Historic Harrisville

P.O. Box 79
Harrisville, NH 03450


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Locate your Business in the Historic Village of Harrisville

Since 1972, Historic Harrisville has been leasing commercial space in rehabilitated mill buildings that offer unique spaces in a picturesque country setting. Continue reading Locate your Business in the Historic Village of Harrisville

Executive Director's Report 2015

The 40th Anniversary Campaign, initiated in 2012 and led by trustee Peter Allen, made possible significant progress in carrying out major projects, catching up on deferred maintenance, and reducing energy costs. In addition to bringing the buildings up to a higher level of maintenance and making them more attractive to prospective tenants, the funded projects have reduced the number of costly emergencies that take time away from scheduled work.

Inspecting the trash rack runners for the hydropower project

Inspecting the trash rack runners for the hydropower project

The structural, masonry, roofing, and window rehabilitation of Building No. 3 (the Trip Hammer Shop) was substantially complete at the end of the year. Here, as was the case with the two-stage Eagle Hall Carriage House project, the building was made stable and tight to the weather, with a great deal of work remaining before the building is returned to service as income-producing space. Once complete, it promises to be one of our most desirable spaces.

The installation of pellet boilers in the Cheshire Mills complex was not included in the work proposed in the 40th Campaign; however, soaring energy costs, the promise of renewable energy, and a $150,000 renewable energy grant from the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission provided compelling reasons to fund the balance of the project cost. The boilers performed well in the 2014-2015 heating season, resulting in an $18,000 savings in heating costs and a strengthened commitment to renewable energy.

Lower Main Street &#1794AA4

Lower Main Street

The house at 119 Main Street was the topic of much discussion and several meetings with the selectmen as we struggled with the possible loss of a building in the National Historic Landmark District. By October it had become clear that it was unlikely that the majority of the selectmen could be convinced that the forlorn house at the side of the road was worth saving. It was decided that the only remaining course of action was to draft a warrant article to be presented at the fall meeting of incorporators for support and the required 50 signatures.

The article, which read: “To see if the town will uphold the provisions of Harrisville’s Master Plan by ensuring that the 19th century building at 119 Main Street be sold to a new owner that will rehabilitate and preserve the building as is appropriate for a contributing structure in the Harrisville National Historic Landmark District, or take any other action relative thereto,” received the immediate support of incorporators and townspeople and was submitted for inclusion on the town warrant. It was gratifying to have more than enough signatures and to have so many people recognize the importance of protecting the buildings in the district and support the town’s master plan.

Fred O’Connor worked on the interior of Mill No. 6 throughout the spring and summer. The first floor space was cleared of the obsolete remnants of its former use, cleaned, painted, steel sash work begun, new bathrooms installed, and the mill’s heating system extended. (Be assured that the steel sash repairs will continue with the return of warm weather, which will greatly improve the appearance of the building from Main Street.) This work made it possible for the tenant, Harrisville Designs, to move its assembly and shipping functions into Mill No.6, which can now be heated to human comfort. The 1986 building at the rear of the complex where they formerly worked became the warehouse space, a use for which it is much better suited.

The Nelson Town Hall Restored Front Door

The Nelson Town Hall Restored Front Door

During the summer months, Fred was assisted by Maia DiLorenzo, an intern from Boston’s North Bennet Street School. North Bennet Street has a well-known preservation carpentry program whose students often request an internship to come here and work with Fred. In addition to working on HHI’s projects, they completed the conservation of the Nelson Town Hall door. A Nelson resident, and HHI trustee, told me that the door looked like it always had, just what we want to hear.

On the hydropower front, the work at the dam included the installation of a catwalk, deck, railings, trash rack, and the fabrication of a new penstock gate. In the turbine room, a hoist was installed that allowed for the removal of the 6000 pound obsolete generator. The timber frame has been repaired both above and below floor level, windows repaired, insulation installed, and the turbine room painted and ready. Meanwhile, the turbine casing and draft tubes were found to be leaking and the necessary repairs to the turbine itself more extensive than anticipated. At the end of the year turbine repairs, installation of a generator, and the design and installation of switch gear were still to be accomplished.

With the strong support of customers, volunteers, trustees, and a great staff, the Harrisville General Store continued to offer hospitality, fine food, world-class baked goods, local produce, eggs, meats, groceries, wine, and most everything else one could wish in a 1,200-square-foot space off the beaten track.

Linda Willett

From the Archives: The F.M. Travis Collection

Fred Milan Travis

Fred Milan Travis

A few years ago, Historic Harrisville’s archives accepted an important gift of notable proportions: nearly 800 glass negatives—the entire collection—taken by Fred Milan Travis in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Working from his home in Chesham village, Travis reproduced iconic images of local landscapes and village streetscapes, some of which were sold as postcards in the Bemis country store. He became a sought-after portrait photographer to wealthy families in the area, and he photographed events at prominent estates. He took pictures of residents in Chesham and of the children at Chesham School.

Perhaps his most endearing images, however, were of his own family. It’s fair to say that his beautiful wife, Minnie Lee Jenkins, from Gastonia, North Carolina, was his favorite subject. Their romantic story—the probable pen-pal introduction, their initial meeting at a church supper, a four-year-long courtship, their elopement when Minnie’s father declared, “No damn Yankee is going to get my daughter,” and their happy marriage—could be the making of a Hollywood movie.

Minnie Lee Travis

Minnie Lee Travis

These family stories were revealed by F. M. Travis’s sixth child, Virginia Travis Bates Heath, and were reported in a Common Threads article in 2004. Gini, as she was known, lived much of her life in the Chesham house where she was born. When she died, her sons, Eric and Frank Bates, inherited their grandfather’s photographic collection and offered it to Historic Harrisville. We accepted with gratitude.

In the spring of 2015, archives volunteer Lida Stinchfield began the meticulous process of cleaning and housing the glass negatives. She and Sarah Scott, who interned for several months at the archives, used distilled water and goat hair brushes to gently clean the plates. So far, nearly 70 percent of the negatives have been cleaned, inserted into archival paper enclosures, and stored in acid-free boxes designed to hold them.

Chesham Baptist Church, early 20th Century

Chesham Baptist Church, early 20th Century

As they worked, Lida and Sarah used photo albums loaned by Eric Bates to identify and document many of the glass negatives. HHI incorporator Henry Taves also helped to identify localities and houses. Once the cleaning/storing phase has ended, the archives seeks help with the scanning of images so that we can create albums for HHI and offer digital images to others when requested to do so. If you are able to assist with scanning, please let us know.

The F. M. Travis Photographic Collection includes not only his photos of local places and people; it also includes images taken in and around Gastonia, North Carolina. The Archives Committee debated whether to divide the collection but chose instead to keep it intact since it represents the complete body of work of a noted local photographer. The Gaston County Museum of Art and History, which is interested in acquiring digital copies of Travis images from that locale, will have a chance to do so once our work is complete.

Historic Harrisville’s archival collection of photographs and other valuable records continues to grow. We are grateful to all who trust their treasures to us for safekeeping or who provide us with copies for our files. Our door is open Tuesday morning 9:00-noon and by appointment. Please visit!

Jeannie Eastman

Pellet Boilers

screenshot_02The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission awarded Historic Harrisville a $150,000 grant, through the Renewable Energy Fund Grant Program, in 2014. The grant was for the installation of three 350,000 BTU, wood pellet boilers in the Cheshire Mills Complex. Following the rehabilitation of the space outside the existing boiler room, and the construction of a concrete block bin to hold 22,000 tons of pellets, the boilers were installed, and commissioned in September, 2014. They were expected to provide 85% of the mill’s heat; this winter they have provided 100% of the heat, and significant savings in fuel costs.

Preservation Timber Framing

photo 1

The Trip Hammer Shop in the center back

Preservation Timber Framing, Inc. from Berwick, ME, is the same company that repaired Mill No. 1’s timber trusses and frame. They are now preparing rafters, tie beams, floor joists, and wall plates to carry out repairs to Building No. 3, the Trip Hammer Shop.

photo 3

Tom, hard at work

photo 4

Careful measurements

Watershed Year for Cheshire Mills Hydro Project

Cheshire Mills Rope Drive

Cheshire Mills Rope Drive, 1938


On June 4, 2013, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order allowing Historic Harrisville Inc. to redevelop the hydroelectric capability that powered Cheshire Mills for nearly 100 years. The approval came in the form of an Exemption from Licensing, based on the fact that the project is small (under 5 megawatts) and uses an existing dam. Winning approval was a 3-year-plus process.

The development of waterpower in Harrisville began in 1774, when Abel Twitchell harnessed a portion of the “v flow” to power a grist and sawmill. From the opening of the Cheshire Mills in 1851 until 1947, when electricity was purchased to provide all motive power, water provided the majority of power for manufacturing on this site.

HHI Energy Committee inspecting the turbine

HHI Energy Committee inspecting the turbine

Since easily harnessed waterpower made the existence of Harrisville possible, it is desirable that the waterways, dams and other waterpower features be preserved. Ideally, these features should be restored to their functional meaning for their significant historic value. Continue reading Watershed Year for Cheshire Mills Hydro Project

A SketchUp “Time Machine” for the Village of Harrisville

Special presentation by Tom Weller, Weller & Michal Architects

Historic Harrisville Annual Meeting of Incorporators
Saturday, April 12, 2014, 10:00 AM
Cheshire Mills Complex, Mill No. 2, First Floor

Using archival 2D photos, drawings and maps of the Village, Tom Weller and Charles Michal are experimenting with ways to transform those images into a 3D interactive world using a popular Google Earth computer modeling software called SketchUp. Next they are adding the 4th dimension (space and time in a cyberspace dimension) to build an explorable timeline of the construction and deconstruction of the Village of Harrisville over the past 200 plus years.

New Projects at HHI

In mid-December Historic Harrisville received good news on two fronts.

Trip HammerFirst, it was awarded a grant by New Hampshire’s Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) to rehabilitate the Trip Hammer Shop, the small two-story brick building at the southern end of the Cheshire Mills Complex. Built ca. 1844 or before, and purchased by Cheshire Mills in 1859, it is the oldest structure on the mill site, was probably built by Calmer Harris, and initially was used as a machine shop.Timber frame, roofing, masonry, and carpentry work will begin early in the spring. When completed, it will provide two apartments for HHI’s affordable housing program.

Secondly, an application to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) renewable energy generation program won approval. The grant enables HHI to install pellet boilers that will help heat the Cheshire Mills Complex by providing heated water to the mill’s existing distribution system. When installed and fully functioning, the pellet boilers will reduce energy costs by replacing some of the fossil fuel used with a source of renewable energy. This biomass project, along with the reestablishment of waterpower as a source of electricity for the mill, will move HHI forward in its efforts to conserve energy and reduce its carbon footprint.  By Linda Willett

Remembering Rick Monahon

Duffy and Rick Monahon

Duffy and Rick Monahon

On Sunday, January 27, 2013, Rick Monahon and his wife, Duffy, were killed in a tragic automobile accident in Hillsborough, NH, as they were returning from a day of skiing at Mount Sunapee. Rick was one of the major figures in the history of Historic Harrisville; much of the success and reputation of the foundation is based on his efforts and talents. In 1972 he was hired as the architect for Historic Harrisville and he was functioning actively in that role when he died. He served as a Trustee from 1974 to 1998 and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1984 to l986.

Historic Harrisville was founded in the spring of l971, soon followed by the purchase of what we called the “six historic core buildings” in the last days of that year. Those six buildings were the Harris Storehouse, the Harris Mill, the Harris Boarding House, the Harris Boiler House, the Harris Sorting & Picker House and the Cheshire Mills Boarding House. As we moved into l972, we developed the plan that called for “recycling” the old industrial buildings so that they could be rented out and essentially support themselves. It was immediately obvious that we would need a special architect to assist us, one who would be sensitive to the important historic qualities of our buildings, clever enough to adapt them for modern uses, and capable of working happily within our very limited budget.

Someone at Sturbridge Village knew that Rick had written his thesis at MIT School of Architecture about adaptive reuse of the mills in Claremont, NH, and he suggested that we might give Rick a call. We did that, Rick came to Harrisville for an interview, and we knew immediately that he was just what we needed. Still a student at MIT and not yet a registered architect, Rick developed a plan for the Harris Storehouse and we were off and running. He purchased a house in Harrisville and eventually set up an office in Peterborough where he carried on his general practice with a special interest in preservation.

Robbins Milbank, founding member of HHI, and Rick Monahon in the Harris Storehouse

Robbins Milbank, a founding member of HHI, and Rick Monahon in the Harris Storehouse, 1983

Rick’s contribution to Historic Harrisville cannot be overstated. He generously donated his time and energy to solving the problems of making what were beautiful but worn out buildings functional once again. He did it with style and grace, and the beauty and energy of the village today is a testament to his talents. He will be greatly missed, and not soon forgotten.  By Chick Colony

The Eagle Hall Carriage House

The Carriage House cupola was removed for repair in Fred O'Connor's worshop

The Carriage House cupola was removed for repair in Fred O’Connor’s worshop

Repairs to the Eagle Hall Carriage House have generated a lot of interest and many questions as to why Historic Harrisville chose to undertake the extraordinary measures necessary to keep the original structure standing rather than take it down. The bowing walls and sagging roof made it clear to even the most casual observer that the building was standing out of habit. The decision to save the carriage house, and the choices made in determining how to approach it, are based on Historic Harrisville’s commitment to preserving the quality and historical significance of the village. Preserving historical significance requires that the historic design and setting of not only the buildings, but also of the group of buildings, is maintained. Each building is part of the pattern of village life and the loss of a building erodes the overall pattern and thereby the national historical significance of the village. Although the earlier changes had reduced its significance as an individual building, the carriage house continues to hold its place in the landscape, in the setting of the village, and as part of the store building complex. Continue reading The Eagle Hall Carriage House

40th Anniversary Campaign

By Jeannie Eastman 

New copper roof over the porch at the Harrisville General Store

The mill village, we can modestly boast, has never been more beautiful. With major preservation projects completed, Historic Harrisville looks back over the past 40 years confident that the dream we dreamed in 1971 has mostly come true.

The innovative economic model that we created called for renting our buildings, using that income to support the ongoing work of the foundation, and strengthening the economic vitality of the town by increasing its tax base. It worked. Most of the rental spaces in our restored buildings are occupied by an eclectic group of tenants who enrich the social life of the village.

Fred O’Connor
Repairing and repointing brick masonry
inside the Sorting and Picker House

In spring 2012 we launched a capital campaign to raise $1.5 million to finish much of what remains. As donations come in we are working our way through smaller repair projects that have been deferred for far too long: scraping and painting clapboard siding and window sash, repointing brick masonry, roof replacements, insulation, rebuilding stone retaining walls, drainage, and paving. In all, nine buildings are targeted for repair. Continue reading 40th Anniversary Campaign