The coming of the railroad to Wilton, New Hampshire was largely due to the rapid increase in the number of mills and factories built in and around the East Village along the river beginning in the early 19th century. This increase was the impetus to Wilton business leaders of the time to petition the state for a charter to form the Wilton Railroad Company which was granted in 1844. The first official run of a wood-burning steam engine from Nashua City Station to the newly constructed Wilton Station occurred on Dec. 1, 1851. The small, wood-frame station was deemed obsolete, and replaced by 1860 with a more substantial structure. In this time, the town prospered, and the local mills cranked out everything from worsted yarn to wooden boxes and furniture. After thirty years of use, however, this second station began to show its age; the tin roof was rusting and it leaked. In 1888, a derrick on a wrecker train caught the side of the building and heavily damaged it, requiring the demolition of the station. By 1892, it was replaced by this new brick station. Between the World Wars, automobile use dominated the American transportation landscape, shifting demands from rail to road. In the late 40’s, a restaurant opened in part of the building, operating until the early-to-mid 50’s. The station was closed when passenger service finally ended and the building, undergoing “adaptive re-use”, into a medical center. It operated for some time as a scenic, heritage railroad stop from 2003-2006.
Welcome to Wilton, New Hampshire! With a population less than 4,000, the tiny New England town sure packs a lot of old buildings into its borders. The town was first part of a township chartered as “Salem-Canada” in 1735, by Colonial Governor Jonathan Belcher of Massachusetts, which then claimed this area. The land here was granted to soldiers from Salem, Massachusetts, who had served in 1690 under Sir William Phips in the war against Canada. “Salem-Canada” was one of the towns on the state’s border intended to provide protection against attack from native tribes. In 1762, residents of the town petitioned New Hampshire Governor Benning Wentworth to incorporate the town as Wilton, likely named after Wilton, England. The town prospered as a sleepy farming town, largely concentrated around Wilton Center. By the 1860s, the village of East Wilton developed around the Souhegan River, with mills and businesses centered there. The town decided to relocate their town hall “closer to the action”. Land was acquired on a triangular piece of land in the center of the village, which was recently cleared by the destruction of Whiting House, a hotel that formerly occupied the site. The architectural firm of Merrill & Cutler of Lowell, MA, were hired to design the building, which blends Richardsonian Romanesque and Queen Anne styles perfectly on the difficult site, opening in 1885. Silent movies were first shown in the auditorium in 1912 and by the 1930s, the auditorium was used most often as a movie theater. A large part of the building has since been occupied as a theater for the community.
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.