Wilton, New Hampshire has a hidden enclave of high-style summer “cottages” built for wealthy residents in the early 20th century. The last of these examples I will feature is the Sweezy House, located in Wilton Center. The Federal Revival style mansion was built for Everett and Caroline Sweezy, summer residents who split their time between New Hampshire and New York. Mr. Sweezy was a banker for the Riverhead Savings Bank which was located on Long Island, which too was a summer destination. The couple hired the firm of Howe and Manning, led by female architects Lois Lilley Howe and Eleanor Manning, to design the home. The house is set back far from the street behind a rustic stone wall. The property remained in the Sweezy Family for four generations.
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!
Reverend Abel Fiske (1752-1802) was born in Pepperell, Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard College in the class of 1774. Four years later in 1778, at 26 years old, he was ordained as the successor of Reverend Jonathan Livermore at Wilton, New Hampshire, where he remained until his death. During his time in Wilton, Rev. Fiske built this Federal style home for his family. The house is a short walk to the old church where he gave sermons to the growing rural community.
One of the finest Federal homes in southern New Hampshire is this residence that sits in the middle of Wilton Center. The home appears to have been built for Richard Taylor Buss, or another member of the Buss Family who settled in Wilton in the 18th century. By the second half of the 19th century, the property was owned by George A. Newell, who built a gorgeous Victorian era stable on the property. Swoon!!
Wilton, New Hampshire’s original land grant included 240 acres for a church and stipulated that a building must be erected by 1752. From this, settlers built a log church. For the first ten years traveling preachers supplied the pulpit. In 1763, Rev. Jonathan Livermore became the first settled minister. In April 1773, the town voted to provide six barrels of rum, a barrel of brown sugar, half a box of lemons and two loaves of loaf sugar for framing and raising a new meetinghouse. In 1859, a fire destroyed the Revolutionary-era church/meetinghouse, and members immediately began the construction of a new, modern building. The present building blends Greek and Gothic revival styles in a later, vernacular form.
The earliest of Wilton New Hampshire’s summer “cottages” is Moors Manor Cottage, a turn-of-the-century mansion set on former farmland with views of the mountains in the distance! While Wilton never compared to Newport or Bar Harbor as the major summer resort towns for the wealthy, the upper-middle class would sometimes build summer homes in their familial towns where they would escape the hustle-and-bustle of city life. Luckily, this home has been very well-preserved inside and out (but I wish that big fence was gone it really obscures the beauty of the house).
Harry A. Gregg, was the son of David Gregg, a lumber dealer and wooden goods manufacturer who built a mansion in Wilton’s East Village. Harry followed in his father’s footsteps, running the day-to-day business out of their Nashua, NH offices. With a lot of spare money, Gregg purchased pastoral land in Wilton Center and built a summer residence which may have also served as a gentleman’s farm. The Arts and Crafts style home showcases the best in the style with rubblestone, shingles, organic forms and exposed rafters. The house is pretty perfect!
Located next to the Blanchard House, the old Wilton Center Baptist Church stands as one of the only brick buildings in Wilton Center, New Hampshire. Baptists in town originally met and worshipped in nearby Mason, NH, but eventually began services in town. By the 1820s, a new edifice was needed, and the members pooled resources, largely from wealthier members for funding for a new church. The Federal style brick church is stunning with its recessed arched panels surrounding the windows and doors, and its steeple. The building has been converted to residential use.
One of the oldest extant homes in Wilton Center is this Revolutionary-era Georgian house. The home was likely built in the 1770s and has a sloping saltbox roof at the rear. The house was the property of the Blanchard Family to this day. The house shows the more rural, vernacular Georgian style common in small towns in New Hampshire from the 1700s.
When Wilton, New Hampshire was settled and incorporated, a log structure was built to serve as a town meeting house. The structure in the center of town was deemed insufficient and was torn down and replaced with a larger meeting house in 1775. The second meeting house served the town for 80 years until it burned down in 1859. The town voted to build a third meeting house (this building) on the same spot, at a cost and the building was completed in 1860. The vernacular Greek Revival building was used as the town hall for just a couple decades, until the 1880s when East Wilton became the population and economic center of town, facilitating the move of the town hall there into a new building. The building would later serve various uses from a community hall to a grange hall, and it is now home to Andy’s Summer Playhouse, a youth theater and cultural hub for the region.