There’s not much that is more picturesque and stereotypical New Hampshire than old, wooden mill buildings. When I was looking for a town to explore in NH, I got stuck on a photograph of the old Cragin-Frye Mill in Wilton, and off I went! Daniel Cragin (1836-1921) was born in Merrimack, NH of Scottish descent. In 1856, age 21, he rented a room in a woolen goods mill, and he built knife trays and wooden toys which he turned into a business. He started his business with ten dollars, and turned a profit from the beginning, so much so that by 1858, he accumulated enough money to purchase a nearby existing building for his own operation. The mill was water-powered and grew quickly. The Daniel Cragin Mill began production of sugar boxes and dry measure boxes. The mill closed briefly after Cragin retired in the early 20th century. In 1909, Whitney Morse Frye and his father, Dr. Edmund Bailey Frye, bought the mill from Cragin. Frye continued the Cragin line of wooden trays, boxes, and pails in addition to his normal processing of grains. Whitney Frye died in 1961, and his employee, Harland Savage Sr. purchased the old mill, continuing operations. After his retirement in 1981, his son Harley and his wife Pam Porter Savage took over operations and they have operated the mill to the present day as Frye’s Measure Mill. The mill is one of a few remaining operating water-powered measure mills in the United States!
Oh covered bridges, one of the many symbols of New England that always give me joy when I see them! This beauty was constructed in 1872 to span the West River in Dummerston, Vermont and is the longest that is wholly within the State of Vermont. The bridge was designed by Caleb B. Lamson, a master carpenter and the bridge is the only known bridge built by Lamson that survives. Vermont is significant for covered bridges as about one hundred bridges still stand in the state, which is probably the greatest concentration by area of covered bridges in the nation. A reason we have to thank Vermont for this is purely population. With more people living in the state, transportation demands change, and these bridges are often replaced with modern steel structures. Keep doing you Vermont!
Located just a short walk from the oldest extant Jewish synagogue in the United States, Touro Synagogue (last post), the Touro Jewish Cemetery and stately gate, showcase the significance and position Jewish residents held in Newport, going back to Colonial times. The earliest Jews in Newport arrived from Barbados, where a Jewish community had existed since the 1620s. They were of Spanish and Portuguese origin; their families had migrated from Amsterdam and London to Brazil and then to islands in the Caribbean. After the completion of the synagogue in 1763, the Jewish community in Newport realized the need to acquire land for a Jewish cemetery. Two of the original immigrants, Mordechai Campanal and Moses Pacheco purchased the lot at the corner of what is now Kay and Touro Streets for this purpose. In 1843, the cemetery funded the erection of a cemetery gate and fencing to surround the plot. They hired architect Isaiah Rogers to design the gate, which he took inspiration from his design at Boston’s Granary Burying Ground, completed just two years earlier. The Egyptian Revival gate is a very rare example of the style in the United States. On the granite gate, the torches turned to face downward are an acknowledgement of the ending of life’s flame.
Located in Lancaster, Massachusetts, the Thomas Safford House has stood for over 220 years, but is slowly decaying. Built in 1799 for Thomas Safford, a baker, the house is an excellent example of a Federal-style homestead that appears much like it did when built (besides the neglect). After two subsequent owners, the property was purchased in 1890 by Pauline Revere Thayer, a direct descendant of Founding Father, Paul Revere. Pauline added a large wrap-around porch and balcony to the house, which served as a vacation home for working girls from Boston. She appropriately named the house “Goodrest” where the girls could enjoy their summers, without working in poor conditions. After she died in 1934, the property was acquired by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as the residence for the head of the Lancaster Industrial School for Girls. The Lancaster Industrial School for Girls was a reform school and the country’s first state reform school for girls, opening in 1856. This school paved the way of social reform, moving away from child imprisonment for “delinquents” towards a correctional paradigm. This was in part achieved because of the observed benefits of environmental change in children, as well as the importance of education. The bucolic, open-air setting was believed to be beneficial for childhood development, compared to a prison setting common before-hand. In 1935, the Safford House was restored to the original appearance, and the porches removed. The State of Massachusetts owns this house and the rest of the severely deteriorating buildings on the campus. It is a shame to see such significant buildings intentionally left to rot.
Before the days of cars and even trains ruled, people in New England would get around by horseback or stagecoach (horse-drawn carriages) from town to town. Due to the long travel times to get everywhere, many New Englanders built taverns, which served as inns and bars for the weary traveller on their journey. In 1812, a recently married Caleb Handy built this house to serve as a residence and source of income, as a tavern for travellers on the Plymouth-New Bedford stagecoach route. He married Sophia Dexter in 1811, who died just two years later at the age of 22. Two years after the death of his first wife, he married Sophia’s sister, Mary, who just turned 18 (he was 33). The tavern had a ballroom for local dances and a room for serving drinks, based principally on West Indian rum, that was shipped in from sugar plantations, owned by many wealthy white families in New England (many of whom exploited the slavery abroad). The Tavern was later owned by Benjamin Handy, who continued to operate it as a Tavern until the railroad made the stagecoach route obsolete in the middle of the 19th century. It then became a family home. The house was sold to the Sippican Women’s Club in 1923, who renovated and restored much of the building, and held luncheons and events inside. They maintain the building to this day.
Odiorne Point in Rye New Hampshire was owned by the Odiorne Family from at least 1800, when the family built a farmhouse on the land. The peninsula juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Portsmouth, and it was seen as a strategic position by the United States Government, to protect the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. With the advent of World War II, the United States Government deemed it necessary to improve the fortifications commanding the approaches to the Portsmouth Navy Yard, so the Government acquired this property and named it Fort Dearborn. Giant 16” coast defense guns and other equipment were installed to protect the coast from the impending German advance into North America. The Government acquisition on Odiorne’s Point included Mr. Odiorne’s home and 24 other properties, with many fine old homes on the coast demolished to make way for military facilities, but the Odiorne house was converted to a barracks. When The Nazi forces were beat in Europe, the fort was deactivated and all the guns were removed. In the Cold War period, the U.S. Air Force took formal possession of 45.3 acres at Odiorne’s Point in 1955, which it had been using since 1949 as the Rye Air Force Station. By 1961, the defensive use of the site was not as important, and the site was sold to the State of New Hampshire as a State Park. Today, you can explore the park and the decaying concrete batteries up close, which is a favorite excursion of mine.
The Omni Mount Washington (originally the Mount Washington Hotel), surrounded by the great White Mountains of New Hampshire, was completed in 1902, at the end of the Gilded Age and the grand hotel era of America. The grand hotel was financed by Joseph Stickney, a native of New Hampshire, who made a fortune before the age of 30 investing in the coal business in Pennsylvania. In 1881, Stickney purchased the Mount Pleasant Hotel, a nearby summer resort and enlarged it, and acquiring a taste for hospitality development in the White Mountains (it was later demolished in the 1930s). He hired architect Charles Alling Gifford to design a new, larger resort across the street which in total, cost him over $50,000,000 in today’s dollars! Ironically, Joseph Stickney, had famously told the press on the opening day: “Look at me, for I am the poor fool who built all this,” as the economy was starting to turn right as the hotel opened. He died one year later in 1903. Nevertheless, up to fifty trains a day unloaded the families of the country’s wealthiest people, mostly from New York City, who stayed here for Summers at a time, leaving behind “the yellow fever and cholera in the cities” for fresh air and open space. The hotel’s design incorporated some of the most cutting-edge innovations of its age, including a steel-frame superstructure, an electrical power plant, and a sophisticated internal heating system. Roughly 250 Italian artisans were brought in to provide artistic touches to the structure by working on its exterior granite and stucco masonry including the two massive octagonal towers, and installing Tiffany stained glass windows.
After Joseph Stickney’s death in 1903, Carolyn his widow, became extremely rich (the couple never had children). Carolyn spent her summers at the hotel for the next decade, a nearby chapel honoring her late husband. The hotel did well in the subsequent decades until the advent of income tax, Prohibition, and the Great Depression, which harmed many large resorts’ profits. In 1936, Mrs. Stickney’s nephew, Foster Reynolds, inherited the hotel, but it closed in 1942 because of World War II. A Boston syndicate bought the extensive property for about $450,000 In 1944. The Bretton Woods monetary conference took place that year, establishing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. After subsequent owners, in 2015, the hotel and the Bretton Woods Mountain Resort were purchased by Omni Hotels & Resorts, who have been advocates to the history and preservation of the building and surrounding area, also overseeing the hotel’s inclusion to the illustrious Historic Hotels of America list.
There is so much more I could write about the Omni Mount Washington Resort, from the incredible interior spaces, to Carolyn’s marriage to a French prince, to the supposedly haunted sites… So much history to uncover, so little time!
Located at the top of Rosebrook Mountain in the Bretton Woods Ski Resort, this stunning modern lodge building provides possibly the best mountain views in New England. After a couple runs on the slopes, I took the gondola up to the top, exiting to a sweeping view of the White Mountains and the iconic Mount Washington Hotel (more on that later). At the top, is this large, well-sited lodge which is perched upon the mountainside, and an excellent example of Contemporary design done right! Appropriately named Rosebrook Lodge, the new building was just completed in 2020 by designs from architectural firm Bull Stockwell Allen from San Francisco, with help from TruexCullins on the interior design. The two-story lodge is constructed from of timber, steel, stone and glass, which complement the region’s rugged natural beauty and provide a sleek space for on-mountain dining or aprés ski. Inside, the building highlights the outside with walls of windows with warm lighting and woodwork that make relaxing effortless.
Ram Island, about a mile offshore from Portland Head near the entrance to Portland Harbor in Maine, is surrounded by dangerous ledges. For as long as ships have been navigating Portland Harbor, they have crashed into the rocky shore, losing supplies and lives. Because of this, a Congressional act on June 28, 1902, authorized the construction of a lighthouse and fog signal on Ram Island Ledge, to work together with the Portland Head Light to guide ships through the treacherous channel. The next year, the federal government purchased Ram Ledge from two Cape Elizabeth families for $500, to erect a new lighthouse. Before the lighthouse could be constructed, at least two ships, the Glenrosa and the Cora & Lillian schooner sunk in the bay. As the ledge was underwater for much of the year, a stone tower was required. Granite from Vinalhaven was shipped in and a crew of 25 men built the tower which was complete in 1905. The iconic double flash of light has guided sailors ever since. The lighthouse was manned by multiple keepers until the late 1958, when an underwater power cable was laid between Portland Head and Ram Island Ledge, allowing the ledge lighthouse to be automated. In 2008, the structure was deemed “excess to the needs of the United States Coast Guard” and auctioned off. After a bidding war, a local doctor from Maine purchased it for an estimated $190,000.
On October 25th, 1848, an estimated one hundred thousand people gathered on the Boston Common and saw a 95-foot high geyser of water from the Brookline Reservoir of the Cochituate Aqueduct gush into the air from the Frog Pond. This was the success of Boston’s first public water supply and aqueduct, and the second major municipally owned aqueduct in the U.S. At that time, beer was often more pure than most urban water, therefore with the introduction of clean drinking water into the city of Boston, it was an opportunity for celebration. This granite gatehouse structure at the Brookline Reservoir housed valve-like “gates,” screens, and meters controlling and measuring the flow of water from the reservoir into three large cast iron pipes which supplied other reservoirs in Boston, and especially one behind the statehouse on Beacon Hill (since demolished for the statehouse additions). The gatehouse was designed by Charles Edward Parker, an architect who was just 20 years old at the time! The surrounding reservoir is now a public park where you can walk on the elevated edge of the water source while learning about local history, whats not to love?!