Sunapee Historical Society: Winter newsletter previews summer projects

SunapeeHistoricalSocietyAlthough the Sunapee Historical Society Museum at Sunapee Harbor is closed during winter, members are open for business researching and seeking out information for the Society’s summer projects.

In the recently published SHS Winter 2013 newsletter, President Becky Fitts Rylander previewed each of these programs:

  • A program on summer camps. This will be done in conjunction with our friends in other towns, coordinated through PALS (our Partners Around Lake Sunapee). Each town will focus on camps that operated within its boundaries. If you have any information about or photos of Camp Sunapee (a boy’s camp on Lake Ave. 100 years ago), please let us know. We have a photo and brochure for Camp Manauke, a girl’s camp on Star Island in the 1920s, but would welcome more. Any others?
  • Industries along the Sugar River. With a new pedestrian bridge being built in the spring behind the Harbor House Livery, we think this year will be a good time to explore all the industries that lined the river between the Harbor and Coffin Park. That area looked quite different a century ago. We have some information and photos, but would welcome more.
  • The old information booth. Despite our best intentions last summer, this 1929 vintage building still needs to be restored—and we still need help to get that done. If carpentry is up your alley, please let us know.

To volunteer or exchange information, email

To download/view the Winter 2013 newsletter, visit the Society’s website: A membership form is also posted on the website.

Old barn expert John Porter to speak in Sutton

Preserving Old BarnsSutton, N.H. – John Porter, who along with Francis Gilman authored the book “Preserving Old Barns”, will be the featured speaker at the annual meeting of the Muster Field Farm Museum on January 13, 2013. The meeting will be held at the Freewill Baptist Church in North Sutton at 2 p.m. All are welcome to attend at no cost; refreshments will be served during the meeting.

Ever wonder about the history of the many barns along New Hampshire’s scenic byways? Or how you might restore the barn sitting in your backyard?

The book is a unique resource on preserving old barns and includes images of many of New Hampshire’s historic and scenic barns.

Porter and Gilman have compiled a fascinating look at traditional New England agricultural barns and structures, and are known as the go–to experts in this field. Both have had long careers working for UNH Cooperative Extension and are well-known throughout the farming community.

Porter will have copies of the book for sale or inspection at the meeting.

For more information, email:

Project Sunapee showcases local artisans and local history at HHL

An arts and crafts exhibit and sale featuring Sunapee artisans will take place at the historic Harbor House Livery (a.k.a. Old Town Hall) on Main Street, Sunapee Harbor, on Sunday, October 7, noon to 3. Refreshments will be served.

The event will feature Sunapee artisans including Joyce Gale (Unique Ewe woolly mittens),  Marie Wiggins (all manner of fine and fancy needlework), Cherie DeAugustinis (funky, fanciful sculpture, mirrors, trays, and more), Ellie White (Pashmina jackets and felted hats) and Sharon Parsons (pottery), who will demonstrate basket weaving.

Visitors will be able to explore the history and current activity surrounding the Harbor House Livery, which is on the New Hampshire Register of Historic Places.

“This is also an opportunity to glimpse back to Sunapee 1890. Harbor House Livery Committee docents will be present to answer questions and share a video history,” says Donna Gazelle for Project Sunapee, the event sponsor.

On display will be the wooden model of the pedestrian covered bridge that will span the Sugar River from River Street to Main Street. The harbor area project is under construction.

The scale model of the covered bridge (shown here) was created by Brent Stocker of Stocker Woodworks, Sunapee.

For more information, email

Projects Sunapee is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and encouraging economic vitality and education, cultural and historic assets, scenic landscapes and the social well being of our community.

Open House at Harbor House Livery, Sunapee Harbor, Sept. 30

The Harbor House Livery, the historic town building on Main Street, Sunapee Harbor village, will hold an Open House during the Lake Sunapee Chowder Challenge on Sunday, September 30, from noon to 3 p.m.

The public is invited to stop-in, learn about the building’s history and meet members of the Harbor House Livery Committee, a town committee appointed to study and make recommendations for the building’s future.

Located on the edge of the Sugar River, a short distance from the outlet for Lake Sunapee, this well-known regional landmark was built in the late 1880s.

In 2008, it was listed as one of the Seven to Save historic landmarks in New Hampshire and was listed on the N.H. State Register of Historic Places.

“An early photo shows a different looking building with a sign on it that says: M.F. Knowlton Livery and Feed Stable. Just beyond it in the photo is the Sunapee Harbor Hotel. On a map of Sunapee Harbor dated 1892, it shows the S.A. French Livery in the same location,” local historian Ron Garceau explains.

In a narrative prepared for the Harbor House Livery Committee, formerly the Old Town Hall Committee, Garceau wrote:

In 1920, the building, then owned by Bert Sawyer, was deeded to the Town of Sunapee. In 1926, Moses Knowlton purchased and donated the Town Clock to top off the building.

The interior consists of three floors above ground level. On the ground level, wagons could drive under the building, in one side, out the other. While parked under the building, manure from the horse stalls on the first floor could be shoveled through hatches in the floor.

The first floor still contains the horse stalls, with the names of the horses tacked above the stalls. There is a spiral wooden ramp to lead horses from this floor to the second floor (street level). This ramp was obviously used quite a bit, and is somewhat unique. After WWII, this floor was used for storage by the town. There are some old civil defense helmets still in one of the stalls.

The street level, or second floor, was used to keep the buggies and tack. About the time that gas c.1920s), the building became used as a town fire station, and a fire truck was kept in this garage area. (Older trucks were smaller than today’s.)

The third floor was used as a meeting room, but as with the rest of the main structure, was not insulated, had no heat or plumbing.

Since 1920, the building has been used as a town office, it housed the Municipal Court, was home to the Sunapee Water & Sewer Department, has provided storage for the recreation committee, housed the Sunapee Police Department, and is currently home of the Sunapee Thrift Shop.

N.H. and the Civil War: How Memorial Day came to be

As part of New Hampshire’s “May is Preservation Month” observation, the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources is publishing a series of articles exploring the Granite State’s involvement in the Civil War.

This week, the focus is on how massive casualties during the Civil War changed the way we mourn the dead and led to the establishment of Memorial Day.

Approximately 33,000 New Hampshire soldiers – ten percent of the state’s 1860 population – served in the state’s cavalry, light battery, heavy artillery, eighteen infantry and two U.S. sharpshooter units. Of those, approximately 4,300 died on the battlefield or of injury or disease. Nearly 1,600 or so others were never accounted for.

At the time, both the North and South were accustomed to death being an intimate, family, at-home experience, with family plots and community cemeteries serving as final resting places. Loved ones dying far from home – with their bodies often buried in undocumented, mass graves – necessitated new ways of honoring the dead.

Women in the south began decorating the graves of soldiers with flowers before the war was over; later, towns in the north began doing so with formal, organized occasions.

Gov. Natt Head (1881) issued the proclamation formally establishing Decoration Day as a holiday in New Hampshire. The portrait of Gov. Head can be seen on the third floor of the N.H. State House.

In 1868, Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic John A. Logan designated May 30 a day for “decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.”

In 1881, New Hampshire Governor Natt Head issued a proclamation formally establishing Decoration Day as a holiday in our state.

Decoration Day evolved into what today we call Memorial Day, which honors all Americans who gave their lives in the armed services, in all wars.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May; New Hampshire continued to officially observe the holiday on May 30 until 1993, when Governor Stephen Merrill signed legislation joining the federal observance.

To learn more about Decoration Day in New Hampshire, visit and click on the “May is Preservation Month.”

Images made available by the N.H. Division of Historical Resources.

May is Preservation Month

Salmon Falls Village: "This well-preserved mill village, a fine example of 19th-century industrial urban planning, is experiencing an economic renaissance with art studios in the mills."

It began May 1st — Preservation Month — and it began with the Salmon Falls Village in Rollinsford.

The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources is celebrating “May is Preservation Month” by highlighting a unique New Hampshire historic property on its website every day. Each entry will include a picture of the property as well as its location and a brief description.

A sampling of profiled properties includes: Castle in the Clouds, Moultonborough; Mt. Jasper Mine archaeological site, Berlin; New Hampshire Iron Factory Blast Furnace, Franconia; and the Stone Arch Bridge, Keene.


LCHIP Grants Go To 24 Projects Including Black Mountain

Mount Kearsarge and Black Mountain together form a picturesque and historic backdrop to several communities. View from near NH 11 and NH 114 in Sutton. Photo by Jerry and Marcy Monkman, EcoPhotography.

The Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) this week announced the award of matching grants to 24 projects including an  initiative to protect 1025 acres on Black Mountain in Sutton and Warner.

“LCHIP announced a $150,000 grant for Black Mountain, bringing the campaign over the $1 million mark,” said Forest Society Vice President for Development Susanne Kibler-Hacker. “Today’s total is $1,035,360. We have December 15 to raise the remaining $165,000.”

Read the Forest Society announcement.

Read more about the Black Mountain initiative.

Continue reading

Sunapee Library Supporters Respond to Anonymous Mailer

In response to an anonymous mailer that many Sunapee residents received this week, the chairman of the Abbott Library Building Committee has issued this statement.

To the Residents of Sunapee:

A mailer was recently delivered to Sunapee residents, asking residents not to support the concept of creating a new Library by renovating the Old Town Hall. The mailer does not identify its source or fiscal agent, as is customary. The mailer includes several incorrect “facts” and provides some incomplete information, both a disservice to the residents of Sunapee. Please consider:

  • Roger Landry, Town Zoning Administrator, has confirmed that the Old Town Hall property is NOT in the flood plain.
  • The concept plan calls for an increased setback from Main Street, enlarging the entryway and sidewalk in front of the building.
  • Renovating the Old Town Hall as a library is feasible, cost effective, and will create ample space for a library. The concept plan provides for reinforcement of the building’s structure, removal and replacement of the building structure below the Main Street level, and new wings on the east (old police station) and north side of the building. At the Main Street level and above, the building structure and interior paneling will remain, while roofing, siding and windows will be replaced. The clock tower and horse ramp, character defining historic features of the building, will be preserved.
  • In 2007, the Building Committee of the Library Trustees conducted an exhaustive, fact-based survey of fifteen possible sites for Sunapee’s new library. In a blind scoring system, sites were ranked and from this process, the harbor site adjacent to the Old Town Hall was found to be the best available location. Combining this approved site and the adjacent site, and including the usable portions of the Old Town Hall, is a logical improvement to the site concept, as it provides ample building space, 31 parking spaces, more green space and a historic reference that can help Sunapee’s new library become so much more.
  • Cost to finish the lowest level is not included in the conceptual project cost estimate because its public use is yet to be determined.
  • The Harbor Riverway site is 0.9 acres in size. The combined Harbor Riverway – Old Town Hall site is 1.4 acres in size. Up to $200,000 of the total $400,000 land purchase price may be gifted by Riverway stockholders. The concept plan locates a portion of the proposed building addition on the Riverway lot. Ways of controlling non-library use of the parking lot have been discussed. However, peak weekend parking demand primarily occurs when the library is closed.
  • A conceptual design and cost estimate are the first steps in any building design process. As a design progresses, estimates are refined. It is not unusual for public projects to establish and hold to project costs early in the design process. Like the concept plan, the 2006 Charrette planning was also a volunteer effort. However, the concept plan estimate is based on substantially more detailed information than was available to construction estimators at the Charrette, who provided a “ball park” estimate.
  • The mailer does not list Article 23 in its entirety. It omits the last sentence, which describes Article 23 as advisory only, and that it’s placement on the warrant is supported by the Library Board of Trustees, Old Town Hall Committee, and Board of Selectmen.

To learn more about the Sunapee Library- Old Town Hall concept plan, visit

Thank you for your consideration.

Barbara Chalmers Chair, Abbott Library Building Committee

Sunapee Roundtable: Library Community Center Concept

Architectural rendering of Old Town Hall-Library Concept Plan by Diana Piotrow, New London.

Architectural rendering by Diana Piotrow, New Londow, recently illustrated the Old Town Hall-Library concept plan with interior and exterior views. A roundtable discussion on the plan will be held in Sunapee on Tuesday, February 16.

Sunapee voters will have an opportunity to learn about the new Sunapee Library-Old Town Hall concept plan at the Sunapee Town Office meeting room on Tuesday, February 16 at 7 p.m. A roundtable forum, hosted by the Abbott Library building committee, will discuss the current proposal–the re-use of a historic town-owned building for a new town library and community center–and a related warrant article that will be voted on in March.

Building committee members Barbara Chalmers and Bruce Jennings, local historian Ron Garceau, and Maggie Stier, statewide field representative for the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, will participate and be available to answer questions.

Topics to be covered include the concept and site plan, current library needs, and how the project fits with town planning goals. Also, the value of historic preservation and funding opportunities will be discussed.

The public is invited to attend; a meet and greet will start at 6:50 p.m.

By architect and artist Diana Piotrow, New London, an interior rendering and, below, an exterior building view from Main Street.

On the Sunapee Town Warrant, article 23 will ask voters if they support a joint project that would expand a previously approved library site at Sunapee Harbor to include the adjacent Old Town Hall property while preserving the building’s historic features, reserving space in the building for other community uses, and continuing to seek private funding for the new library.

Town Meeting is March 9.

For related information, see our OTH-Library page.

Main Street-East View as Envisioned in Concept Plan. Architectural rendering by Diana Piotrow, New London.

Sunapee Discusses New Library Plan

Site plan by James Wassell, Sunapee, of the concept plan for re-use of the Old Town Hall for a new Sunapee library-community center

Site plan rendering by James Wassell, Sunapee, of the concept plan for use of the Old Town Hall for a new Sunapee library-community center. Presentations continue in Sunapee to inform voters about the concept and town warrant article 23.

To follow up Sunapee’s deliberative session last week where re-use of the Old Town Hall for the new town library was debated, the Abbott Library Building Committee is hosting a round table discussion on the library’s Concept Plan and warrant article 23. The public forum will be held on Tuesday, February 16, following a trustees meeting at the Town Office meeting room at 7 p.m. Guest speaker will be Maggie Stier, field representative for the NH Preservation Alliance. Prior to the forum, a ten-minute “meet and greet” is planned at 6:50 p.m.

Library trustees, the Old Town Hall Committee, and Sunapee selectmen voted to put an article on the March 2010 Town Warrant to help determine the level of support for a joint project to re-use of the Old Town Hall for a new library and other town uses.

Warrant Article #23 asks: “Do you favor expanding the previously approved library Harbor site to include the adjacent Old Town Hall property, renovating the Old Town Hall for a library while preserving the horse ramp and clock tower, reserving a portion of the building for other town uses, while continuing to seek private funding? This article is advisory only and is intended to provide the Library Trustees, the Old Town Hall Committee, and the Select Board with a sense of the voters’ opinions.”

However, it’s not clear sailing for supporters of the joint project. After the selectmen voted to put an advisory warrant article on the ballot, an opposing article was presented by petition. Continue reading

Re-use of Sunapee OTH, Inspired Example of Historic Preservation Says James Garvin

Artist's rendering by James Wassell, Rock Maple Studio, Sunapee: The Sunapee Old Town Hall-Library as presented in the current concept plan for "adaptive re-use of this landmark building."

“The adaptive re-use of this landmark building [in Sunapee] would not only represent an inspired example of historic preservation, but would place the new library in the very heart of Sunapee Harbor, the town’s historic village center,” said State Architectural Historian James Garvin.

“A building that is imbued with so much history, pride, and symbolic identity is a treasure such as few communities can boast of.  It would be fitting if this structure, so interwoven into Sunapee’s community fabric, could assume yet another life of service as the town’s meeting place and intellectual heart.” – Read more…

See the OTH-Library section, a Sunapee News page providing information, resources and links.

Sunapee Voters Will Consider New Idea for Old Town Hall

Sunapee Old Town Hall-Library Concept Plan: Main Street view

As voters in Sunapee prepare for the town deliberative session on Tuesday, February 2 and Town Meeting in March, many are just learning about a new idea for the Old Town Hall. It’s about combining civic projects and maximizing resources. It’s about preserving the last large historic town building and putting it to good use as a new town library with community space.

A town warrant article (#23) will ask voters: “Do you favor expanding the previously approved library Harbor site to include the adjacent Old Town Hall property, renovating the Old Town Hall for a library while preserving the horse ramp and clock tower, reserving a portion of the building for other town uses, while continuing to seek private funding? This article is advisory only and is intended to provide the Library Trustees, the Old Town Hall Committee, and the Select Board with a sense of voters’ opinions.”

(See New Plans Emerge for Historic Old Town Hall)

Last autumn the Abbott Library Building Committee prepared a concept plan that proposed reconstructing and adding on to the Old Town Hall, a landmark building at the entrance to Sunapee Harbor, while preserving many of its important features. The conceptual plan includes drawings prepared by architect Barbara Chalmers, chair of the building committee. See below.

Information about the project is available at the Abbott Library website under the Building Committee tab and in a flyer recently published by supporters of the project. To view/download the informational flyer, click OTH-Library Project Info (PDF 336 KB). The informational flyer addresses parking, layout and cost and funding and provides contact information for voters that want more information.

New Plans Emerge for Historic Old Town Hall in Sunapee

NH State Survey Coordinator Mary Kate Ryan (center), NH Division of Historic Resources, recently presented Betsy Katz (left) and Betsy Webb (right), members of the Old Town Hall Committee, certification of the State Historic Registration of the Sunapee Old Town Hall.

The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources announced that the State Resource Council has added the Harbor House Livery/Sunapee Old Town Hall to the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places.  Built c.1899, the building originally served the tourist trade around Lake Sunapee as a livery stable attached to the Harbor House Hotel. It is the last large historic town building in Sunapee and is the subject of renewed interest as a new concept plan for the old building emerges.

The four-floor structure, a regional landmark, stands between Main Street and the Sugar River in the village of Sunapee Harbor. Although adapted for different uses through the years, the wood frame building still has many original features such as an interior circular horse ramp used by the livery.

There are few if any buildings either in or around Sunapee Harbor that are more important to maintaining and preserving the wonderful visual quality and character of the community than the Harbor House Livery/Old Town Hall.— Historic preservationist Paul Mirski.

In 1920, Bert Sawyer deeded the property to the Town of Sunapee and it became the town office and in 1926 Moses Knowlton donated the Town Clock to the building.

Before new facilities were built, the Old Town Hall housed municipal offices: the selectmen, town clerk, water and sewer department, and fire and police departments. It also served as a Municipal Court and the third floor meeting room hosted functions. In recent times, it became the home of the Sunapee Thrift Shop.

Committees in Sunapee are now looking at new community use for the building.

In September 2009, the town’s OTH committee voted unanimously “to work diligently” with the town’s Library Building Committee to see if a feasible plan could be developed that would provide space for a new and larger town library. The Abbott Library building committee examined the wood frame structure and found that a joint project would be feasible and could include community space as well.

“This unified project presents a rare opportunity for the town of Sunapee to control its future in dramatic yet common sense fashion by making great use of available space while preserving one of the last vestiges of its history, and increasing off street parking and public green space at the same time,” said Mike Durfor, Sunapee. Durfor is a member of the OTH Committee charged with advising the selectmen on the building’s best use.

NH State Architectural Historian James L. Garvin said, “The adaptive use of this landmark building would not only represent an inspired example of historic preservation, but place the new library in the very heart of Sunapee Harbor.”

In March, an advisory warrant article sponsored by the board selectmen will ask voters if they support the concept of expanding the previously approved library site to combine projects: a new library with historic preservation of the Old Town Hall, while also providing for wider community use of the building.

“We believe the best course of action [for the OTH] is a library,” said OTH Committee Chairman Dana Ramspott, caretaker of the Town Clock. “I hope that the Town Clock, which has been a part of my life, can someday be on top of a new library. Moses Knowlton, who originally donated the clock and placed it on the Old Town Hall, would be pleased that his timepiece remains a centerpiece in Sunapee Harbor.”

Library Comm. Reviews Cost for Sunapee OTH Site Tonight

Tonight (Tuesday, December 1) in Sunapee, the Abbott Library Building Committee and members of the Old Town Hall Committee will meet to review conceptual plans and cost estimates for building a new town library in the old town hall. In recent months, the library  committee has gathered information and prepared conceptual plans for possible library use of the old town hall property, located on Main Street in the harbor village district of town. Tonight, committee members will explore the cost of such a project. Building Committee Chair Barbara Chalmers is expected to present two cost estimates: 1) to renovate and 2) to rebuild. The meeting will be held at the Sunapee Town Hall on Edgemont Road starting at 6:15 p.m.

Two years ago, the library identified a Sunapee Harbor Riverway site (former Harbor Hotel property) for the new library, but voted in March 2009 to put fundraising on hold due to the economy. The trustees also agreed to remain open to other building options for the library. The old town hall concept incorporates the adjacent Harbor Riverway parcel in its plans.

Read a related article: New Sunapee Library in Old Town Hall? Committees Look at Conceptual Plan. (

Download the conceptual plan showing section sketches of the building, (956 KB): OTH plan and section sketches

New Sunapee Library in Old Town Hall? Committees Look at Conceptual Plan

Earlier in the month, at the November 10, regular meeting of the Old Town Hall Committee in Sunapee, Barbara Chalmers, chair of the Abbott Library Building Committee, presented conceptual drawings for a new library in the old town hall. Both the OTH committee and library board of trustees had previously endorsed the idea to explore the viability of such a project.

The conceptual plan Chalmers presented shows library use of 6,000 sq. ft. of the existing old town hall and a 3,300 sq. ft. addition to meet the library’s space need of 9,300 sq. ft. The library would not use the basement/River Walk level and limit public use of the fourth floor to a “mezzanine” because of code requirements for a building of this design.

In order to facilitate an informed community discussion about the possibility, Chalmers volunteered to do the conceptual design and prepare the drawings. However, if the old town hall-library project moves forward, an architect (not Chalmers) would need to be hired.

Based on the plan, Milestone Engineering of Concord, NH is preparing two estimates: to renovate the building and to tear-down/rebuild to match. The library building committee will discuss the estimates when it next meets, and representatives of the OTH agreed to attend. That meeting will likely occur within the next two weeks.

The OTHC, when they met in October, identified parts of the historic building that they would like preserved: the clock tower, circular horse ramp, and stable/barn portion. Also, committee members expressed interest in keeping the current window layout and a portion of the building for community use.

Since 2007, the OTH committee, appointed by the selectmen, has been working to preserve and find the best use for the town-owned property. The library trustees continue a decade-old effort to build a larger, more serviceable library. While the trustees have available new building plans for a lot adjacent to the old town hall, they agreed earlier in the year to remain open to other options.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the OTHC is Tuesday, December 8 at 4:30 p.m. at the Town Hall meeting room. OTHC members and alternates are: Dana Rampsott (chair), Jo Hill (vice-chair), Kevin Rickard, Mike Durfor, Tony Bergeron Katie Richardson, Ellie White, Betsy Katz, Betsy Webb and Ron Garceau.

Members of the Abbott Library Building Committee are: Barbara Chalmers (chair), Rhonda Gurney (co-chair), Peter White, Faith Reney, Bruce Jennings, Xan Gallup, Lois Gallup and Library Director John Walden.

Shown here are four exterior views: North Main Street (top); East, facing Sunapee Harbor; South, facing the Sugar River; and West Elevation, facing down Main Street (bottom).


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 543 other followers