Historic Harrisville

P.O. Box 79
Harrisville, NH 03450
603-827-3722

Erin Hammerstedt
Executive Director
ehammerstedt@historicharrisville.org

 


 

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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.

When the carriage house was acquired as part of the store complex it had been altered to meet the requirements of a change in use to housing. The need for a place to keep a horse, carriage, and tack had long since passed by the 1980s when the carriage house was converted to housing by its previous owner. At that time, the wide openings for carriage and hay doors at the façade were closed in and double-hung sash installed; changes were also made to the other elevations and to the interior, to accommodate residential use. The conversion notwithstanding, it is still possible to read the site and the building and understand the purpose for which the carriage house was built.

Once the decision was made to save the carriage house, the options for treatment were:

1. preservation, which focuses on the maintenance and repair of existing historic materials; 2. restoration, which depicts a property at a particular period of time in its history, while removing evidence of other periods; or 3. rehabilitation, which acknowledges the need to alter a property to meet continuing or changing uses while retaining the property’s historic character.

The choice of treatment depends on a variety of factors, including the property’s historical significance, physical condition, proposed use, and intended interpretation. Since there was little historic material to repair, no reason to interpret the building at an earlier period of time, and the carriage house had been changed to accommodate a new use, rehabilitation was the choice.

A concrete foundation was poured, the wall framing extensively repaired, and the roof reframed before the installation of a new roof. An application was filed with the Historic District Commission seeking approval to replace the quadruple casement window at the southwest corner with three new double-hung frames and sash, re-fit the existing 1980s window openings at the façade with new six-over-six, double-hung sash, and install louvers in the oculus and cupola. The possibility of re-establishing the large carriage house door on the façade was considered. To do so without putting back the hay door above it and eliminating the 1980s window openings would create an appearance for the building that never existed. It would also have reduced the viability of the residential use that was established in the earlier conversion. The cupola, removed from the roof and moved to Fred’s shop for repairs, will be lifted back onto the roof in the spring when the work on the exterior is completed. Its wingless, bullet hole-ridden eagle is likely facing replacement, a rare occurrence for anything that lands in Fred’s shop.

Like the carriage house, the nearby St. Denis Church and the old Selectmen’s Office have outlived the purposes for which they were built. With the help of the Planning Board we hope to determine how these buildings on Church Hill can best serve the needs of the village.

Sadly, the rehabilitation of the Eagle Hall Carriage House is the last project that Rick Monahon designed for Historic Harrisville. In a very small way it reflects his 40-year interest in what he, in his master’s thesis, termed “Adaptive Re-use of Residual Built Form.” The thesis presents a broad view of mills that includes their history, settings, design, buildings, materials, technology, energy production and consumption, arguments for adaptive re-use, and pretty much everything else having anything to do with mills and mill villages. How fortunate for Harrisville that Rick came along when he did and that he stayed.  By Linda Willett