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.”

2 Responses

  1. The voters are urged to give this plan approval. It is a great plan and has been formed as a coalition between the Old Town Hall Committee and the Library Building Committee. That is some consensus and one of the first time we have seen disparate groups agree. Why not give them the go-ahead and see if they can make it work. It will be a great advantage for Sunapee to have this new, larger facility in a place that helps save an historic building and provide lots of other room and parking. Give them the chance. For FOR this article.

  2. […] (See New Plans Emerge for Historic Old Town Hall) […]

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