In the township of Washington, New Hampshire, about three miles from the Washington Town Green, stands a rural church building, a white wooden structure complimenting freshly fallen snow. This church is honored as the mother church of the first Seventh-Day Adventists. Its story started in 1842 by a local group of farmers calling themselves Christian Brethren, who dissented sharply from the strict Congregationalism of the Church in Washington Center. Many of the Christian Brethren became Adventists about the time this building was first used, and thereafter some of them began worshiping on the Seventh Day; and eventually the majority did so. In 1862 the official Seventh-day Adventist denomination was born at this place. Today, the building is a regular point of pilgrimage for members of the massive, international congregation.
Located adjacent to the Washington Town Green, the Faxon House exemplifies the Georgian architectural style seen in small towns all over the region. The home was built in the early 1790s by a member of the Faxon family. By the early 19th century, the home was owned by Azariah Faxon a storekeeper and the schoolmaster at the District #1 School, which at that time was located between the Town Hall and the Congregational Church in the center of town before being replaced with a larger structure. In 1793, an eight-year-old Sylvanus Thayer moved up to Washington from his family home in Braintree, Massachusetts, to live with his uncle, attending school where he was a teacher. While there, impressionable Sylvanus met Benjamin Pierce, father of future President Franklin Pierce. Both General Pierce and Sylvanus’ Uncle Azaria, who had fought in the Revolutionary War, fed Sylvanus’ growing fascination with military matters, including the dazzling campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte. Sylvanus later attended nearby Dartmouth College, and went on to become “the Father of West Point” as an early superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point and an early advocate of engineering education in the United States.
Residents in the eastern portion of the rural town of Washington, NH found it very inconvenient to attend church at the center of town. In 1800, a group of residents on the east side of town banded together to create a new congregation, building a church perched on a low hill soon by 1826. The church was used for decades until it burned in 1844, it was replaced a year later, but that burned as well. Undeterred, the small congregation had yet another church built in 1877. The church remains in great condition, and is still active.
Aren’t tiny old libraries just the best?!
Located in Washington, NH, the Shedd Free Library is the only Victorian Gothic building in town, and packs a punch for its small size. The library was named for Sarah Shedd, a Washington teacher and poet who went to work in the cotton mills of Lowell, Massachusetts to support her family and educate her siblings. When she died in 1867 she bequeathed $2,500 to her hometown to establish a free public library, an amazing gift! The gift did not appear to be enough as nothing was built until 1881, after Boston architect S. S. Woodcock was selected by Luman T. Jefts, a wealthy shoe manufacturer in Massachusetts, to design the library after a gift to his hometown.
Located adjacent to the Washington Meeting House and Central Schoolhouse on the Washington, New Hampshire Town Green, the Washington Congregational Church perfectly compliments the collection of vernacular buildings here to create a very cohesive, three-building historic district. The church is dominated by a Gothic-inspired two stage square tower adorned by pointed pinnacles and crenellation. The building, constructed in 1840, is a great example of a Gothic Revival vernacular church building in rural New Hampshire and has been well-maintained over the years. In 1960, a fire in the church resulted in several thousand dollars worth of damage. A full basement was built under the church in 1985 to provide space for Sunday School classes and events. The simple arched sanctuary has remained in keeping with the original interior design, and features wide board wainscoting and wooden pews, taken from the old Meeting House.
While many buildings around the Town Green in Washington, NH are wood-frame construction, some brick buildings stand out. This brick building was constructed in the early 19th century, possibly as a single-family home. The building had commercial use after the Civil War, when Benjamin Muzzey ran a store out of the building with a business partner. After successive owners and uses, Pearl Young leased it around 1920. Pearl saw the use of automobiles growing and had gasoline pumps installed, turning the old brick store into a gas station. Pearl and Mary Young operated a successful a store and post office here for over 30 years before closing up shop. The brick building has since reverted back to a residence.
Adjacent to the Washington Meeting House, the Washington Center Schoolhouse perfectly compliments the Georgian building, despite being constructed 100 years later. Constructed in 1883, this building served as the principal school house in Washington, and was known as the Center School. There had been an earlier school house near this site, a small brick structure, but by the 1880s it was both worn out and too small and replaced. Eventually, it was decided to build a new school in the general style of the other town buildings, and place its facade flush with the Church (next post). The building now appears to be home to the town’s police department.
The Washington Town Hall, originally raised as a meetinghouse in 1787, is the civic and visual focal point of Washington Center in New Hampshire. Land here was first granted in 1735 by Colonial Governor Jonathan Belcher of Massachusetts. The town was one of the fort towns designated to protect the colonies from attack by Native peoples, and it was named “Monadnock Number 8”. The first permanent settlers arrived in 1768 and built log houses. By 1773, the community had 132 inhabitants. On December 13, 1776, the newly established American revolutionary government incorporated the town as “Washington”, after George Washington — one of the first named in his honor. A small townhouse was built but was replaced a decade later with what we see today. The current structure was originally a simple, two-story clapboarded structure, with east and west porches. The tower and belfry rising from the end were added in 1820. The building committee specified all details of the meeting house, including “that the windows should be glazed with squares of glass, seven by nine inches, forty panes to the window”. This attention to detail shows how the meeting house would be a source of pride for the new town and all details were to be discussed to the smallest detail.