Mathes Block // 1840

Right on Main Street in Newmarket, the Mathes Block is one of the best-preserved examples of a brick commercial building in town. The structure was seemingly built for Benjamin W. Mathes, who operated a grocery and dry goods store out of the storefronts. Above, he likely had offices or a dwelling for workers. The building stands out for the contrast of granite at the storefront with the brick elsewhere. The building is now home to The Riverworks, an aptly named restaurant/pub with great food.

Old Newmarket Town Hall // 1847-1989

Incorporated in 1727, Newmarket, New Hampshire, is one of six towns granted by Massachusetts in the last year of the reign of King George I (when it was a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony). Newmarket started as a parish of nearby Exeter, and was granted full town privileges by the legislature in 1737. Newmarket was a center of the New England shipping trade with the West Indies and also saw financial success as a shipbuilding center for the Royal Navy. By the 19th century, the town thrived as a mill town with great water power from the Lamprey River. With the growth of industry and immigrant population increasing due to labor necessity, the town outgrew its older Town Hall. In 1847, the town purchased land adjacent to a prominent mill site on Main Street, and built this beautiful Greek Revival building. The building was updated in the late 19th century with a tower and additional detailing. A massive fire gutted the old building in 1987. Two years later, the building was demolished and town offices moved to a former school building. The site today is a surface parking lot.

Wagon Hill Farm // 1804

Beginning in 1798, sea captain John Bickford (1765-1813), purchased a 127-acre farm which extended from the newly laid turnpike to the Oyster River. Bickford was a resident of Salem, Massachusetts, but owned his family’s homestead across the river on Durham Point and also purchased five other farms in the area but did not live on any of them. The Wagon Hill farmhouse was built in 1804 and is a great example of a vernacular Federal style house. In 1814 while on a voyage to the southern tip of Africa, Captain Bickford died. All of his New Hampshire property was sold except for this Durham farm which remained under the management of his widow, Mary Bickford. She worked as a housekeeper for Captain Joseph White in Salem, and rented out the Durham farm. In 1830, the farm was sold to Samuel Chesley, and it remained in the ownership of four generations of the Chesley family. Here, the family ran a diversified farm, from sheep, to ducks, to apple orchards. In 1960, the farm was sold to Loring and Mary Tirrell. Farming had ceased entirely by the time the Tirrells moved into the house but the fields were kept open and it’s agricultural past was honored by the placement of an old wagon on the crest of the hill. Over the years, the farm has become known to local residents as Wagon Hill Farm. It was purchased by the town in 1989, and serves as a lasting remnant of agricultural history and an amazing preserved open space in the town.

Murkland Hall – University of New Hampshire // 1927

Today is the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001, a tragic day that will never be forgotten. 2,977 innocent civilians perished that day, and tens of thousands more lost close family members, friends, mentors, and co-workers. Robert LeBlanc (1930-2001), was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, and was always fascinated with learning about and visiting foreign places. After graduating from high school in 1949, Bob enlisted in the Air Force, which offered him a ticket to adventure and see places all over the globe. Bob left the Air Force in 1953 and entered the University of New Hampshire in the fall of that year. He graduated with a degree in History, later graduating with a Master’s degree in Geography. He accepted a professorship at UNH and helped shape the minds of thousands in his 36 year tenure at the University. He perished on 9/11, aboard Flight 175, headed to a geography conference in California, but his legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of his students, and a memorial bench outside Murkland Hall, where he spent much of his time.

Named for Charles Sumner Murkland (1856-1926), the first president of New Hampshire College (later UNH) after its establishment in Durham, Murkland Hall was designed by Professor Eric T. Huddleston in 1927. Huddleston’s design for a liberal arts building suitable of Murkland’s name, features a Colonial Revival building set into the hill with classical detailing.

James Paul House // c.1835

The James Paul House in Durham, NH, stands out as a rare example of stone construction in town. The house was built between 1830 and 1840, and is transitional Federal/Greek Revival in style. It has four tall chimneys (two on each slope of the roof), granite lintels over the windows, and granite quoins at the corners which together, create an elegant composition. Tragically, James Paul died unexpectedly when removing the staging on this house, he was never able to live in this beauty. The home was occupied by two reverends of a local church.

Valentine Hill House // c.1649

Valentine Hill emigrated to Boston in 1636 from England with his brother and began a successful career as a merchant and trader. In 1638 Valentine was made a member of the Artillery Company, In 1640 he took the Freeman’s Oath, and in that same year ordained as a Deacon in the Boston Church. In 1641 he was elected a Selectman serving until 1647. In 1643 Valentine received a grant of land at the falls of the Oyster River in what is now Durham, N.H. In 1649, Valentine and an associate got permission to build a saw mill on the river. Additional grants of land included 500 acres for farming. Due to issues with his businesses in Boston, he moved up to present-day Durham to manage his mills and property there. On the property, he employed “seven Scots”, who were indentured servants captured by British forces in the Battle of Dunbar, and among other industries, lumber was milled for use in the shipbuilding industry in surrounding towns. In 1649 Valentine Hill built the original homestead, a single-story house with a basement. In 1699, Nathaniel Hill, son and heir of Valentine, made a two-story addition to the house, giving the home the appearance we see today. After successive owners, the next major period of the property was early in the 1900’s, when James Frost took over the estate, completing the transformation of the grounds and turned into a Colonial Revival summer estate with extensive formal gardens, arbors and an elaborate stone wall. The property remained in the family until the 1980s, but suffered from some neglect. The house was purchased in 1997 and restored to her former glory and is now known as the Three Chimneys Inn. Interestingly, if this home can be dated with dendrochronology (aging the home based on the age of the cut timber), this home would be at least a decade older than the present oldest home in New Hampshire!

“Red Tower” // 1780 & 1895

One of the most interesting homes in Durham, NH, sits right on Main Street, and while lacks much of its original grandeur, the house still has a story to tell. When mining engineer, Hamilton Smith met and married Alice Congreve while working in London, the couple envisioned and planned for a sprawling gentleman’s farm in New England to retire to. In 1895, the couple purchased the 1780 Rev. Blydenburgh home on Main Street, a large Federal style mansion. When Alice and Hamilton retired to the Red Tower in 1895, they set about renovating the estate into a jewel of the Gilded Age. They added a three-story tower to the rear of the home, large additions and Colonial Revival alterations, and they purchased large land holdings behind the house for a working farm. On the farmland, they built a carriage house, creamery, and men’s and women’s accessory buildings (a billiards building and tea house, respectively). Hamilton could only enjoy the home for a couple years until his death in 1900. His widow created the family cemetery at the farthest extent of the property and built the stunning Smith Memorial Chapel (last post). In the 1940s, much of the property was sold off and developed for a residential neighborhood for UNH faculty, and the Red Tower mansion was converted to an apartment house for students.

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.