of them by later members of the Walker family. Today, the Concord Historic District includes structures of the Palladium (Georgian), Federal, Victorian, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival and modern styles, and presents an inclusive cross-section of Concord's historical and architectural development.
General analysis of architectural styles or periods
The earliest structure in the Concord Historic District, and the best example of the Palladian or Georgian style, is the Rev. Timothy Walker House of 1733-35 (276 North Main Street). This gambrel-roofed building is closely related to houses of the same period in coastal towns like Portsmouth and Newburyport. On the exterior, the Walker House bears early classical details, including window pediments and an elaborate doorway (which appears to be a restoration). It also shows numerous traces of changing architectural styles, including Greek Revival and Victorian elements, and is thus fully representative of the changing taste of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The Federal style is epitomized in the brick Timothy Walker House (217 North Main Street), built in the early nineteenth century. Its plan, one room deep, with two chimneys placed on the rear wall, is one of several plans common in coastal communities during the Federal period. The Greek Revival style is represented by the Col. Enoch Gerrish House (221 North Main Street), with a Doric doorway portico, and by the double brick house at 270-272 North Main Street, with corner pilasters. Both of these houses also reveal Victorian ornamentation in their cornices. The Greek Revival style is more fully expressed in the Franklin Pierce Manse of the mid-1830s, formerly at 18 Montgomery Street, and moved to 14 Penacook Street in 1971. The Pierce Manse displays the classic Greek Revival design, having its gable end facing the street in the manner of a pediment, pilastered corners and doorway, and a main entrance offset to the right-hand side of the facade.
The Gothic Revival style is superbly represented by the Joseph B. Walker Gothic Cottage (278 North Main Street), which derives from a design by the romantic architect Andrew Jackson Downing. With its board-and-batten walls, lancet windows above the doorway, and medieval pendants and mouldings, the Walker Cottage is as fine an example of the Gothic style as may be found in the region.
Several houses represent the many variations of the Victorian style, most notably those structures that formed part of the Samuel S. Kimball estate (264, 266 and 268 North Main Street).
The most notable Victorian dwelling in the Concord Historic District is the brick Kimball House at 266 North Main Street, built in 1882. With its stone trim, elaborated gables and dormers, and complex plan, the Kimball House is a superb example of the late Gothic style that lingered into the seventies and eighties.
More recent houses, like the Colonial Revival dwelling at 274 North Main Street and the modern house at 213 North Main Street, provide a full cross-section of domestic styles down to the present day. Among the remaining buildings in the Concord Historic District, the Walker School, designed in the Beaux Arts style of the early-twentieth century, and the Lutheran Church, in a mid-twentieth century contemporary style, serve as good examples of the two dominant non-domestic architectural trends of the present century
Generally, all of the architectural styles seen in the Concord Historic District are in keeping with trends to be seen throughout New England during the respective periods of the various buildings. The local idiom is most pronounced in the structures built before the Civil War, while the buildings in Victorian and subsequent styles reveal a more cosmopolitan or national design trend.
Significant people or events
Inasmuch as the Concord Historic District represents one of the first settled areas of Concord, it likewise represents one of the early outposts of white settlement in the upper Merrimack Valley. The town of Rumford was granted in 1725 under the authority of Massachusetts and under the protests of the New Hampshire government (which laid claim to the same territory), and when the boundary between Massachusetts and New Hampshire was resolved in 1740, the town fell under the New Hampshire government. At that point, a struggle between the province of New Hampshire and the town of Rumford ensued, and was finally settled by the King in Council in 1762. The resolution of this conflict established important precedents regarding the rights of private property in New Hampshire.
The person most active as Rumford's representative in this controversy, and the key figure in the early history of Concord, was the Rev. Timothy Walker (1706-1782). Walker was not only the spiritual leader of the new community, but was also an active agriculturalist, a key strategist for the defense of the town against the Indian menace, and one of the most prosperous citizens of the community. His house stands at 276 North Main Street and is the oldest dwelling in Concord.
President Franklin Pierce is associated with the Concord Historic District as a result of his home having been moved there from its original site at 18 Montgomery Street. Pierce (1804-1869) owned the house from 1842 to 1848, and lived there at the time that he gained prominence through his service in the Mexican War. The house, now at 14 Penacook Street, has been restored by the Pierce Brigade as a memorial to the fourteenth President of the United States, and is open to the public.
Locally prominent individuals who have lived in the district include Judge Timothy Walker (1737-1822), only son of the Rev. Timothy Walker and both a minister and a Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. At 221 North Main Street lived Col. Enoch Gerrish, a farmer, trustee of the New Hampshire Savings Bank and of the Rolf and Rumford Asylum, and colonel in the Twenty-First Regiment of New Hampshire Militia. 266 North Main Street was the home of Samuel S. Kimball, President of the New Hampshire Savings Bank and of Boscawen Mills.
Preservation and/or restoration activities in the district
In April, 1971, a citizens' group named the Pierce Brigade moved the Franklin Pierce Manse to its present location at 14 Penacook Street and commenced restoration of the house. Their work has included the removal of a bay window above the door and the reconstruction of the doorway, the rebuilding of three fireplaces, the removal of various modern additions, and the interior decoration of the house.
The front doorway of the Rev. Timothy Walker House has been restored to its supposed appearance at the time the house was completed.
Specific areas of significance
Agriculture: The area immediately to the east of the Concord Historic District is the rich Merrimack intervale or flood-plain which attracted settlers to the Concord area and which sustained them after their arrival. The area of the intervale called the Great Plain was divided into 72 six-acre lots, roughly corresponding to the house lots in the nucleus of the village. These lots have been farmed intensively, some of them until the present day, and have been subjected to various agricultural experiments over the centuries. The Concord intervales of the Merrimack were among the first alluvial plains to be farmed in New Hampshire, and their productivity led to later vigorous settlements upon the intervales of the Pemigewasset (Plymouth, N.H.), the Saco, and the Connecticut Rivers (Coos country).
Architecture: Several buildings in the Concord Historic District are of great importance in defining the architectural history of the upper Merrimack Valley. The Rev. Timothy Walker House, the oldest surviving dwelling in the region, is well documented in the town records and in the personal diaries and letters of the Rev. Mr. Walker. The original condition of the Walker House, including the paint colors, has been recorded, as have many later changes that render the house a microcosm reflecting most of the changing architectural styles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
A companion dwelling to the north is the Walker Gothic Cottage, built c.1855-1860. This house is virtually an exact copy of "A Symmetrical Bracketed Cottage," Design III, The Architecture of Country Houses, by the well-known nineteenth century architect Andrew Jackson Downing. A third Walker building, the mid-eighteenth century Judge Timothy Walker store on the west side of Main Street, represents a rare survival of an early commercial structure, now remodelled into a home. And a fourth structure in the group, the brick Timothy Walker House, is a fine example of a late Federal, masonry dwelling with native granite trim. Together, these buildings represent a rare survival of architectural forms from the early eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, and afford an unparalleled opportunity to study the local architectural idiom through several stylistic periods.
The local interpretation of the Greek Revival style is best represented by the Franklin Pierce Manse of the mid-1830s, moved into the area from 18 Montgomery Street in 1971. Architecturally this house is typical of many similar ones in Concord; an identical dwelling originally stood adjacent to the Pierce Manse, at 20 Montgomery Street. Two other houses, designed in a less classically rigorous version of the Greek Revival style, stand at 221 and 270-272 North Main Street.
The Concord Historic District contains several good examples of Victorian architecture, the most impressive of which is the Kimball House at 266 North Main Street. Built in 1882 of pressed brick with stone trim, this house epitomizes the dynamic and romantic aspects of late nineteenth century architecture. Designed in a modified Gothic style, the Kimball House is an example of the pretentious yet coherent domestic architecture that prevailed in Concord's wealthier neighborhoods during one of the city's most prosperous eras.
Apart from these significant individual examples, the Concord Historic District as a whole presents a rather complete cross-section of the city's architectural evolution, and contains buildings that typify architectural taste at nearly every period from the early eighteenth century to the present.
Military: After the English capture of the fortress at Louisburg in 1745, Indian allies of the French retaliated against the New England frontier settlements by carrying out a series of attacks. As a protection against this menace, Gov. Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire appointed committees of defense in outlying towns, and these committees were responsible for establishing garrisons or forts as refuges in times of attack. One of the ten fortified places in Concord was the Rev. Timothy Walker House, which was surrounded by a wooden palisade and which served as a place of refuge for about nine of the nearby families. The Walker House is the only structure that was so fortified that still remains in Concord.
Political: The Judge Timothy Walker store, now on the west side of North Main Street, the North Meeting House, which burned in 1870, and the Rev. Timothy Walker House were all sites where the New Hampshire Legislature first convened in Concord on March 13, 1782. This precedent eventually led to the provision of permanent quarters for the legislature, and eventually to the designation of Concord as the capital of New Hampshire, in 1816. On June 18, 1788, the North Meeting House was the meeting-place of the legislative session that ratified the Constitution of the United States in behalf of New Hampshire, thus officially placing it in effect for the entire nation.
Religion/Philosophy: The North Meeting House, long the largest such building in New Hampshire, was relinquished by the Congregational Church of Concord in 1842. In 1847, however, it was occupied by the "Methodist General Biblical Institute," which had been founded in Newbury, Vermont. The Methodist institution occupied the old meeting house until 1867, when it moved to Boston and became the School of Theology of Boston University. Thus, the North Meeting House was significant both in the religious history of Concord and in that of the nation as a whole, and was important in both Calvinist and Methodist theology.
Urban Planning: The Concord Historic District represents a relatively intact example of the type of town planning utilized by colonizers from Massachusetts in the period after 1713. As such, it preserves a late version of the nucleated village which had been traditional in Massachusetts since the 1620s. This later form of the nucleated plan, which has been described as a "highway village," is perfectly exemplified in the row of house lots that still survive along North Main Street. The use of this type of urban plan in Concord as late as the 1720s is doubly interesting because the New Hampshire towns to the east of Concord were already being laid out at the same period in the "range township" plan of scattered farms, a plan which was later to become the standard throughout New Hampshire. Concord, then, represents one of the last survivals of the type of urban planning that had been standard in most of New England since the seventeenth century.
Nathaniel Bouton. The History of Concord (Concord, N.H.: Benning W. Sanborn, 1856), pp.121-128.
Bouton, Concord, p.295; James O. Lyford, ed., History of Concord, N.H. (Concord, N.H.:Rumford Press, 1903), II, 1056.
Bouton, Concord, pp.547-550.
Joseph B. Walker, Chronicles of an Old New England Farm (Concord, N.H.: n.p., 1906), passim.
Lyford,ed., Concord, I, pp.275, 285.
Lyford, ed., Concord, I, pp.273, 285, 622.
David Watson, 1844 Concord Directory, quoted in Walker, Chronicles of an Old New England Farm, p.3.
Nathaniel Bouton, The History of Concord (Concord, N.H.: Benning W. Sanborn, 1856), pp.67-68, 121-128.
Ibid., pp.121-128; Joseph B. Walker, Chronicles of an Old New England Farm (Concord, N.H.: n.p., 1906), passim.
Walker, Chronicles of an Old New England Farm, pp.3, 5-6; Daniel H. Giffen, "Historic American Buildings Survey Catalogue, Merrimack and Hillsborough Counties, N.H.," Historical New Hampshire, XXII, 5 (Autumn, 1967). p.8.
Bouton, Concord, pp. 205-226; James O. Lyford, ed., History of Concord, New Hampshire (Concord, N.H.: Rumford Press, 1903), I, pp.188-218.
Joseph B. Walker, Chronicles of an Old New England Farm (Concord N.H.: n.p., 1906), passim; Jacob B. Moore, Annals of the Town of Concord (Concord, N.H.: the author, 1824), pp.42-44.
Walker, Old New England Farm, passim.
New Hampshire Historical Society Collections, IX (1889), pp.169-170; Walker, Old New England Farm, passim.; Charles E. Clark, The Eastern Frontier (N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970), pp.255-256.
Giffen, "H.A.B.S. Catalogue," p.8.
Lyford, ed., Concord, I, pp.273, 285, 622.
Lyford, ed., Concord, pp.170-173.
Ibid., I, pp.274-275, 316-317; II, pp.694-695.
Lyford, ed., Concord, I, p.385; II, p.695.
Edna Scofield, "The Origin of Settlement Patterns in Rural New England," Geographical Review, XXVIII (1938), pp.661-663.
James L. Garvin, "Portsmouth and the Piscataqua: Social History and Material Culture," Historical New Hampshire, XXVI, 2 (Summer, 1971), pp. 43-46.
Bouton, Nathaniel, The History of Concord. Concord, N.H.: Benning W. Sanborn, 1856.
Clark, Charles B. The Eastern frontier. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970.
Garvin, James L. "Portsmouth and the Piscataqua: Social History and Material Culture," Historical New Hampshire, XXVI, 2 (Summer, 1971), pp.1-48.
Giffen, Daniel H., "Historic American Buildings Survey Catalogue, Merrimack and Hillsborough Counties, New Hampshire," Historical New Hampshire, XXIII, 3 (Autumn, 1967), pp.7-8.
Lyford, James O., ed., History of Concord, N.H. (2 vols). Concord, N.H.: Rumford Press, 1903.
Moore, Jacob B., Annals of the Town of Concord. Concord, N.H.: the author, 1824.
New Hampshire Historical Society Collections, IX (1889), pp.169-170.
Scofield, Edna, "The Origin of Settlement Patterns in Rural New England," Geographical Review, XXVIII (1938), pp.652-663.
Walker, Joseph B., Chronicles of an Old New England Farm. Concord, N.H.: n.p., 1906.
Watson, David, Concord Directory, 1844.
† James L. Garvin, New Hampshire State Historic Preservation Survey, Concord Historic District, Concord, NH, nomination document, 1974, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.