The South Congregational Church in Newport, NH, is located (as its name suggests) south of the commercial and civic heart of downtown Newport. The church congregation was founded in 1779 and grew substantially in the early 19th century. The church’s location, outside the present downtown, is the result of a long-running dispute within the town of where its civic heart should be located, to the north or south of the Sugar River. The consequence of this disagreement resulted in the placement of the Baptist church at the town common (north of the present-day commercial downtown), and the placement of this church here. The resulting development to the north of the river left this massive, brick Federal style church towering over the small working-class homes, with a majority of the town’s other significant Federal buildings built years later, like the Eagle Hotel and Old County Courthouse to the north of the river. The 1823 church is thought to have been designed by Elias Carter, who designed many Federal-era churches in the New England area.
Newport NH Architecture
St. Patrick’s Church, Newport // 1882
Perched high on a hill in central Newport, NH, St. Patrick’s Church has served the community in its stunning building for nearly 150 years. The town of Newport began seeing Irish immigrants moving into town looking for work at the mills as early as 1835. The large working-class population created a need for a Catholic church in the growing town. That same year, the Catholic population of the state of New Hampshire was listed at just 720 people. Over the following decades of meeting in homes and small buildings around town, the Catholic population in town, along with the newly established Archdiocese of Manchester, NH, came up with funds for a church in the mill town of Newport. The congregation hired Hira Ransom Beckwith, a carpenter, builder and architect from nearby Claremont to design and construct the new place of worship. Interestingly, Beckwith had only a high school education, so his training as an architect and builder was through apprenticeships. The church is a blend of Gothic Revival and Stick styles, with the lancet windows and tracery paired with the elaborate stick-work in the gable.
Old Sullivan County Courthouse // 1826
In December 1824, a law was passed by the New Hampshire Legislature removing the of the Supreme Court of Judicature from Charlestown, New Hampshire to Newport, which was located at the convergence of multiple stagecoach lines along the Sugar River. Soon after, Sullivan County was formed from the northern part of Cheshire County. At a meeting held January 13, 1825 the town of Newport voted to raise $2,000.00 to assist in building a courthouse and town hall, in the center of town. The building was erected in 1826 with the Newport Town Hall on the first floor and County Courthouse on the second. The building continued to be used as a court as well as social purposes until 1872, when it was deeded to the Town of Newport. Since then, the structure was used as a school and grange hall, and it now is home to a restaurant, appropriately called “The Old Courthouse”. The 1826 building is an excellent example of vernacular Federal style architecture.
Parmelee House // c.1879
Located on the east side of the Town Common in Newport, NH, the Parmelee house stands out as a unique vernacular Stick style home. The home was built for Joseph Warren Parmelee (1818-1892), the grandson of original settlers of town, Captain Ezra Parmelee and Sybil Hill. He began his adult life as a merchant in Newport, before moving south to Charlestown, South Carolina in 1847. Joseph was forced back north at the beginning of the Civil War, and he lived in New York City until he finally relocated back to his hometown in 1879, which is likely when he built this home for his family. Upon returning, he became active in town affairs, and also pursued interests in history and poetry, creating a book of poems from his home. The Parmelee house retains much of its original detailing from the decorative bargeboards at the gable ends, large eyebrow window hoods at the second floor, and the interesting trapezoidal roof, possibly a vernacular nod to a mansard roof.
Corbin Estate // 1880
Austin Corbin (1827-1896) was a 19th century railroad man known for consolidating what we know today as the Long Island Railroad. He was born in Newport, New Hampshire and eventually graduated from Harvard Law School in 1849. He eventually moved to New York, and founded the Corbin Banking Company, which he leveraged into a successful banking firm, which funded his diversifying into resorts and railroads. In 1873, while following doctors advice of ocean air for his ill son on Coney Island, Corbin recognized the area as an untapped natural location for a summer resort, and proceeded to purchase 500 acres, opening a large hotel and a new railway system to deliver New Yorkers to the resort in 1878. He is infamous for strong-arming the Montaukett tribe on Long Island out of nearly 10,000 acres they occupied around Montauk. The tribe is still seeking compensation for this tactic. In 1880, he built this summer estate in his hometown of Newport, NH as a castle for his greed, also acquiring over 100 acres for the estate. He soon after bought out over 25,000 acres of land for an ultra-private members-only hunting club. Corbin died on the estate in 1896 and the property was eventually purchased by William Ruger. The home was vacant for decades following WWII until Ruger, who co-founded Sturm, Ruger & Co. purchased the estate, likely utilizing the hunting reserve next door. The property and another owned by the Ruger Family were sold separately at auction in 2019.
Richards Free Library // 1899
Designed by Boston architect, James Templeton Kelley, the Richards Free Library (originally the Seth Richards House) is an outstanding example of the Colonial Revival style, in a region where such expressions of opulence are relatively rare. Located on Main Street in Newport, NH, the house was built during a period of great prosperity by one of Newport’s wealthiest citizens. Richards was one of the few in the area able to afford the services of a metropolitan architect for his own home. The family occupied the home until the 1960s when Louise Richards Rollins, offered the family home on Main Street for the to the town for use as a library in 1962. The first floor rooms were renovated and equipped as a library and Ms. Rollins continued to live on the second floor of the library until her death.
Dexter Richards and Sons Woolen Mill // 1905
The Dexter Richards and Sons Woolen Mill is the last surviving textile mill in Newport, New Hampshire. It was one of the city’s largest and most successful industries and employers. Built in 1905 on the banks of the Sugar River – which supported industrial activity as early as 1768 – the mill reflects the evolution of water-powered mills throughout the city and the region for more than a century. Designed by Peterborough native Edward A. Buss, Richards Woolen Mill is a typical three-story brick mill building from the early 20th century with granite, brick and metal architectural flourishes; it stands out for its five-story Romanesque tower with three tall arched windows on each side. At the base of the tower, above the entrance, are two slate roundels with the dates “1848” and “1905,” marking when both a previous mill on the site and the existing mill were built. In addition to running the mill, the Richards family was instrumental in establishing the Newport Electric Company (1892) and brought both Western Union Telegraph service (1866) and the Concord & Claremont Railroad (1871) to Newport. Richards and Sons, Inc. dissolved in 1926. The property was purchased by Harry W. Brown and Associates and was renamed the Gordon Woolen Mill. That business made wool linings for Army clothing during World War II. The mill was later owned by William Ruger Jr. an heir to the Ruger Firearms Company. Within the last couple years, the mill was purchased for redevelopment into housing, which has not yet materialized.
Eagle Hotel // 1826
Built in 1826 as the Eagle Hotel, this stunning federal structure is representative of the transition from the 18th century tavern, with its domestic scale and features, to a larger-scale 19th century hotel. The town of Newport was situated at the convergence of two stagecoach turnpikes, which transported people through the town regularly. Due to this, James Breck and Josiah Forsaith built the Eagle Hotel to meet that demand. By 1856, additional hotels were built and then owner, S.H. Edes converted the building into a business block. The upper floors were later occupied as apartments and porches were added to the front facade on each floor (since removed). The building is now home to Salt Hill Pub.
Nettleton House // c.1835
Located just off Main Street in Newport, NH, this stunning 1830s brick house shows an elegant blending of Federal and Greek Revival styles prominent at the time. The home was built for Joel Nettleton, a local hotel and stage coach owner, either by Nettleton himself, or by Samuel George, a local cabinetmaker and painter. The home is a great vernacular example of early-mid 19th century architecture in developing parts of inland New Hampshire and showcases a modest design, though with a use of brick showcasing some wealth. The town acquired the home in 2011 and it has since been occupied and preserved by the Newport Historical Society.
Newport Opera House // 1886
The architectural focal-point on Main Street in Newport, NH is the Newport Opera House, with its solid massing and prominent central tower. The town was growing after the American Civil War and its position as County Seat solidified that growth. A new large civic building was erected in 1872 which housed a new courthouse and town hall. A fire destroyed much of the buildings on Main Street in 1885, and destroyed the courthouse and town hall building. As a response to the loss of the building, a fire-proof structure was erected from designs by Hiram Beckwith, a regionally prominent architect from Claremont. The structure featured space for the county, town, and even an opera house! The jewel of the new building was the Opera House located on the second floor that housed a stage considered the largest north of Boston. The Newport Opera House soon became the center of entertainment in Sullivan County and patrons came from far away to enjoy the large variety of programs presented. The large hall played host to dances, boxing matches, weddings, political rallies, plays, school graduations and more! After a period of severe decline, a group of artists and residents of town worked together to restore the building and use the space as a performance center. It remains one of the finest buildings in this part of the state.