This summer estate in Hollis, NH epitomizes the hidden architectural splendor that can be found off the beaten path in many small New England towns. Hollis began serving as a summer destination in the late 1880s and the trend continued until WWII. In many cases, old family homesteads became summer residences for descendants who had moved to the city but desired to return to their “roots” periodically. The Nichols Home is unique in Hollis as it was designed to be a summer retreat for a well-to-do widow and her considerable servant staff, combining all the comforts available with the advantages of a rural retreat. The design of the main house offers separate living spaces for the family and the servants, including a library, living room and dining room for the use of the family. The servants’ wing was designed to include a two-car garage, a butler’s pantry, a manual dumbwaiter connecting the basement and first floor used to transport fireplace wood and a receiving unit for the delivery of milk, groceries and other goods. Sleeping porches, capitalizing on the benefits of the fresh country air, are an integral component of the house design and are included in both the family and servant wings. The home was designed by the Boston architectural firm of Densmore, LeClear & Robbins, who were hired by the 52 year old widow’s children for their mothers’ summer home. It is said that Ms. Nichols never liked the home and decided to summer instead at the old family summer home down the street.
Hollis Social Library // 1910
An excellent example of Classical Revival architecture, the Hollis Social Library in Hollis, New Hampshire is a single-story building displaying an Ionic portico and capped by a copper dome. The building, which fronts the town green, was constructed in 1910 according to plans by architects Magee and Rowe of Boston. The building was dedicated on August 24, 1910. The Hollis Social Library is believed to be one of the oldest libraries established in the State of New Hampshire. An association was formed in 1851 and a small library was kept in the Congregational Church vestry. After the new Town Hall was built the library was located there until the construction of the current building.
Gates Cobbler Shop // c.1864
This cute little building was built around 1864 according to public records, as a cobbler (shoe repair) shop in Hollis, New Hampshire. The building, on Main Street, is located adjacent to the former Gates house and was used as his workshop for shoe repairs. The building was used for various purposes until the early 20th century when it was converted to a vehicular garage. The building was restored sometime after WWII and converted to a workshop/study by the owner, bringing the building back to its former glory, though altered. The building, seemingly balancing on stones from the photo, adds much to the pleasant streetscape of Main Street in Hollis.
Clapp House and Barn // 1877
This Italianate home with attached barn was built in 1877 for William and Almira Clapp. William worked as a schoolteacher and shopkeeper in Boston before meeting Almira, marrying her, and moving to her home town of Hollis, New Hampshire, a big change of pace from Boston. The couple eventually built this home, behind an older home and lived here until their deaths. A subsequent owner demolished the older colonial in front to establish this farmhouse’s presence on the main road. The home was eventually purchased by Charles Stratton, and the Stratton family lived here for decades. The home and barn are well preserved examples of Victorian era agricultural and residential architecture in southern NH.
Always Ready Engine House // 1859
Located in a triangular island at the corner of Main Street and Monument Square in the charming town of Hollis, NH, the Always Ready Engine House is a two-story clapboarded building with a lower level exposed on the east end due to the sloping site. The simple Greek Revival-style building is capped by a low-pitched gable roof and is outlined by simple pilaster cornerboards. The building was constructed in 1859 by the Town and furnished by the local fire company. Initially the building was kept for the exclusive use of the engine company but in 1862 the Soldiers’ Aid Society was granted permission to meet here. In 1877 the building was altered to accommodate the Town Hearse and in 1878 part of the basement was fitted as a local police lock-up and tramp shelter. The fire department finally vacated the structure in 1950 and the building served as the police station from 1971 to 1987. It was given to the Hollis Historical Society shortly after who hold documents, objects and photos which display the history of the town inside.
Wheeler House // 1914
The Wheeler House is a 1-1/2-story, Craftsman bungalow home in Hollis, New Hampshire, with near full-length shed dormers at the front and rear sloping roofs. This home was preceded on the site by several earlier buildings including an ice house and a garage. The garage burned in 1912 during a fire which also destroyed the adjacent store. After the fire, a temporary store was erected by Will Gates in 1914, the temporary store was bought by Almond A. Wheeler who remodeled it into the present house for his family. Wheeler occupied the house until his death in 1936 and it was later occupied by his widow, Ruth Hills Wheeler. Mrs. Wheeler died in 1979 and according to the terms of her will, the house became the property of the Hollis Historical Society, which it remains to this day.
Conant House // c.1800
This stunning Federal home in Hollis, NH was built around 1800 for Josiah Conant, likely as a wedding gift to his new wife, Lucy. Conant was a cabinetmaker by trade and his shop was located across the street, and according to local sources, he used his woodworking skills on the inside and out of his home, with intricate details including mantels, wainscoting and exterior cornice. Half of the second floor was originally a dance hall and was later used for a reading or writing school school run by Lucy. The brick-end Federal home features a Palladianesque entry with sidelights and an arched transom with historic windows!
Hollis Congregational Church // 1925
The present Congregational Church in Hollis, NH is the fourth to be located on this site and was constructed in 1925, replacing an earlier 1804 building destroyed by fire in 1923. The church is oriented with its porticoed facade facing Monument Square and perfectly blends in with the Colonial era homes and buildings around the green to retain the integrity of one of the best town centers in Southern NH. The present church building was designed by Boston architect Oscar Thayer.
Smith House // c.1847
This home on Hollis’ town green was built around 1840, seemingly for a member of the Smith Family. The family was well-known in town as the patriarch, Rev. Eli Smith, took over as minister of the Congregational Church in town after the death of Reverend Emerson (last post). It appears that after Elias Smith’s death, the home was constructed by a member of the family who then used the land for agricultural purposes, adjacent to the former family home. The home does not face the Green or the street, but faces eastward, and features a symmetrical, five-bay facade with a modest Classically inspired door surround. The home retains its agricultural use today since the property was purchased by Robert and Martha Valicenti. The property is now known best as the Valicenti Pasta Farm, who make some of the best home-made pastas, stuffed ravioli and sauces. I even bought some for Christmas gifts. Shop Local!
Eli Smith House // 1794
This house on a prominent lot opposite the Town Green in Hollis, NH, was constructed in 1794 for Reverend Eli Smith (1760-1847). In 1794, Rev. Smith married Ama Emerson, the daughter of Rev. Daniel Emerson, then the minister of the Congregational Church in Hollis. After Rev. Emerson’s death, Eli Smith took over the church and became the second minister of the town. Eli’s brother Andrew, a skilled carpenter, is said to have built the stunning Georgian house. After his death in 1847, the property was subdivided and another home was constructed, likely for a member of the family, while Joseph Emerson, one of Eli’s sons lived in the former family home. It remains one of the best-preserved late 18th century homes in the area.