Old Durham Town Hall // 1825

Durham, New Hampshire, sits beside Great Bay at the mouth of the Oyster River, an ideal location for settlement, like the Western Abenaki and their ancestors who’ve lived in the region for an estimated 11,000 years. By 1633, English colonists were spread along the tidal shores of the Oyster River, and brought non-native livestock aboard their ships, “thousands of cattle, swine, sheep, and horses,” requiring them to clear acres merely for pasture. Formerly un-molested fields, carefully cultivated across centuries, were trampled and their crops destroyed. Due to this, violence between the native people and colonizers erupted, and livestock were frequently killed. The Abenaki saw them as a direct threat to their food supply. The Oyster River Plantation (as it was originally named by colonizers), was so named Durham in 1732 when it was incorporated, after County Durham in England.

Built in 1825 by Joseph Coe, local merchant and shipbuilder, this brick building was constructed as a prominent corner store with two stories of windows for commercial use and a top floor apartment. The brick structure is an excellent example of Federal style architecture in the Great Bay area of New Hampshire, and its location at the end of Main Street, where it converges with Dover and Newmarket roads, historic routes to the town’s neighbors, provided a lot of traffic of potential customers.After years of meeting in taverns and schoolhouses, the town selectmen voted in 1840 to purchase Coe’s Store for use as a town hall. They purchased the building, later opening the top two floors into one large meeting space. The town outgrew the building and relocated across the street, and since 1961, the building has been occupied by the Durham Historic Association and Museum.

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