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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the oldest extant homes (and one of my favorites) in Hollis, NH is this charming gambrel-roofed Georgian built in 1768. The home was built for Deacon Daniel Emerson Jr., the son of Reverend Daniel Emerson, who was the first minister in Hollis (his home was the last post). Besides serving as the Deacon for the Congregational Church, Daniel Jr. (1746-1820) also was Coroner and High Sheriff of Hillsborough County. He was Captain of the Hollis Company that went to Ticonderoga in July 1776 returning a year later. The home retains the massive central chimney, a common feature in older homes, to radiate heat to the entire home from the central heat source.
The oldest extant building in the village center of Hollis, New Hampshire is the Emerson House, which overlooks the town green. The home was constructed in 1744 for Reverend Daniel Emerson, the first settled minister in Hollis. The home stands on land that was part of the 40-acre ministerial parcel set aside when the town was planned that year. Over the next 21 years, Reverend Emerson and his wife had 13 children (seven sons and six daughters) which caused them to expand the home numerous times until his death in 1801. The home remained in the Emerson family for some years until it was sold at some point in the 20th century when the home was modified with the storefront windows. It now houses apartment units.
Samuel Cummings (1709-1772) married Prudence Lawrence (1715-1796) and moved to Hollis, NH from Groton, MA. The couple had a home built in town and raised at least four children, Samuel Jr., Mary, Sibbel, and Prudence. The original house built by Cummings was a single-story, four room, center chimney type. After his death in 1772, the property passed to Cummings’ son, Samuel Cummings, Jr., an acknowledged Tory. Interestingly, Samuel’s sister Prudence was an ardent patriot, who moved to Pepperell, MA and married a militia man, David Wright. While the Revolutionary War was raging, Prudence visited her brother in the old family home, when she overheard her brother Samuel talk to his friend, a British army officer about passing information to the British. Prudence returned to Pepperell and gathered the women of the town. Then a 35-year-old mother of five, she organized 30 or 40 of them into a militia called ‘Mrs. David Wright’s Guard.’ The women dressed in their husbands’ clothes and carried whatever they could for weapons. As the men had probably taken muskets with them, the women probably used farm implements such as pitchforks. The women patrolled the roads leading into town. The group eventually captured two British soldiers on horseback and let them go only once they agreed to never come back to the colony. Due to this event, Prudence never spoke to her loyalist brother again.
In the 1850s, the house was owned by Superintendent of Schools, Levi Abbott and his wife, Matilda. It was the Abbotts who reportedly added a second story to the house with a hip roof, cornice and corner pilasters, giving it the appearance we see today.