Smith Memorial Chapel // 1900

The Smith Memorial Chapel, located in Durham, NH, was built for and named after Hamilton Smith by his wife, Alice Congreve, in 1900. From their marriage in 1886, Hamilton and Alice Smith lived in England for ten years, where Hamilton worked and lived in mining operations in South Africa. He had a home in New York and by the end of 1895, Hamilton acquired property in Durham to create a country estate (next post). On the Fourth of July in 1900, Hamilton and a family friend went boating downriver on the Oyster River, in Durham along with his two dogs Hana and Joy. While attempting to free the boat after it ran aground, he suffered a fatal heart attack at just 59 years old. Almost immediately, his widow Alice funded a memorial chapel to her late husband on the family cemetery. The Gothic Revival chapel features amazing lancet stained glass windows and stone buttresses resembling old English chapels. Also on the grounds of the cemetery are the burials of Mr. and Mrs. Smith and their beloved dogs, marked by small gravestones. The property, including the small cemetery in which both family members and pets are interred, remained in the family until 1979, when it was donated to the town.

Ebenezer Smith House // c.1785

This home in Durham, NH, was built around 1785 and is among the oldest downtown. The late-Georgian/Federal house was constructed for Ebenezer Smith the year of his marriage to wife, Mehitable. When Ebenezer was 17 years old, he pursued the study of law in the office of John Sullivan, afterwards General John Sullivan, until the breaking out of the war when he followed his mentor to the field, becoming and remaining his aide-de-camp until peace was declared. Upon the conclusion of the war, he resumed his studies, was admitted to the bar and subsequently became a prominent jurist and attorney in Durham. General Lafayette stayed in the Smith house upon his tour of the United States in 1824-5.

Ballard-Hoitt House // 1790

In 1790, Joshua Ballard built this house on a prominent triangular lot on the turnpike connecting New Hampshire’s largest city at the time (Portsmouth) with the future Capital (Concord). The main door is flanked by fluted pilasters and surmounted by a pediment with dentils and strong proportions. The old tavern was purchased in the late 1800s by Charles A. Hoitt, a granger and selectman in town. As with many old homes on Main Street in town, the house was converted to apartments with a small commercial space at the ground floor.

Captain Richardson Tavern // c.1785

The Richardson Tavern on Main Street in Durham, NH, was built shortly after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War by Captain Joseph Richardson (1756-1824). The tavern was sited on a rise, providing views of Mill Pond in the distance. The tavern provided meeting spaces for town officials and juries to meet and discuss important city matters before the construction of the first purpose-built town hall just a block away. The Federal style tavern was “modernized” in the early 20th century with Colonial Revival dormers and eventually was converted into apartments as the ever-growing University of New Hampshire brought more students into town.

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.