National Register Nomination Information:
The Peck-Porter House is located on Main Street in Walpole village, at the northwest comer of Middle Street. An excellent example of Greek Revival-style architecture, the two-story building's character-defining feature is its pedimented, prostyle portico supported by four, two-story fluted Doric columns and flanked by single-story, columned side porches. The exterior of the building is sheathed in wooden clapboards excepting the horizontal flushboard front pediment. The house rests on a granite foundation and is capped by a slate roof. Tall brick chimneys rise from three of the four comers of the roof. A 1-1/2-story wing, which possibly predates the front house, extends behind, linking the main house with the attached barn set at right angles to the rear.
The east facade of the house measures three bays wide with a sidehall entrance at the north end of the elevation. The wooden front door displays six recessed panels and is sheltered by a wooden storm door with multi-paned, glazed panels. Full sidelights extend along either side of the entrance which is capped by four transom lights. Cornerblocks accent the simple fluted door surround. Adjacent to the entrance are two original triplehung 6/6/6 windows flanked by blinds. Aligned with the first floor openings are three 6/6 second story windows. In 1997 these windows, like those on the north and south sides were replaced by wood custom windows of a 6/6 design, based on the original windows. The original window trim was retained and the old original windows are stored in the barn. The fluted wooden columns rest on simple bases and are topped by a full entablature consisting of a wide, plain frieze with a three-part architrave below. This entablature does not extend beyond the front portico. Centered in the flushboard pediment is a semi-elliptical louvered fan. The wooden porch deck is rounded at the two front comers. It is supported by brick piers which are screened by a latticed airspace. Both the north and south, side elevations are fronted by single-story porches supported by fluted columns, a single bay in width.
The single-story porch on the south elevation is four bays wide, supported by fluted columns capped by a two-part entablature. Here, as on the corresponding north porch, the original slate roof was replaced in 1997 with standing seam metal. The south elevation of the main house block is four bays wide with the first and second story windows in vertical alignment and the center pairs of windows set closer together.
On the north elevation of the main house, the rear of the single-story porch is enclosed (date unknown), leaving only two freestanding columns to the east. Punctuating the first floor of the north elevation of the main house block there is a 6/6 window closest to the front door and original triplehung 6/6/6 window on the front wall of the enclosed porch, facing Main Street. The enclosed porch rests on a concrete foundation and its north wall is punctuated by three 6/6 windows with three 6/6 windows above.
Extending behind the main house is a 1-1/2-story clapboarded wing resting on a low stone foundation which is without a cellar. The wing is fronted on the south side by a single-story porch with a standing seam metal roof. In 1997 the three existing chamfered square posts were replaced by new Doric columns and the west end of the porch was enclosed, incorporating the old six-panel door, 6/6 window and shutters. Sheltered by the porch are an offcenter four-panel door with two upper glazed panes and two flanking pairs of 6/6 windows with blinds. A small 1/1 window has been inserted in the wall adjacent to the house. The slate roof of the wing is punctuated by three hip-roofed dormers, each of which contains a single 6/6 window flanked by shutters. The 6/6 sash in the dormer windows dates to 1997, replacing the existing 2/2 sash.
On the north side of the wing there is a multi-light, sliding patio door, added in 1997, replacing earlier kitchen window and door. A pergola has been constructed above the new entrance and is supported by two Doric columns, set above a new brick terrace. To the west of the pergola is a pair of 6/6 windows and a smaller 6/6 window beyond, elevated slightly. Tucked under the eaves of the wing are a pair of 2 x 2-pane windows. In 1997 a hip-roofed dormer window was added to the west end of the north roof slope identical to those on the south side.
Attached to the west side of the wing is a three-story carriage barn of post-and-beam construction. The clapboarded building is outlined by simple cornerboards with a plain watertable and frieze and eaves which overhang without returns. The ridgeline of the barn's slate, gable roof is set at right angles to the main house and wing and is surmounted by a square ventilator punctuated on each face by an arched louvered opening. Rising from the low hip roof of the ventilator is a wooden post topped by a flying goose weathervane. The barn projects further south than the adjacent wing, just wide enough to accommodate a single barn door on the east side, facing Main Street. The diagonal board door was recently reconstructed and is capped by a smaller loft door above. The south gabled elevation of the barn is three bays wide and displays three levels of openings owing to the sloped site. The basement openings each consist of three panes of glass above a louvered panel. The main level of the south side is punctuated by three 6/6 windows with a single 6/6 sash in the attic.
The rear (west) elevation of the barn has two lower level sliding doors constructed of diagonal boards, one with inset lights. There is a sliding 3 x 2-paned window to the side. Five small singlepaned openings on the main level correspond to the location of the interior stalls. Two additional 6/6 windows are tucked under the eaves. On the north side of the barn, the clapboards extend to the ground. There are two three-pane basement windows, two 6/6 windows on the main level and a single 6/6 window in the gable.
The Peck-Porter House is set on a small, fairly level lot of land measuring 0.625 acres of land located at the northwest comer of Main and Middle Streets. The house is surrounded by open lawn and the ornamental plantings which once existed in front of the house have been removed. The mature trees which once lined Main Street are no longer extant. A brick walk laid in a herringbone pattern leads from the concrete sidewalk along Main Street to the main entrance. There are several trees along the Middle Street sidewalk as well as a fiberglass flagpole to the south of the house. Outlined by granite curbing, the area in front of the wing has been paved with brick and there is a dry-stone circle at the center filled with a tree and low shrubs. A series of hemlock bushes planted in a north-south row acts as a screen between the yard to the north of the house and Main Street. A low fieldstone retaining wall extends from the northwest comer of the barn to the south.
The Peck-Porter House features a sidehall plan with a two-story front hall dominated by an impressive spiral staircase. The open string staircase displays thin, round balusters and an urned newel post. For safety reasons, recent renovations to the house included the replacement of the original balusters with members of the same diameter but about six inches taller. At the same time, an additional piece was added near the top of the newel post. The original curved railing has been retained. On the south side of the first floor of the main block there are two parlors, connected by a wide opening with molded trim. The cornerblocks are topped by semicircular pieces and there is a horizontal central panel which rises to a low pyramid. This surround has been replicated in the enframement at the beginning of the hall leading back to the wing, to the south of the parlor behind the front staircase. The original transom lights illuminating the hall were removed when the ceiling in the hallway was lowered to accommodate the addition of ducts and other utilities. The main house retains six fireplace mantels of three different bold, but simple, designs. In one case the mantel displays recessed panel vertical supports, cornerblocks and a lintel with a central horizontal panel displaying a raised pyramid flanked by recessed panels. Above the shelf there is a low peak and the ends of the shelf are marked by quarter-round pieces. Other mantel designs display fluted or curved vertical supports, horizontal lintels which are two-part, or fluted low, peaked projections above the mantel shelf. The doors in this portion of the house primarily consist of six recessed panels and like the windows display fluted molded trim with cornerblocks of several designs. All windows in the two south side parlors are boxed with shutters.
Internal evidence in the wing including the use of log rafters, the existence of vertical rather than circular saw marks on wood planking in the woodshed area, the intact cupboards and trim, as well as the lower ceiling heights suggests that this portion of the house predates the construction of the Greek Revival house and may correspond with the construction of the original house on the site c. 1790.
The wing displays plaster walls and wide plank floors. On the first floor, the east end has seen the introduction of an additional spiral staircase, new kitchen and a relocated mantel. The adjacent dining room retains its original, simple wooden built-in cupboards. There are several six-panel doors with two tiers of vertical panels including that which leads into the former woodshed, which retains a three-hole privy. There are two exposed beams, one of which is original while another was added for symmetry. To the south of the beams, the tin ceiling in the enclosed mudroom has been relocated from the kitchen.
Inside the barn, the original horse and box stalls are constructed of American hickory and the barn incorporates movable door partitions sheathed in horizontal boards and mounted on large iron wheels. All of the hardware as well as the cast iron comer sinks and tack room are original. The hay loft upstairs retains chutes leading to the stalls on the main level. The basement retains a dirt floor. Visible features include the fieldstone basement walls and a number of log rafters.
Walpole Academy opened "for the reception of scholars" in April of 1825; "the The Peck-Porter House in Walpole, New Hampshire is eligible for the National Register under Criterion C, Architecture, as an outstanding example of the Greek Revival style, notable for its Doric front portico flanked by identical side porches. The property retains considerable integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association. The National Register significant date is 1839.
The Peck-Porter House is an excellent example of the Greek Revival style, a style which found nation-wide popularity for domestic architecture from about 1830 to 1850. In general, the Greek Revival style was based on an adaptation of the classic Greek temple front although the style was adapted for everything from simple, pared-down gablefront dwellings to monumental, columned mansions carefully based on historical precedents.
The Peck-Porter House is one of the more outstanding examples of the Greek Revival style found in rural New Hampshire and its character-defining feature is its prostyle pedimented portico supported by four, two-story Doric columns. The dwelling is also notable as one of the few in northern New England to incorporate identical side porches flanking the central mass.(1) Other elements which are typical of the style include the sidehall entrance framed by full sidelights and transom lights and incorporated into a fluted surround accented by cornerblocks. Also in keeping with more high-style Greek Revival examples are the triplehung first floor facade windows which contrast with smaller doublehung windows above. The wide band of trim beneath the cornice is another almost universal feature of Greek Revival houses and is meant to evoke the sense of a classical entablature while the semi-elliptical fan in the front pediment is a hold-over from the Federal style. Inside, the house retains various distinctive period features including a spiral front staircase, bold but simple mantels and door surrounds as well as fluted moldings with cornerblocks. The Peck-Porter House was recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey (NH-63) in 1959.
The Peck-Porter House is one of several Greek Revival buildings prominently located in the center of Walpole Village, although there is no known link between the buildings. To the south of the Peck-Porter House, at the southwest comer of Main and Middle Streets, is the Buffum House, originally built about 1785 and remodeled in the Greek Revival style during the 1830s with the addition of a front portico and partial portico at the rear. Its distinctive features include the embellished entablature and the Palladian window in the front pediment. Constructed in 1832, the Walpole Academy (located across Main Street from the Peck-Porter House) displays a Doric portico and Federal fan similar to those on the Peck House although the Academy's entablature is fully articulated in a Doric style. The Academy is thought to have been constructed by master builder Aaron P. Howland although no connection has been found linking Howland to the Peck House.
The initial occupant of the Peck-Porter House was Philip Peck (1812-1875) who moved to Walpole from Massachusetts in 1830. Peck was initially employed as a clerk in Col. David Buffum's dry goods store. Peck was later a partner with William Bellows in the firms of Bellows & Peck and Peck & Co. and maintained a dry goods and grocery store in the village. On January 4, 1839 Philip Peck purchased a dwelling at the comer of Main and Middle Streets from the heirs of William Cochran of Boston. Soon thereafter Peck moved the c. 1790 Georgian house to the rear of the lot and began construction of a new Greek Revival-style residence facing Main Street.(2) Later that same year, on November 21, 1839, Philip Peck married Martha Eleanor Bellows (1811-1898), a member of one of Walpole's most prominent families and the great-granddaughter of Colonel Benjamin Bellows, the founder of Walpole. The new house was completed for Peck's bride in 1840.
Unfortunately, the construction of the Peck-Porter House occurred during a period of considerable economic instability resulting from the financial crash of 1837. Philip Peck was declared bankrupt on December 21, 1842 (one of at least thirty men in town to declare bankruptcy during this period) and on June 22, 1846 his newly-constructed home was sold at public auction to Henry Foster for$310.(3) After declaring bankruptcy, Peck continued in business alone until a fire in 1849 destroyed his dry goods store. After the fire Peck retired from business and spent much of his time reading books and newspapers of the day.(4) He later served as postmaster for three months under the administration of Andrew Jackson, served on the town library committee and was outspoken in his opposition to slavery.
After purchasing the Peck House in 1846, Henry Foster died in 1852 and the ownership passed to his son Henry P. Foster. The property was sold to Levi Foster in 1860 for $1,293. According to the deed, the "Peck Place" contained about 1/2 acre with two dwelling houses and outbuildings, including the Peck House facing Main Street and the older dwelling to the west, at the back of the lot. In 1861 Leviand Fanny Foster sold the older house at the rear of the lot to Sophia Titus and the following year sold the front house (the Peck House) to Samuel Beck for $1,800. Over the next fifteen years the Peck House changed hands numerous times and was frequently occupied by tenants. By 1864 Beck had moved to Concord and sold the Peck House to Judge Henry Adams Bellows of Concord for $2,600. The deed indicates that at the time of the sale the house was leased until April 1866 to a member of the Bellows family. In 1867 Bellows sold the property to Charles Fuller. By the time Charles Fuller sold the property to Helen Louisa Russell in 1870 Fuller had moved to Terre Haute, Indiana. When Mrs. Russell conveyed the property to Helen and Robert Green of Westmoreland in 1870 for $3,250 it was subject to a lease to William Maynard which was to expire in November 1875. Local physician Winslow B. Porter purchased the Peck-Porter House in 1875.
Members of the Porter family continued to own and occupy the Peck House for almost ninety years. From Dr. Porter (1823-1891), ownership of the property passed to Carrie Porter and then to Margaret Perry Porter (1901-1955). The house was later owned and occupied by the daughter of Warren Porter (1860-1939) - Rena P. Hastings her husband, Yale professor, Hudson Hastings. In 1963 ownership of the house left the Porter family when Rena Hastings conveyed it to James and Martha Currie. Robert and Patricia Yost purchased the property in 1973 and sold it in 1980 to Olin J. Stephens II. Mr. Stephens is a world renowned naval architect who with his firm, Sparkman & Stephens, designed many America's Cup Yachts which successfully defended the America's Cup. In 1992 Olin and Florence Stephens conveyed the property to the American Friends Service Committee who sold it in 1993 to Robert and Myrna Palm of California. Sarah Strife Cashel purchased the property in 1996 and the building was rehabilitated over an 18-month period ending in 1997.
(2) The Georgian house (now 12 Middle Street) is thought to have been constructed c. 1790 by, tanner David Stevens on land which he purchased from General Benjamin Bellows.
(3) Ironically, Philip Peck lived next door to the Peck-Porter House for many years. In 1845. Peck's wife, Martha Eleanor Bellows Peck, purchased the Allen House to the north of the Peck-Porter House and the house was occupied by members of the Peck family, until 1919.
(4) George Aldrich, Walpole As It Was and As It Is. p. 343.
Aldrich, George. Walpole As It Was and As It Is. Claremont, NH: Claremont Manufacturing Co., 1880.
Cheshire County Registry of Deeds, Keene, New Hampshire.
Frizzell, Martha McDanolds. A History of Walpole, New Hampshire, 2 vols. Town of Walpole, 1963.
Peck, Ira B. A Geneological History of the Descendants of Joseph Peck. Boston: Mudge & Sons, 1868.
Peck, Thomas Bellows. The Bellows Geneology. Keene, NH: Sentinel Printing Co., 1898.
Roos, Dr. Frank J., Jr. "Historic American Buildings Survey: Margaret Porter House, (HABS No. NH-63)". [Data sheet and photo of east front].
Tolles, Bryant F., Jr. and Tolles, Carolyn K. New Hampshire Architecture: An Illustrated Guide. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1979.
Walpole Historial Society. "A Self Guided Tour of the Village of Walpole, NH", no date.
Walpole Historical Society. Historic photograph collection.
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