During the March 2015 Annual Town Meeting, citizens of Center Harbor voted unanimously to establish a Heritage Commission. The Town Select Board then appointed and charged the Commission to "...work with the Select Board, Planning Board,Town Departments, the Historical Society and others to preserve, protect and enhance our historical and cultural resources..."
At its first meeting, the Heritage Commission identified the old Center Harbor Town House as its top priority. A few months earlier, the Town House had been listed on the New Hampshire Register of Historic Places. (Click for NHDHR Inventory). Because the building has been vacant for nearly 25 years, very little has been done in terms of maintenance and repairs: The exterior paint is peeling; some of the clapboard siding has rotted; small animals may be nesting in the attic; electric service is not up to code; and there is no sewer or running water. (Click for photos). Without careful and attentive stewardship, the Commission believes that our historic Town House will continue to fall into disrepair and possibly ruin.
And so, this project to rehabilitate the old Center Harbor Town House was launched...
Located on its original site at the corner of Daniel Webster Highway/Route 3 and Waukewan Road, the Center Harbor Town House was the center of Town administration and community activity for more than a century. It was constructed in 1844 to serve as a secularized meetinghall on land that the Town purchased for $5 near its geographical center west of Lake Winnipesaukee. Town Meetings and voting were held here from 1844 through 1964. The Town House also served as a rural schoolhouse, beginning with 24 students in 1933 and continuing until 1946, when there were only 11 students. It was still used for voting through the 1960s, but Town Meetings were moved to the larger grange hall. In 1970, the current municipal offices and firehouse on Main Street were completed. Then, from the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, the Town House was leased to the Disabled American Veterans. In the late 1980s, the Town of Center Harbor reclaimed the building. Sadly, the old Town House is now vacant, being used only for storage.
Unique for its high level of architectural integrity, the Town House is a single story, gable-front Greek Revival style meetinghouse with a single-story ell and shed addition, sitting on a stone foundation. Renovated in 1907 to comply with a law providing for polling places, it was converted into a one-room schoolhouse in 1933. A woodshed and storage room were added in 1939. Since it was always used as a public building, the Town House has not been significantly altered. Many distinctive Greek Revival style architectural details remain: overall temple form, wide trim at the cornices, corner pilasters, and heavy drip-lines over windows. (Click for photos).
The Center Harbor Board of Selectmen and the Center Harbor Heritage Commission are committed to returning the old Town House to its rightful and historic place as a civic, public and cultural center for the entire Center Harbor community. Imagine Town Select Board and committee meetings, voting and special events being held here once again! Maybe even a farmers market - or a summertime concert by the Town Band!
Please join our effort to rehabilitate the old Center Harbor Town House by donating here. Thank you.