Charlestown Main Street Historic District
Municipality: Charlestown, NH
Location: Charlestown village
Site Type: Historic District
UTMs: (Zone 18) A. 709100/4790600. B. 709450/4789400. C. 709200/4789350. D. 708950/4790550
National Register Nomination Information:
The Charlestown Main Street Historic District consists of the section of Main Street along which the town center of Charlestown developed and thrived beginning in the late 18th century. The district contains 62 primary structures with their associated outbuildings, streetscape objects, various memorials and monuments. Numerous roads intersect this section of Main Street, a State road (Route 12), which is laid out with a north/south orientation. Entering from the north are Sullivan, Summer, Perry, Elm, Olcott, and Paris Streets, while River, Church, Depot, and Railroad Streets extend south from Main Street. The north and south boundaries of the district are roughly defined by railroad dry bridges.
With the exception of the School (#33) and Olcott property buildings (#36) which rise from a low cleared hill at the southern part of the districts, most of the buildings are set on relatively flat lots. Standard highway style cobra head lights mounted either on aluminum poles or telephone poles dot the street, with crisscrossing electrical wires overhead. Concrete or asphalt sidewalks line most of the street. Conversion of structures for commercial use has eradicated both sidewalks and lawns in some areas, most notably in the northern part of the district, leaving several buildings on the east side islands surrounded by asphalt parking, with little or no separation or definition between these buildings and the street. The advent of the automobile resulted in angled parking spots in front of some commercial structures and service stations digesting several street corners. Sidewalks on the west side of Main Street are continuous and are set back approximately 15 feet from the roadway. Elm trees which once lined Main Street have all but disappeared, destroyed by Dutch Elm disease and the desire for additional parking on the east side of the street. In recent years, over forty trees have been planted along the length of Main Street to try to fill this void. They include lindens, flowering crabs, red oaks and gingkos. Buildings in the southern part of the district retain their residential nature and are set back from the road with more generous lawns and substantial trees. A series of 19th century fences survive at the front of properties on the west side of the street in this area. Granite hitching posts of two varieties can be seen throughout the district and include simple rectangular posts and a later style (c.1870) displaying chamfered corners and bulbous caps. Historic photographs indicate that simple carriage lights on posts once illuminated Charlestown's Main Street.
The streetscape of Charlestown's town center combines residential, civic, commercial, and religious structures with styles ranging from Federal and Greek Revival to the eclectic modes of the 19th century and the automobile-inspired of the twentieth. At least ten buildings in the district predate 1800 though in several cases early features have been obscured by later additions and alterations or as was common, construction of a more elaborate main house, using the original structure as an ell. Periods of heightened building activity include the decade following 1800 and the 1830's; eight buildings in the district date to each of these periods. Frame, stone and brick structures are all represented within the district. Only seven buildings in the district have been constructed since 1940. Beginning in the 1930s and '40s, a few Main Street structures were covered in synthetic sidings in the name of modernization, lending only a sense of disrepair to these structures today.
Recent years have witnessed further changes in the downtown, accompanied by growing awareness of Charlestown's historic resources. The addition to Silsby Library (#49) erected in 1977 respects and echoes the detailing of the original structure, including, repetition of rockfaced belt courses. The Town Hall (#21) is undergoing a longterm rehabilitation, of which a major portion was completed in 1981. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on March 15, 1984. Several private rehabilitations have also occurred in recent years. New construction over the past decades includes the High School (#33), and the Post Office (#27) and Bank (#28), in 1967 all in a "Colonial" mode.
Descriptions begin at the northern end of the east side of Main Street, continue southward and then, crossing the street, proceed northward along the opposite (west) side of the street.
1. Johnson House, (east side of Main Street). 1752 and later, Contributing.
1A. Outbuilding, c. 1800, Contributing. Northeast of the house is a clapboarded outbuilding with a standing seam, metal gable roof and a sliding door. Its close eaves and doublehung 12/12 windows suggest a relatively early date of construction.
This property is significant locally as the site of the Johnson Cabin from which the family was taken captive by the Indians, August 30, 1754, and taken to Canada. Its history is so indicated by a stone marker with bronze tablet erected by the D.A.R. in 1927. The present house was reportedly built around the original log cabin. The original Johnson cabin door, complete with what is reportedly an Indian's hatchet mark, was given by the D.A.R. to the Fort 4 Associates and is on exhibit at Fort #4. Also worthy of note is an early brickyard which was once located north of this house and furnished the brick for many of the buildings along Main Street.
2. House, (east side of Main Street), 1809 and earlier. Attributed to Stephen Hassam, master builder,(1) Contributing.
The ell on this building appears to be a very early structure, contemporary with, if not earlier than the Johnson house to the north. This house was the property of Stephen Hassam prior to 1809. In that year it was sold to Samuel Farrington, a cabinet maker, who apparently added the front section.(2) The first meeting of the Congregational Church took place in this house in 1835.(3)
3. House, (east side of Main Street), 1814 and earlier, Contributing.
According to local history, the ell of this house was probably built in the late 1700s. Prior to 1814 it was the property of Ephraim Carpenter who sold the property that year to Joseph Shepley, who in turn added the front section and operated it as a tavern or public house. The building served as the Congregational Parsonage from 1881 to 1912.(4)
4. Commercial building, (east side of Main Street), 1948, Non-Contributing.
This structure was built in 1948 by A. R. Stevens as a combination welding shop with apartment on the second floor.(5)
5. Former North Primary School, (east side of Main Street), 1772, Contributing.
Offset at the rear is a clapboarded wing (1896) with modern fenestration, ending in a single garage opening on the south side.
This building was originally constructed to house the North Primary School, District #3, in 1772. It operated for this purpose until 1894 when it was sold at public auction to Dr. Whitaker for $125. who converted it into a dwelling, adding part of the present ell and putting on a slate roof. Mrs. Clara Comstock bought the property in 1896, completing the ell and adding, a piazza (now removed).(6) The interior arrangement of rooms and the exterior porchline are c.1975 alterations by architect Livingston Elder for the present owner.
6. Congregational Church, (east side of Main Street), 1839, Contributing.
Recessed slightly from the front of the slate roof ridge is a clapboarded three-stage tower, square in plan, which diminishes in size as it rises in height. The clapboarded first stage is without openings and capped by a projecting boxed cornice, echoed on those stages above. Centered on each side of the second and third stages is a set of louvered, pointed arch blinds. Pointed pinnacles crown the corners of the uppermost stage. Simple cornerboards mark the building corners supporting a projecting boxed cornice with plain frieze. Shallow returns decorate the rear of the church.
Extending behind is a two-story wing vestry addition lit by paired 6/6 windows Abutting the ell and set at right angles is a two-story structure capped by a saltbox roof with close eaves. A single-story addition spans the front of the north part of this building with double doors and a low pediment over the entrance.
This church was constructed in 1839 with initial alterations in 1864 including the removal of the pew doors, the narrowing of the vestibule and relocation of the choir in a low gallery between the doors. The rearmost structure, set at right angles to the church, functioning historically as the Ladies' Hall (Dining Hall), was secured in 1870. It originally served as a carriage paint shop with a ramp at the north end giving access from a street now closed. Additional interior improvements were made in 1874 and 1903. The original vestry was constructed in 1876. It subsequently burned and was rebuilt as described above.(7) Erected originally as the Evengelical Congregational Church, the parish is now know as the United Church of Christ Congregational Church.
7. Congregational Parsonage, (28 Main Street), 1912. Edward Dudley, builder.(8) Contributing.
7A. Garage, c. 1920, Contributing. Northeast of the house is a 1-1/2 story clapboarded garage with two sets of vertical board doors on its gable front.
8. Gas Station, (southeast corner Main and Sullivan Streets), c.1960, Non-Contributing.
9. Milliken House, (east side of Main Street), c. 1831.(10) Contributing.
Although this early residence, like many on Main Street, has been altered over the years to accommodate commercial/apartment uses and is currently compromised by asbestos shingles, it does retain much of its original character and exterior detail and should be considered a contributing structure within the district. Constructed by local wheelwright Adam Milliken about 1831.
10. Charlestown Inn, (east side of Main Street), 1817 and 1880's. Contributing.
Originally a simple cottage, the core of this structure was constructed in 1817 by Elihu Dickinson for his daughter and son-in-law, Dr. John Batchelder. In the 1880s it was known as the Star Hotel and received an extensive addition for this purpose. It was renamed "Elm House" in 1888 and served as a hotel under various names until 1941, at which time it was converted to apartments.(11)
11. Briggs House, (east side of Main Street), 1835 with later additions, Contributing.
Built by cabinetmaker Joseph Briggs in 1835,(12) this simple structure exhibiting Federal, Greek Revival and Italianate styles has seen few changes over the years except for a new window sash configuration.
12. Young's Diner, (48 Main Street), c.1930-40, Non-Contributing.
The house at the rear was built by Richard Robertson in 1887. The diner was moved to this site by Guy Young in 1946 and was later enlarged to accommodate a bus terminal. At the rear of the main house, the stable was converted into a dwelling in 1942.(13)
The integrity of both the Worcester diner and the late 19th century structure at the rear are currently compromised by the application of artificial sidings, obscuring a classic example of the diner and a fine example of the Queen Anne style. In view of its current state, this structure should be considered noncontributing to the character and integrity of the district.
13. Stebbins House, (56 Main Street), 1856 and earlier, Contributing.
The 1-1/2 story ell appears to predate the front section of this house. J. C. Stebbins, who operated a boot and shoe business and was a popular auctioneer, moved a small cottage on the front of the lot back to this knoll (now the ell), and added the front section in 1856. (14)
13A. Barn, c. 1900, Contributing. Northeast of the house is a clapboarded barn (24' x 30') with a sliding door on the south side and a perpendicular smaller shed attached at the rear.
14. Bond House, (62 Main Street), 1887 and earlier. Contributing.
According to local history, this building apparently includes a 1-1/2 story cottage owned by Deacon Obediah Wells possibly constructed as early as 1792. In 1887 the property was bought by George Bond who was responsible for extensive alterations and the building's present appearance. (15)
14A. Carriage Barn, c. 1887, Contributing. A single-story clapboarded barn/garage (c.1887) measuring 30ı x 38' with a hip roof capped by a square ventilator is located behind the main house.
15. Gas Station, (east side of Main Street), c.1928, Non-Contributing.
In 1928 Bartlett Maxim built the store to the south and a filling station.(16) The present service station may actually have been constructed somewhat later.
16. Maxim Meat Market, (66 Main Street), 1928, Non-Contributing.
Built by Bartlett Maxim in 1928.
17. Former Methodist Meetinghouse, (68 Main Street), 1836. Contributing.
Although the integrity of this structure, aesthetically and possibly structurally, is compromised by the application of cardboard-like siding, it retains significance for its former use as the Methodist Meetinghouse and for its unique blend of simple Greek Revival and Gothic details. The building was originally built in 1836 on the west side of Main Street and moved to this site in 1856 after the Methodists disbanded.(17) lt is currently used as an apartment house.
18. Former Charlestown Firehouse, (east side of Main Street) 1910. (18) Contributing.
Built with a 60-foot tower for drying hose which was recently removed. Since the construction of a new fire house (north of building #1) in 1974, this building has housed the Charlestown Water and Sewer Departments.
19. Willard Store, (72 Main Street), 1806, Contributing.
This structure was built as a store by Roswell Willard in 1806, with bricks made in the brickyard north of the Johnson House (#1).(19)
20. Building, (74 Main Street), c. 1830, Contributing.
Visual inspection suggests a c. 1830 construction date for this building which was moved to the east side of the street from a site just south of the Eagle Hotel (see #52) just prior to the 1842 fire which destroyed numerous buildings on the west side of Main Street.(20)
21. Charlestown Town Hall, (Summer Street), 1872-1873. Edward Dow, Architect, Contributing.
On the interior the first floor is comprised of two areas, the Town Hall (more recently used as a courtroom) and the stairhall. The southwest room on the first floor was originally the grocery store of Simon Cooley, provided in exchange for some of Cooley's land taken for a site for the Town Hall. The room was used as a Selectmen's Office through much of the 20th century. The Police Department was also located here. The Town Hall features a pressed metal ceiling and a semielliptical niche behind the bench. The second-floor hall, seating approximately 400 people, has a stage at the north end with a proscenium arch added in 1934.
Renovation of the building occurred in 1981. Window frames were removed, repaired and reinstalled with plexiglass. The front door, steps and roof were replaced, an interior fire escape was installed and the exterior steel fire escape was removed
This structure was individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 15, 1984.(21)
22. Former Connecticut River Bank, (5 Summer Street), 1824. Stephen Hassam, master builder.(22) Contributing.
Attached to the rear of the building is a modern vertical flushboard garage addition with a mansard-like roof.
Erected in 1824 at a cost of $2,400, this was the scene of a famous local bank robbery on June 10, 1850. Operated under a variety of names over the years including Connecticut River Bank, Connecticut River National Bank, and Connecticut River Savings Bank.(23) The building retains its central walk-in bank vault.
23. Building, (east side of Main Street), c. 1796 and c. 1870, Non-Contributing.
Originally built by Judge Sumner about 1796, later known as the Stebbins Block and Lodge Block, with extensive alterations c. 1870.(24) Once a unique example of the French Second Empire style along Main Street, the integrity of this structure has been seriously compromised by artificial sidings, additions and window replacement rendering it noncontributing to the district.
24. Dean Store, (82 Main Street), 1787 and later, Non-Contributing.
Originally there were three stores on the street floor of this building. Although some historic material may survive underneath the siding, including perhaps part of the original store erected by Aaron Dean in 1787, this building should be considered noncontributing within the district due to extensive alterations.(25)
25. Nourse's Pharmacy, (84 Main Street), 1924, Contributing.
Constructed in 1924 by George Nourse as a pharmacy (26) (a function it continues to serve more than 60 years later), this small structure is a unique interpretation of the Classical Revival style combining classical forms and details in a decidedly 20th century, whimsical fashion.
26. Bowen Garage Company, (Main Street and Perry Street), 1921, Contributing.
Constructed in 1921, this brick commercial block originally housed a garage, with an automobile display room once occupying the first floor with its large storefront windows. The longest tenant was Keil Lock, manufacturer of locks and keys.(27)
North of the garage is a single story flat roofed addition constructed c.1968 and housing the Charlestown Mill Store which is marked by an internally lit plastic sign hung from the building facade. The brick is laid in a stretcher bond. Concrete steps with wrought iron railings front the "Colonial² door. Windows contain 1/1 doublehung sash. Occupying this site until 1968 when it was destroyed by fire, was a house constructed by Aaron Dean in 1788, later known as the "Mansion House" with towers and piazzas added over the years.(28)
27. U.S. Post Office, (Main Street and Perry Street), 1967, Non-Contributing.
Its recent date of construction renders this structure noncontributing within the district. Site of first meeting house 1753-1763 and later a house long known as the "Lambs Club" constructed in 1790.(29)
28. Connecticut River Bank, (east side of Main Street), 1967, Non-Contributing.
Noncontributing within the district because of its recent date of construction.
28A. Garage, c. 1980, Non-Contributing. Southeast of the bank is a small gable-front modern garage constructed of T-111 siding with two individual openings.
29. Former South Parish Parsonage,(106 Main Street), 1857. Brooks Kimball. builder, Contributing.
Construction of this building for a parsonage was made possible by the Ladies' Sewing Society of the South Parish Church in 1857 at a cost of $2,317. It remained as such until 1884 and is now a single-family residence.(30)
30. Willard House, (southeast corner Main and Elm Streets), c. 1770-1790, Contributing.
This house is on the original grant of Lieutenant Moses Willard who came to Charlestown in 1742. It is not clear whether the house dates to the earliest period of settlement, or whether this house was preceded by an earlier house.31 This house is one of the earliest structures in the town center, its age indicated by the gentle slope of the gable roof and lack of projecting eaves. Over the years it has housed a tavern, store, storage place for wool, and residence and was converted to a two-family house c. 1839. Today it houses offices and apartments upstairs.
31. Thompson House, (116 Main Street), c. 1872, Contributing.
Built by Edward Thompson probably soon after a small house previously on the-site was moved in 1872. Bought by the Catholic Church for a Rectory in 1916, a purpose it continues to serve.(32)
32. St. Catherine's Roman Catholic Church, (118 Main Street), 1880, Contributing.
A clapboarded stick style church decorated by a pattern of horizontal, vertical and diagonal stickwork and set above a foundation of rusticated concrete blocks. The church consists of a nave with a steeply pitched gable front, rear transepts and two-stage tower offset at the southwest corner. Centered on the facade is a gable roofed entrance porch supported by turned posts, with stick balusters above a lattice airspace and fronted by a set of stairs. The porch is decorated by a cross collar brace and is topped by a cross. Sheltered underneath are double doors within a pointed four-sided frame. To each side is a smaller window with similar outline filled with diamond panes. Above the entrance is a circular stained glass window framed by the projecting eaves of the gable front with boxed cornice, culminating in a collar tie beam. Side elevations measure five bays and are defined by buttresses consisting of wooden posts with weatherings set on concrete block piers extending from the foundation. Each contains a single window with peaked rectangular shape similar to those in front.
The two-stage square tower consists of a two-story clapboarded base capped by a truncated hip slate roof with hexagonal shingles, below which is a bracketed cornice. Set above the hip roof the square upper stage features a pair of peaked rectangular openings on each set filled with louvers with scallop edges. A peaked molding surrounds the pair with an inset of incised ornament inset at the top. This stage is sheathed in vertical flushboards and each side features a cross gable with collar brace at the bottom edge of the pyramidal spire crowned by a cross. A clapboarded single-story section extends from the rear of both sides with a gable doorhood set on brackets. A small gable shed is located on the north side. Double lancet windows and a collar brace decorate the rear elevation which is clapboarded above a vertical board base.
Constructed in 1880 this church originally stood on a lot donated by Sherman Paris on the hill east of his residence (see #36). The structure was moved to its present site in 1915 at which time the interior was redecorated and electric lights and steam heat were installed. Noteworthy on the interior are four Tiffany windows donated by Mr. Paris.(33)
32A. Carriage House, c.1875, Contributing. Northeast of and behind the church is this fanciful 1-1/2 story clapboarded carriage house, set with its narrow end to the street. Set into a hill, the building's brick foundation is exposed on the western side. The building is capped by a long flat roof with smaller sloping sides on each end. The wide, central open doorway is capped by a gambrel-shaped door hood supported by large. heavy knee braces worked on a mechanical lathe with octagonal cutouts and geometric detailing influenced by the "Eastlake" style The front of the gambrel is decorated by a collar brace filled with crisscrossing. To each side of this large opening is a smaller sliding door with two vertical rectangular upper windows above recessed panels filled with diagonal beadboard. Flanking each sliding door is a doublehung 1/l window with a shed hood supported by smaller heavy brackets with Eastlake ornament. On the second floor, above each sliding door, there is a diagonal braced door capped by a similar shed hood. A triangular-shaped window with latticed panes is located above each hood. Above the central entrance are two individual doublehung windows capped by steeply pitched gable hoods, decorated by collar braces and supported by massive brackets. Windows on the side elevations contain l/1 sash with shed hoods. Simple cornerboards outline the building, supporting a projecting bracketed cornice.
33. Charlestown High School, (Main Street and Olcott Lane), 1950, Non-Contributing.
This school was preceded on the site by a two story frame house with a mansard roof built by Edward Thompson c.1852. After the house was destroyed by fire c.1892 the lot remained vacant until 19501 when it was purchased by the town and the new high school Was built.(34) This former high school now functions as an elementary school. Owing to its recent date of construction, this building is judged to be noncontributing to the district.
34. West House, (southeast corner Main Street and Olcott Lane), 1784 with later alterations, Contributing.
34A. Stable, c. 1890, Contributing. Northeast of the house is a large two story clapboarded structure resting above a brick foundation with its long elevation facing Olcott Lane. Originally a stable it was later converted to apartments. Two garage doors open to the west. The asphalt roof has projecting eaves and is capped by a two stage square ventilator. It is lit by a 6/6 window on each side and capped by a pyramidal roof with weathervane. A small ell extends southward from the eastern side with a shed dormer spanning the east side of its slate roof.
34B. Gazebo, c. 1890, Contributing. Southeast of the house is an open octagonal gazebo capped by a red metal segmental roof. Its turned posts feature cutout decoration and a jigsaw-work frieze.
This house was constructed by Benjamin West about 1784. Purchased in 1836 by Hon. J.J. Gilchrist who later planted a grove in the front yard and was probably responsible for the Greek Revival alterations on the exterior. The house was sold to George Olcott in 1890 and was the home of A.T. Morse from 1905 until 1939. The house was extensively remodelled by Morse in 1905, including the addition of the south sunporch. Also at this time the original single bay pedimented entrance porch supported by two columns was replaced with the present porch spanning the entire facade.(35)
35. House, (east side of Main Street), c.1740 & 1830. Stephen Hassam, master builder of latter section, Contributing.
According to the Second History of Charlestown, this house is located on lot #20 of the original proprietors lots and the ell may date to that early period. Its proportions echo the required dimensions of the grants and handhewn timbers and the clapboards between the ell and the main part of the house are still evident. The house had a succession of owners before the front section was added c. 1830-40 for one of two owners, Joseph Heaton or Jesse Healy. The builder was apparently Stephen Hassam, as indicated by a "clock-in--wall", his trademark.(36) Historic photographs indicate that the front door was previously sheltered by a flat-roofed entrance porch, a single bay wide, supported by posts.
36. Olcott House, (east side of Main Street), 1774 and 1889, Contributing.
The secondary (south) facade contains six windows on each floor with a central entrance containing double glass doors. The entrance is marked by a flat roofed porch with bracketed cornice, supported by attenuated Doric columns. The roof of the porch is surrounded by a simple balustrade and acts as a small porch for the second story entrance. An open patio fronts the south elevation. At the southeast corner the slate roof profile changes from a gable to hip configuration.
On the east side, like the west, the central building is recessed between the two hyphens. On this side a single story colonnade of Doric columns fronts the central part measuring three bays wide and is capped by a balustrade decorated by urns and simple spindles. The north side is without entrance. A two story vertical board is located between the second and third bays. Fenestration includes predominantly 6/6 windows as well as a three sided bay window, a tripart window and a modern picture window.
Southeast of the house is a large wrought iron gate flanked by two large mortared ashlar posts which are topped by eagles.
Constructed by Simeon Olcott c. 1774 this house may include an earlier house on the site belonging to original grantee, Sylvanus Hastings. Sherman Paris purchased the house in 1867 from Henry Hubbard Jr. and in 1889 made extensive alterations including a stable, barn, gardeners house, ice house, pavilion, and a green house. He also added a cupola on the front of the main house (now removed), in which he had a chape. After remaining vacant for several years the house was sold to Mrs. Budd, later Mrs. Proctor, who removed the gingerbread ornament added by Paris, demolished the pavilion, most of the greenhouse and moved the toolhouse to the southeast corner of the property. (37)
36A. Carriage House, c. 1860, Contributing. East of the house is a small single story clapboarded carriage house capped by a mansard roof, sheathed in polychromatic slate shingles and resting on a granite block foundation. Corners of the building are articulated by wooden quoins. The building is square in plan with a rectangular addition, also capped by a mansard roof spanning the east side. The main (west) side contains two doublehung 2/2 windows with heavy entablatures as well as a modern doublewide garage door capped by transom lights, apparently scaled to fit the original barn door opening. Punctuating the center of the west side of the mansard roof is a segmental arch dormer containing a segment ally arched 2/2 window flanked by panels and capped by a keystone. Smaller dormers with arched 2/2 windows and gable roofs adorned by small brackets. are located to each side. Similar gable dormers punctuate the other sides of the roof, two to each roof section. A four panel door on the south side and enclosed gable porch on the east give access to the building. Projecting from the roof is a square ventilator with louvered rectangular openings on each side and a flared pyramidal roof capped by a ball and spindle weathervane.
36B. Hunt House, (south side of Paris Avenue), 1760 & 1799, Contributing. A 2-1/2 story frame and clapboard structure measuring 2 x 2 bays above a stone block foundation. The central entrance is marked by a flat roofed porch supported by square posts. The modern wooden door is 'colonial" in spirit with integral transom lights at the top. Windows on the building contain doublehung 2/2 sash with simple surrounds and blinds. Two small 2 x 2 light garret windows are located in the attic. Two interior brick stove chimneys rise from the asphalt, gable roof. The projecting eaves are decorated by a boxed cornice. The two story ell is spanned by a single story shed porch with plain posts on the west side. The rear of the main house takes on a saltbox-like configuration on the east elevation and has a recessed screened porch supported by chamfered posts. A two story ell is set at right angles behind, its rear elevation spanned by a shed porch.
The central section of this house was constructed by 1760 by Samuel Hunt Jr. His son, Roswell added the front part when he became owner in 1799, probably at about the same time as the front section of the Hubbard House was added. (see #38) Roswell Hunt and John Hubbard were cousins and the builder for this building, like the Hubbard House, may well have been Stephen Hassam.(38) Historic photographs indicate that a flat-roofed entrance porch once fronted the central entrance. A porch extending along the west side of the building has also been removed.
37. House, (east side of Main Street), 1870's and earlier, Contributing.
Parts of this structure may date to the early 1800's though the building's present appearance is chiefly the result of extensive alterations by owner Francis Gilson in the 1870's including making it into a two story house.(39)
38. Hubbard House. (west side of Main Street), c 1750 & c.1800, latter attributed to Stephen Hassam, master builder, Contributing.
According to local history, the middle section of this house dates to the mid 1700's if not before. About 1806 the building was a tavern operated by Michael Tuttle but was sold to Henry Hubbard by Vryling and Laura Lovell. Mr. Hubbard added the front section, the builder was probably Stephen Hassam .(40)
Henry Hubbard served as Governor of the State between 1842 and 1843, was Collector of the Port of Boston and a potential Presidential nominee at the time of Franklin Pierce. The rear section was added as a combined laundry and servant's quarters by its owner, Miss Helen Clapp in the 1890s.(41) The building served as the Unitarian Parsonage for sometime. It is currently undergoing restoration.
38A. Monument, Non-Contributing. Across from the Holton House is a grassy triangular common formed by the intersection of Main Street and Lower Landing Road. Centered in this area is a boulder with a bronze plaque indicating the site of the stockade of Fort No. 4, at the terminal of the trail of 1744 and the Province Road of 1768. This monument was placed here in memory of Grace Batchelder of Hanover, New Hampshire, a member of the Society of Daughters of Colonial Wars.
39. Holton House. (west side of Main Street), c. 1843. Contributing.
39A. Barn, c. 1843, Contributing. Directly behind the main house is a large gablefront clapboarded barn capped by a slate roof with projecting eaves. Double doors are located on the south side and transommed sliding doors are on the north side. The fixed windows measure four panes by three panes.
39B. Outbuilding, date unknown, Contributing. North of the house is a long, single-story narrow clapboarded outbuilding.
Preceded on the site by an earlier house, this structure dates to c. 1843, constructed for David Holton, Jr. South of this house until 1891, when it burned, was a house popularly known as the "Evans House", built c.1776 by William Page, father of Governor Page of Vermont, and later converted for summer boarders. (42)
40. Lovell House, (west side of Main Street), 1825. Attributed to Stephen Hassam, master builder, Contributing.
This house was constructed in 1825 for Vryling Lovell of brick made in a brickyard at the north end of Main Street, apparently also using materials from an earlier house on the site. According to Livingston Elder, its design is attributed to local builder, Stephen Hassam. Lovell, a graduate of Dartmouth College, came to Charlestown as a schoolteacher in 1803 and subsequently became a successful merchant.(43) In 1949 Deerfield Academy (Massachusetts) duplicated this house for use as an infirmary. This structure has also been photographed by the Historic American Buildings Survey. Divided into three apartments in 1952, the house was restored and renovated to its present condition in the early 1970's.
Lovell's daughter Laura married Chief Justice Edmund Cusing who, in 1840 moved and remodeled a small building north of the main house for his law office. The gable fronted clapboarded building, Greek Revival in style, was demolished in 1929.(44)
41. House, (west side of Main Street), 1775.(45) Contributing.
Thought to be one of the oldest houses in town, retaining most of its original form.
42. Hunt House, (west side of Main Street), 1881, Contributing.
A 2-1/2 story frame and clapboard structure measuring 3 x 2 bays above a brick foundation. Marking the central entrance is a small flat-roofed porch supported by turned posts set on chamfered bases which are spanned by jigsaw-work balusters. The tops of the posts are decorated by bold brackets above which is a two part frieze. The double leaf doors are wooden, with incised decoration and upper glass panes and capped by a transom. To each side of the entrance is a paired set of 2/2 windows with entablature lintels. On the second floor a central joined pair is flanked by an individual window to each side. Vertical boards fill the area above the second story windows. A central gable wall dormer breaks the facade roofline, finished by brackets and containing two small fixed multipane windows. This gable, like those on the ends, is sheathed in vertical boards. A semicircular louvered opening is centered on each gable end. Brackets support the corners of the projecting eaves. A single chimney punctuates the interior of the south part of the asbestos shingled ridge. A single story three sided bay window capped by a shed roof supported by large brackets is located on the north side of the house. Projecting from the south gable end is a two story gable wing with stick detailing echoing that on the main building. A screened porch fills the corner space between the wing and the main house. Extending behind is a two story ell, its rear elevation spanned by a single story shed addition.
42A Garage, date unknown, Contributing. Situated southwest of the main house is a small gableroofed, clapboarded two car garage. It is set broadside to the street and capped by a slate roof.
42B. Outbuilding, date unknown, Contributing. Behind the garage is a gable fronted clapboarded structure capped by an asphalt roof with close eaves. Possibly associated with original house on property.
Constructed in 1881 for the three Miss Hunts, sisters Carrie, Helen and Louisa, this house replaces a small 1-1/2 story structure built on the site in 1795. It burned in 1879.(46) This house is very similar in detailing to the Labaree House (#45) constructed in 1887.
43. Silsby House, (west side of Main Street), by 1798 & later, Contributing.
According to the town history the ell of this structure predates the front section. It appears that the front house was built by lsaac Silsby in 1833, just outside the Fort Grounds. The ell appears to have been on the site by 1798.(47)
44. Kimball House, (113 Main Street), 1835 and earlier, Contributing.
Rear wing may be the original house constructed on the property after 1761 by Dr. David Taylor. In 1835, several owners later, the property was purchased by Brooks Kimball who added the front section. (48)
44A Barn/Garage, c. 1880, Contributing. Behind the house is a two-story garage (32' x 36') sheathed in a combination of clapboards and barnboards with an asphalt gable roof, three garage openings and an arched attic window.
45. Labaree House, (107 Main Street), 1887, Contributing.
This house was constructed in 1887 for William Labaree apparently using the mirror image of the design and plan of the Hunt House (#42) built six years earlier. The stone blacksmith shop of Brooks Kimball (see #44) was demolished to make room for the present house.(49)
45A Garage, c. 1910, Contributing. Southwest of the house is a two-story, two-car clapboarded, gable roofed garage measuring 20' x 24'.
Archeological digs on this property in the 1950's by Howard Sargent identified this area as the original site of Fort #4, which is commemorated by an iron highway marker facing the street. The marker also notes the construction of the fort in 1744 and the fact that it was besieged in 1747 by French and Indians who were beated off by a thirty-one man garrison in a three day battle, after which the fort was never attacked again.
45B. Monument, 1904-1908, Contributing. Between properties #45 & 46 on the grassy strip of land between the sidewalk and street there is also a large boulder with bronze plaques on its front and back. That facing the street indicates that this boulder from the hill side was set here by citizens of Charlestown with the cooperation of the Union Historical Society of Charlestown and the Society of Colonial Wars in Springfield to mark the site of the fort, in 1904 commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Indian Raid. The plaque on the opposite side of the rock honors the leadership of Captain Phineas Stevens in the successful defense of the fort and was erected by Stevens' descendants and Charlestown citizens in 1908.
45C. Highway Marker, Non-Contributing. An additional iron highway marker northeast of this boulder memorializes the expedition of General John Stark to Bennington, Vermont in August 1777. After assembling a force of 1,500 New Hampshire men at Fort #4, Stark and his troops defeated combined British and German forces at the Battle of Bennington on August 16th in what was to be a major turning point of the Revolutionary War.
46. Walker House, (101 Main Street), 1834, Contributing.
This stone cottage was built in 1834 for Mary Walker.
46A. Garage, 1981, Non-Contributing. Northwest of the house is a small gable roofed garage, constructed of vertical board siding.
According to local architect, Livingston Elder, the stonework and detailing on the house is very similar to houses in Chester. Vermont and it is possible that masons from Chester were brought here to construct this house.(50)
As indicated by a small quartz boulder next to the driveway, erected by the Old Fort No. 4 Committee, this was the site of the Walker Tavern, an important local landmark from 1760 to 1793. The tavern was moved to the back of the lot in 1834 to make way for the stone cottage. In 1860 it was moved across the railroad tracks to the site of Clough's Mobile Homes where it burned in the early 1960's.(51)
47. South Parish Unitarian Church, (Main and Railway Streets), 1842-1813. Stephen Hassam,master builder, Contributing.
Located above is an open belfry, octagonal in plan, alternating larger and smaller gables with lancet openings. Delicate wooden tracery decorates both the inside of the curve and the gable which culminates in a crocket. Additional tracery decorates the projecting panels at the top of each face of the octagonal steeple which is capped by a "flying breeches" weathervane. The rear elevation which is two bays wide features a central brick projecting pavilion housing the apse with a smaller clapboard shed. Arches at the back have simple brick lintels. A clapboarded gable roofed vestibule projects from the south side with two 12/12 windows and a six-panel door.
Constructed in 1842 to replace an earlier church (c.1819) which burned in the Great Fire of 1842. The spire closely resembles that on the Methodist Church (1842) in South Acworth, suggesting the work of the same builder, in this case thought to be local builder Stephen Hassam (1761 1861). Stained glass windows were installed in 1885. In 1904 the church was completely renovated and exterior brick painted a buff color.
In 1952 the exterior of the church was sandblasted to remove the paint from the brick walls. Horsesheds at the rear of the church have long since been removed.(52)
47A. South Parish Vestry, 1893, Contributing.(53) A 1-1/2 story clapboarded structure offset to the northwest of the South Parish Church, comprised of a main structure with wing to the west. The offcenter entrance on the north side is marked by a hip roof porch supported by turned posts with a spindle frieze and fronted by a steep staircase extending to the sidewalk, displaying turned spindles and balled newel posts. The wooden paneled door features a large upper glass. Windows on the structure are 2/2 with lip lintels and blinds. Two shed dormers protrude from each side of the main house with long shed dormers containing three windows each spanning the addition. Corner pilasters articulate the building edges, culminating in cornice returns on the east side elevation, which measures three bays wide with a central six-panel door flanked by a window on each side. The wing is set upon a concrete block foundation and its facade is four bays wide.
48. Paris Fountain, (Main Street and Railway Street), 1901. Contributing.
The Fountain was donated by Mrs. Sherman Paris and is a replica of similar structures she had seen in Rome for birds and animals.(54)
49. Silsby Free Library, (Main Street and Railway Street), 1893-1894 (&1977), C.C. McAlpine, Architect, Contributing.
A two-story brick 1977 addition with hip roof extends behind surrounding an earlier ell with gable roofed clapboarded and still visible at the rear. Sliding aluminum windows are on the first floor with doublehung 1/1 above. Rockface belt courses act as lintels for those on the first and sills for the second story. The entrance to the Town Offices at the rear features a semicircular brick arch over the floor. A circular handicapped ramp has been added at the north side. Livingston Elder was the architect for the addition.
Funded by a request from Colonel Ithiel Homer Silsby of Acworth whose will specific construction of 1-1/2 stories of face brick with stone trimmings. Constructed between 1893 and 1894, the library was opened to the public in 1896.(55) Architect of the structure was C. C. McAlpine of Boston. Building drawings appeared in American Architect and Building News. (56)
50. "Bakery Block," (west side of Main Street), 1812-1843, Contributing.
Constructed after a fire in 1842 destroyed many of the buildings along the west side of Main Street. Known for many years as the Bakery Block, William Lawrence operated a bakery here, selling large round crackers, with carts peddling the biscuits on the road. During the Civil War he became alarmed and sold the property. Later the building housed the post office and various commercial uses.(57) In New Hampshire Architecture Bryant Tolles, Jr. notes that the building is similar to the Cheshire National Bank in Winchester and may be the work of the same builder.(58)
According to the buildingıs present owner, research completed by a Boston architect for a previous owner in the 1970's, indicates that this building constructed in the decade after 1800 was the first fixed schoolhouse in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.(59)
51. Monuments, (west side of Main Street), 1 Contributing, 2 Non-Contributing.
52 Jiffy Mart, (west side of Main Street), 1951 with later alterations.(60) Non-Contributing.
53. Hall House, (west side of Main Street), c. 1776. Contributing A 2-1/2 story clapboarded structure measuring five bays wide and two bays deep with a central entrance containing double doors with etched glass panels, sheltered by storm doors and flanked by pilasters supporting a simple entablature lintel. Windows on the building contain doublehung 2/2 sash. On the first floor these are capped by simple entablature lintels with cable moldings and flanked by blinds. Those on the second floor extend up to a fret molding at the cornice which ends in cornice returns on the side elevations. Projecting from the south side is a three-sided bay window and porch supported by chamfered posts on pedestals with a cornice adorned by paired brackets. Centered on the north elevation is a transommed doorway typical of the period. Extending behind is a two-story ell with a gable vestibule projecting from the north side. Offset to the northwest is an attached barn with a sliding door on its gable front and 12/12 windows probably indicative of the house's original windows.
Constructed by Oliver Hall who bought the lot in 1776. The Episcopal Church bought the property for a parsonage in 1907.(61)
53A Barn, c. 1890, Contributing. Located behind the main house is a gableroofed late 19th century barn sheathed in clapboards except for its barnboard rear elevation. A sliding wooden door provides access.
54. St Luke's Episcopal Church, (Main Street at Church Street), 1863, 1869. Richard Upjohn,Architect, Contributing.
The church was designed in 1863 by Richard Upjohn, a prominent New York ecclesiastical architect and is New Hampshire's only wooden church by Upjohn. Ground broken July 4, 1863; completed December 10, 1863; consecrated December 11, 1863. The church was enlarged in 1869 by the architect's son, Richard M. Upjohn, by moving the nave back 22 feet and building transepts, a tower and steeple.(62)
55A. Former Hall Carriage House, (River Street), before 1890, Contributing. A 1-1/2 story frame structure, setback from and oriented gable front to Main Street. Formerly a carriage house, the structure was renovated for use as a private residence in 1969. The exterior is sheathed in wide clapboards and the roof is covered in asphalt shingles. The foundation is constructed of granite block. Replacing the original sliding barn door on the front of the building is a ³colonial" style doorway consisting of a six panel door with partial sidelights and fluted pilasters. Next to the entrance is a doublehung 8/8 window. A joined pair of horizontal casement windows with 2/2 panes are located in the attic and flanked by blinds. Corner pilasters support deep cornice returns with a plain frieze underneath. Broad cross gable wall dormers are centered on both the north and south elevations. The larger original windows have been replaced with 2/2 casement windows with shutters and a tripart 6/6 window on the north side.
A single story gable-roofed garage was added to the west elevation in 1969. Resting on a concrete block foundation it is lit by 6/6 windows with blinds and decorated by pilasters and cornice returns similar to those on the main building.
This structure was originally the Carriage house for the Hall House (#55) to the south. According to the building's present owners, who were responsible for the 1969 renovations, the building has stood on the present site about 96 years. The building was apparently brought in "from the meadows" and placed on a granite foundation which survived after the original stable burned in 1890. The building's cupola has been removed.(65)
56. Sumner House, (40 Main Street), 1823. Stephen Hassam, master builder.(66) Contributing.
Constructed in 1823 for Judge F.A. Sumner, probably by local master builder Stephen Hassam. Brick for this house reportedly came from abroad as ballast in a ship. Outer walls are four bricks thick.(67) Of interest inside is a handsome circular stairway in the front hall.
57. Former Sumner Carriage House, (River Street), original date of construction unknown, alterations date to 1984, Contributing.
58. Hassam House, (37 Main Street), c. 1800. Stephen Hassam, master builder, Contributing.
Constructed by prominent local builder Stephen Hassam, who purchased the property in 1800. Originally had double doors reputedly replaced with single wide door at Mrs. Hassam's request, owing to her wide hoop skirts. Relatively unaltered, it retains its central chimney.(68)
59. Masonic Hall, (west side of Main Street), c. 1908, Contributing.
This building stands on the site of Hassam's barn (see #58) which was incorporated as part of this building. The property was bought in 1908 by Lyman Eaton and Mrs. H.M. Robertson who built the building. It was later sold to the Grange who had an assembly hall on the second floor with apartments on the first. It has been owned by the Masons since 1937.(69)
59A Shed, c. 1910, Contributing. Behind the building is a small gablefront outbuilding sheathed in asphalt with a corrugated metal roof and a sliding wooden door.
60. Simonds House, (west side of Main Street), c. 1807, Contributing.
60A. Barn, early 19th c., Contributing. Southwest of the house is a clapboarded barn with a low gable front decorated by cornice returns. A sliding door is located on the front; windows contain 12/12 doublehung sash.
According to local history the house was built for Elijah Simonds about 1807, possibly by Roswell Willard. (70)
61. Carol's Coffee Shop and Bakery, (west side of Main Street), date of construction unknown. Non-contributing.
This building apparently includes fragments of an older structure (c.1825)(71) previously on the site, which was almost completely destroyed by fire several years ago. An apartment house for several years before it burned, it was converted to a single family residence after the fire and was renovated for use as a restaurant about two years ago.
61A. Shed, date unknown, Non-Contributing. Northwest of the building is a clapboarded outbuilding with a gable roof.
62. Osgood Doublehouse, (west side of Main Street), 1907, Contributing.
A single-story ell is offset at the northwest and southwest corners of the rear elevation. Each has a central chimney and a shed porch supported by turned posts in the corner formed by the junction of the main house and the ell.
This perfectly symmetrical doublehouse was built by Walter Osgood in 1907 as an investment property. (72)
63. House, (west side of Main Street), c. 1808, Contributing.
Constructed by Ebenezer Fletcher for his woodworking shop about 1808. Fletcher sold the property to Thomas Trow who used it as a wheelwright shop. It was bought by William Briggs in 1843 who converted it into a dwelling with attached shed. It originally stood farther north and in 1848 was moved to its present site.
64. Fletcher House, (west side of Main Street), c. 1808, Contributing.
According to local history, this structure was built by Ebenezer Fletcher for his woodworking shop about 1808. A barn on the property burned in 1881.(73)
Owing to its quality of design, setting, materials, workmanship and feeling, the Charlestown Main Street Historic District figures significantly in the general category of American architecture under National Register Criterion C. Beginning with its early importance as the northernmost fort in the Connecticut River Valley, Charlestown exerted a more extensive influence than any other town in the region during the 18th century. During the 19th century Charlestown was reportedly one of the most important law centers in New England next to Boston and Manchester, NH.(1) Regional importance translated into a wealth of architecturally significant structures including the more than sixty structures along Main Street included in this district which date from c. 1750 - 1924. The district combines residential, civic, commercial and religious structures, representing the work of prominent architects of the day as well as relatively unknown master builders. Nearly all are fine examples of their representative styles.
Charlestown, early known as Number 4, was chartered by Massachussetts in 1735 with the town plot laid out in 1737 and first settlers arriving in 1740. A frontier town for twenty years beginning in the 1740's, Number 4 was part of a cordon of forts protecting the region including Chesterfield (No. 1), Westwood (No.2), Walpole (No. 3) and Charlestown. The fort itself, measuring 3/4 of an acre, was constructed in 1743 on the west side of lower Main Street, near the current location of building #45 in the district. Because it was for many years the northernmost outpost in the Connecticut Valley, Charlestown's position early on was enhanced by its role as a trading center for the surrounding countryside and a gateway to northern settlements. The township was chartered by New Hampshire in 1753 as Charlestown.
It was not until about 1753 as the threat of Indian attack appeared to subside that settlers began to prepare homes on the lots along what is now Main Street, still in close proximity to the fort and despite the fact that Indian attacks continued until 1760. The structure historically known as the Johnson House (#1) reportedly integrates part of the original log cabin from which the Johnson family was taken captive by Indians in 1754 and taken to Canada. Main Street itself was laid out in 1763. Summer Street, predating Main Street by almost 20 years, gained early importance as the road leading to the mill.
At least ten buildings in the district predate 1800 though in several cases early features have been obscured by later additions, alterations or as was common, construction of a later, more elaborate main house using the original structure as an ell. The measurements of several of these buildings (#35) correspond nearly exactly to the prescribed sizes of houses as dictated by the Province government and were thus commonly called "Province Houses".(2)
One of the oldest surviving structures on Main Street is the brick North Primary School (#5) constructed in 1772 but functioning as a dwelling since 1894. St. Luke's Rectory (#53) dates to 1776 and is Georgian in style, distinguished by elaborate first floor window lintels, a classic central entrance and transomed side entrance. Less elaborate and more indicative of the simple structures erected by many early settlers is the Moses Willard House (#30), located at the southeast corner of Elm and Main Streets, built sometime before 1800.
During this early period the Olcott House (#36), constructed in 1774 with later alterations, was undoubtedly the showcase of Charlestown. Consisting of a central block flanked by a pediment end ell on each side. the building is decorated by high Georgian detailing including quoining, a swan's neck pediment, full entablature lintels and a hip roof.
Most of the buildings lining Main Street today date to the 19th century. Periods of heightened building activity include the decade following 1800 and the 1830's. As in many downtown areas, fire loss has had an important role in the evolution of Main Street. In 1842, a fire set by a prisoner in the jail swept away everything from Depot Street south to and including the Meeting House which previously stood on the site of the South Parish Church (#47). Concurrent with this period of accelerated building activity in Charlestown was the flourishing of the Federal, Greek Revival and Gothic styles. Local master builder Stephen Hassam (1761-1861) appears to have acted as one of the primary vehicles for transporting all of these styles to Charlestown and is responsible for the delicate woodcarving adorning many Charlestown buildings. Born in Boston in 1761, Hassam spent his early years as an apprentice to a clockmaker in Worcester, Massachusetts. By 1778 he was in Charlestown, the earliest structures by his hand reportedly date to 1800.(3) An exact source for Hassamıs architectural training is not known though he was clearly heavily influenced by the architectural guides of Asher Benjamin and his contemporaries. Buildings within the district attributed to Hassam include the old Connecticut River Bank (#22), South Parish Unitarian Church(#47), and numerous private residences including #2, #35, #38, #56 and #58.
Perhaps the style most in evidence in the survey area is the Federal style, popular between 1800 and 1830, with both residential and commercial examples surviving. A fine example of the basic house type, two stories tall, set broadside to the street with a five bay facade, hip roof, elaborate fanlit entrance and delicate classical details is the Hall House at 61 Main Street (#55). Of similar massing in brick is the Vryling Lovell House (#40) which is distinguished by an eaves balustrade and end parapet walls with four exterior brick chimneys, a roof treatment seldom seen in the area. Also of special note is the home of local builder Stephen Hassam, constructed by him c. 1800 at 37 Main Street. (#58) In terms of commercial structures, Rick's Electric constructed in 1806 at 72 Main Street (#19) and the former Connecticut River Bank (#22) stand out as excellent federal examples conceived in brick. with typical recessed arches rising the height of the structure, a lunette shaped attic opening in the former and a fanlit entrance in the latter.
The advent of the Greek Revival style in Charlestown and elsewhere in the period prior to the Civil War gave rise to gablefronted structures replacing earlier broadsided buildings. The Sumner House (#56), transitional in style, is notable for combining delicate Federal detailing with the latest Greek Revival inspired gable front and sidehall floor plan. The finest Greek Revival structure in the district is undoubtedly the Holton House (#39) with its distinctive semicircular recessed porch on the second floor of the gablefront, supported by fluted Ionic columns. The former "Bakery Block"/ Post Office (#50), constructed in 1842 is a fine example of the Greek Revival style adapted for commercial purposes. Brick pilaster strips support a simple frieze and pediment ends, meant to evoke a simplified version of the Grecian temple front. The Walker House at 101 Main Street combines some Greek Revival details with handsome stone construction (#46).
The Gothic Revival style, popular from about 1840 to 1890 is well represented by two churches in the district. The brick South Parish Unitarian Church (#47), constructed in 1842 and attributed to local builder Stephen Hassam, is distinguished by delicate wooden tracery around the doorway and elaborate belfry. St. Luke's Episcopal Church (#54), constructed in 1863 and sheathed in board and batten siding is typical of the small country churches popularized by its architect, Richard Upjohn in a widely circulated handbook Upjohn's Rural Architecture. Upjohn (1802-1878) was a prominent New York ecclesiastical architect and Charlestown is privileged to have his only wooden church in the State. It is interesting to note that the church was enlarged in 1869 by his son, moving the nave back 22 feet and building the transepts, tower and steeple. An ambitious project, all the more remarkable for being completed at the end of the Civil War.
Railroad activity added a new dimension to Charlestown in the mid 19th century. There were few roads laid out west of Main Street until after the advent of the railroad in 1848. Railway and Depot Street were laid out in 1853, while Elm Street dates to 1858.
Following a period of building inactivity coinciding with the Civil War, the 1870's and 1880's saw renewed construction in the district. This period is characterized by an increasing range of architectural styles as builders and architects sought to break from accepted classical forms. The construction of the Town Hall (#21) between 1872 and 1873 furnished a new focal point for the Town Center. Stylistically, the structure is a fine, though simplified, example of the Italianate Style (popular 1840-1880) with rusticated brick pilasters and segmented brick lintels which drape over the double arched windows like eyebrows. It was designed by prominent N.H. architect Edward Dow (1820-1894) who grew up in Newport before opening a practice in Concord and designed a town hall for Newport during the same period (destroyed by fire). Chamfered porch posts and brackets, other earmarks of the style appear on many structures in the Town Center and also suggest an Italianate influence.
The French Second Empire style existed concurrently with the Italianate style and often exhibits many similar features, the mansard roof being the foremost distinguishing characteristic. A fine example of this style can be seen in the carriage house at the Olcott House (#36A), a small mansarded frame building decorated by quoins and segmental arch dormer windows.
The general label Queen Anne style can be broadly applied to many late 19th century buildings and is characterized by irregular, asymmetrical facades, adorned by a variety of patterns, colors and projections. The Bond House (#14), elaborated by bay windows, porches and a three story ogee-roofed tower is a good example of the possibilities inherent in this style. A product of this same era, the Stick Style is characterized by the use of clapboards with overlays of vertical, horizontal and diagonal boards meant to evoke the structural frame beneath. St. Catherine's Church (#32) is an excellent example of this style and is also noteworthy for the Tiffany windows contained within. The fanciful carriage house at the rear is unique in the district for its "Eastlake" style detailing, geometric with naturalistic overtones. The Hunt House (#42) and virtually identical Labaree House (#45) also display some stick detailing.
The Silsby Free Library (#49) constructed in 1893-4 represents an important expression of local prosperity and confidence, funded by the will of Col. Ithiel Silsby of Acworth. It is typical of many late 19th century libraries across the country, inspired by the work of Boston architect, H.H. Richardson. As seen in the library, this style known as Richardsonian Romanesque, typically incorporates an asymmetrical profile, contrast between brick and sandstone trimmings, semicircular arched openings and transomed windows. The library was designed by architect C.C. McAlpine of Boston who published his drawings of the building in American Architect and Building News in 1893.
The prevailing vogue for classical forms in the first decades of the 20th century is perhaps best summarized within Charlestown by the unique classically-inspired detailing of Nourse's Pharmacy (#25), built in 1924 and whimsically displaying a cornice, columns, and brightly painted cornucopia in its pediment front
In the 20th century Main Street was transformed by concrete and asphalt paving. In 1907 kerosene lamps which had lit the street since 1875 were replaced with electric lights. Sidewalks in the village date to 1912-1913. An important Charlestown landmark, the Eagle Hotel, constructed in the early 19th century, was destroyed by fire in 1904, its site vacant until the construction of a filling station in 1951. Beginning in 1914 the town appropriated funds for the preservation, renewal and care of the trees in the village although the dense trees once lining the street have all but disappeared, doomed by the effects of winter road salting and Dutch Elm Disease. The advent of the automobile resulted in service stations that weakened the axial effect of Main Street as well as the construction of Bowen's Garage (#26). Beginning in the 1930's and 40's many Main Street structures were covered in synthetic sidings in the name of modernization, lending only a sense of disrepair to the streetscape today. Electric clocks and neon signs, representing the latest in advertising rivalled the attention of the shopper during this era and survive today on the Charlestown Inn and Rick's Electric. (7,10 & #9) During World War II almost every house on Main Street was converted into apartments to house defense workers of the machine tool industry. Some were badly mutilated yet many have been beautifully restored.
Recent years have witnessed further changes in the downtown, accompanied by growing awareness of Charlestown's historic resources. The addition to Silsby Library (#49) erected in 1977 respects and echoes the detailing of the original structure, including repetition of rockfaced belt courses. The Town Hall (#21) is undergoing a long term rehabilitation of which a major portion was completed in 1981. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, the only structure in town thus far to have achieved this distinction. Several private rehabilitations have also occurred in recent years. New construction over the past decades includes the High School in 1950 (#33), and the Post office (#27) and Bank (#28) in 1967, all in a "colonial" mode.
Charlestown is fortunate in the wealth of historical resources it retains. While the architectural integrity of some buildings has been compromised by the addition of incompatible design features such as aluminum doors and windows, synthetic sidings, or simple lack of maintenance, these alterations have not been so extensive as to threaten the integrity of the district as a whole.
Properly treated and maintained the historic structures of Charlestown contain tremendous benefit for economic and cultural benefit. Often taken for granted by those who have grown accustomed to its appearance, Main Street presents a strong and attractive historical image to tourists and others passing through town. A unique collection of architectural gems, spanning over two hundred years, Charlestown's Main Street merits inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
American Architect and Building News, v 39, p 62, pl 892, January 28, 1893.[N.H. State Library, Concord, N.H.]
Catalog of Episcopal Churches in New Hampshire. [Unpublished, State Library, Concord.]
"Charlestown's oldest church lines up its 150 year history". Eagle Times, Nov. 3,1985.
Elder, Livingston. Taped lectures on Charlestown architecture, 1980 [Tapes property of Janet Hofmeister, Charlestown].
Frizzell. Martha McD. Second History of Charlestown. N.H.. The Old Number Four. Littleton, N.H.. Courier Publishing Co, 1955.
Tolles, Bryant, Jr. New Hampshire Architecture: An Illustrated Guide. Hanover: University Press, 1979.
Also: Paintings of Charlestown Buildings by Maud Prouty c. 1940-1970, with accompanying text, on display at Silsby Library, Charlestown, NH.
DATE ENTERED: June 10, 1987.
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