Historic Walks - Northfield / Tilton Tour

Northfield / Tilton Tour


General History
The village of Tilton and Northfield began in the 1760s long before either town was incorporated. (The two towns both seceded from older towns. The northern portion of Canterbury was set off in 1780 as the town of Northfield. The southern portion of Sanbornton became the town of Tilton in 1869.). The first real step the proprietors of the Sanbornton grant took to develop their lands was to build a road north from Canterbury, across the Winnipesaukee River, to the center of their township in 1762. The following year, they built a bridge over the river just north of the Upper Bridge. The Sanbornton Bridge, which remained an important river crossing until well into the 19th century, gave its name to the village that grew up near it. In 1765-66, the first permanent mill in Sanbornton, a gristmill and sawmill, was built with the proprietors’ help on the Winnipesaukee River a few hundred yards downstream of the bridge. The road to the mill from the bridge became Tilton’s Main Street. The bridge and the mills were important destinations for the early residents of the area. And several local roads were laid out in the late 18th century to reach them.

As early as 1789, a store, the first in Tilton, was in business at this important intersection. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a few small mills were built along the river and a small village grew up. A map of 1814 shows Sanbornton Bridge as a modest hamlet with almost twenty houses, a hotel, three stores, a doctor, a lawyer, and a dozen small mills and craftsmen’s shops. The real growth of the village came with the building of larger mills from the late 1820s on. The river provided ample water power.

The opening of the railroad in 1848 gave the manufacturers access to larger markets and sources of supply. Cotton and woolen textiles were the principal products of the mills. But, the village also produced shoes and leather goods, lumber and other wood products, and eyeglass lenses. Main Street became the commercial center for the rapidly growing village and the surrounding area. This economic prosperity and growth is reflected in the many attractive and interesting 19th and 20th century structures that still stand in the village. Some of the mills can yet be seen on the banks of the river. Main Street still retains fine Victorian commercial buildings. The railroad station may be gone, but the freight house remains. The more affluent villagers erected some fine residences, even one that can be called a mansion. And the village was able to support its own institutions, to erect churches and schools.

As early as 1845, the villagers donated the funds to erect the first buildings of the New Hampshire Conference Seminary, a secondary school that survives and prospers today as the Tilton School on a hillside campus overlooking the village. The village also benefited from the generosity of philanthropists. Mary Hall Cummings gave an excellent Queen Anne Style library. The grandest of the village’s benefactors was Charles E Tilton (1827-1901), who gave a Town Hall and several statues to Tilton, landscaped a river island as a park and erected a grand triumphal arch in Northfield. This tour will introduce the visitor to the buildings along the river, the major public buildings, and some of the residential areas on both sides of the river. We hope you will enjoy this walk and the buildings and monuments that you will see along the way.

HISTORICAL WALKING TOUR The tour begins in Veterans Square, at the junction of Main Street (Route 3) and School Street, in downtown Tilton.

1. Tilton Town Hall, 257 Main Street, was built in 1879-1880 and was probably designed by Concord architect Edward Dow. The Victorian brick building was a gift to the new Town from Charles E Tilton. One of the conditions of his gift was that “The name of the Town shall always remain as it now is.” Originally, the first floor basement were rented for stores and the post office, the rent paying for the maintenance of the building. But, now the entire building is used for town offices. [NR]

2. America, Veterans Square, was also a gift from Charles E. Tilton. Three of the sculptures now standing in the village are from a set of marble statues representing the Four Continents. America, a half nude Indian queen, was the first to erected by Tilton (in 1873, not 1872, as stated on the base). The sculptor of the Continents is unknown, but 1884 newspaper item says that at least on of the set was “purchased of an English artist of great repute”. [NR]

3. World War 1 Monument, Veterans Square, 1919 [NR] Proceed west on Main Street

4. Copp Block, 264 Main Street, was built by contractor TJ Davis for Hazen Copp in 1893 and 1894. The first story has been altered but the second story still reveals a Victorian delight in ornament. [NR]

5. Loverin Block, 263 Main Street, 1904. [NR]

6. Bryant and Lawrence Store, 270 Main Street, was built sometime between 1859 and 1881. It was “long occupied by FJ Eastman,” who retired in 1881. This fine Victorian vernacular store building has been occupied by the same firm since January of 1882, although the business name and merchandise have changed over time. The front porch is a restoration of the original porch. [NR]

7. Trinity Episcopal Church, 274 Main Street, was built in 1872-73 for the village’s Episcopalians. (Although the brick tower was completed then, the elaborate wooded broach spire was not added until 1883.) Designed by architect Edward Dow, the church is among the best Gothic Revival churches in the area. {NR]

8. Tilton Block, 281 Main Street, 1915. [NR]

9. Northfield-Tilton Congregational Church, 283 Main Street, was erected in 1838 by “carpenters for Hopkinton” at a cost of $3500. The building has been considerable altered over the years. In 1867, the original structure was raised and a new first story was built under it to house a vestry, kitchen and office. Tall Italianate windows were also added in the Victorian era. And the building was further enlarged in 1887, when it was cut in two, the rear portion moved back, and a new section built in between. Today, the church is a unique blend of original Federal and Gothic Revival elements and Italianate additions. [NR] The Bank Block is a name now applied to three adjoining brick commercial building erected between 1886 and 1888. [NR]

10. The eastern building, the Alfred Tilton Block, 277 Main Street, was built by Charles E Tilton in 1887 as a gift for his son Alfred. The designer of the block, one of the most elaborate Victorian commercial buildings in the region, is not known. [NR]

11. The smaller central building, 293 Main Street, was built in 1887–88 for the Citizens National Bank and the Iona Savings Bank, the banks that gave the name to the entire group. The original design of Concord architects Dow & Wheeler can still be seen in the Victorian second story, but in the early 20th century, the first story was given a more fashionable Classical stone storefront by the banks. [NR]

12. The western building, the Charles E Tilton Block, 295 Main Street, now appears to be two buildings, but it was erected as one structure for Charles E Tilton in 1886. Later, the building ownership was divided. And the two parts of the building were given different storefronts and, on the east, a covering of paint. In 1926, the western storefronts were replaced by a Classical limestone first story façade designed by Boston Architects Hutchins & French, for the Citizens National Bank and Iona Savings Bank. [NR]

13. The statue of Squantum is the only reminder of the Tilton railroad station which once stood on the lot now used for parking west of the Bank Block. In 1890, the Concord & Montreal Railroad brought and removed the dilapidated buildings east of its station. A circular driveway was laid out. This zinc statue of an Indian, donated by Charles E Tilton, was erected in the center of the driveway and dedicated to Squantum, who had helped Pilgrims in the early days of their settlement. The statue was made by JL Mott Ironworks of New York. (The same company made the Bronze statue of a Union Soldier on the Tilton and Northfield Civil War monument, which stands on Route 3, 1/4 mile west of the Squantum statue.) At the traffic lights, turn south (left) onto Park Street.

14. Winnisquam Mill can be viewed from the Lower Bridge, looking west down the Winnipesaukee River. Built in 1868 for RM Bailey, the wooden mill was a cotton mill in its early days. Unde latter owners, it has served as a factory for shoes, woolen textiles, leather goods and as a furniture store. Notable for its bell tower and fine design, the mill has been called “the best surviving nineteenth century wooden factory in the state.”

15. Clement House, 8 Park Street, is a fine Greek Revival style cape, notable for the elaborate surrounds of the small windows in its frieze, an unusual, perhaps unique, feature in this area. The house is said to have been moved here from Tin Corner in Tilton by 20 yoke of oxen.

16. Freight House, 11 Park Street, a 19th century vernacular structure, is now the most important surviving railroad building in the village. The Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad was chartered in December of 1844. Construction of the railroad began in 1846. The railroad opened from Concord to Sanbornton Bridge on May 22, 1848. Later, the B,C & M RR merged with the Concord RR to become the Concord & Montreal RR, which in turn was absorbed by the Boston & Maine RR. Today, the railroad line is owned by the State of New Hampshire and leased to the Merrimack Valley Railroad, a tourist line.

17. Hall Memorial Library, 18 Park Street, was the gift of Mrs. Mary Cummings to the Towns of Northfield and Tilton in memory of her first husband, Dr. Adino Brackett Hall, a Northfield native. A s the building is an almost exact copy of the Banister Memorial Hall in Brookfield, Mass., designed by Boston architects Wait & Cutter, it has been attributed to the same designers. The library was erected in 1885-86 by JE Giddings & Son. But, as no provision had been made for a book collection, it sat empty for a year while a Library Association raised funds for books. Dedicated on October 26, 1887, the library building has served the two towns with little change since its construction. The library is one of the state’s finest Queen Anne style public buildings, and shows all the complexity of form, variety of materials and decoration typical of that style. [NR] Turn east (left) on Elm Street

18. Union School, 5 Elm Street, was erected in 1899-1901, to house the Union Graded School, which served the students of Grades 1 through 8 of both Tilton and Northfield villages. Designed by Manchester architect William M Butterfield and built by Daniel Page, the building is a fine example of late Victorian school design.

19. Asa Cate House, 23 Elm Street, was built by Benjamin Chase, probably in the late 1830s and occupied by him for a few years. In early 1840, it became the home of Asa P. Cate (1813-1874, lawyer, judge, state legislator, president of the state senate, and three time Democratic candidate for governor. Beyond the Asa Cate house, climb the steps on the south (right) side of the street and follow the path to the Arch.800px-Memorial_Arch_of_Tilton_1882

20. Memorial Arch of Tilton, Arch Hill, is the most prominent landmark of the village. While visiting Rome in 1881, Cahrles E. Tilton was inspired by the Arch of Titus to build a similar triumphal arch as a memorial to his family and to himself. Concord architect Edward Dow, although basing his design on the Roman arch, did modify its form and ornament to better suit the rock faced Concord granite used here. The arch was erected by contractor Leonard Conant in 1882-83, although the red Scottish granite sarcophagus, with its sleeping lion, was not installed until 1884. Tilton had at first intended to be buried under his arch. But he chose ultimately to be buried in the Park Cemetery in Tilton, where he is entombed in a large mausoleum. [NR] From the arch, follow the footpath east to the parking lot, then follow the acdess road east and turn south (right) onto Summer Street.

21. Arch Hill Cemetery, Summer Street, was established in 1809, when 18 local men paid Stephen Chase $5 for a burying ground on what was then the main road from the south to the village. The cemetery was later enlarged and embellished by an ornate Victorian gate and fence.

22. Northfield Town Hall, 21 Summer Street, began its career in 1828 as the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1856, the Methodists built a new church in downtown Tilton. They later sold the old church at auction to a group who wished to established an Episcopalian parish in the village. The Episcopalians remodeled the church, consecrating it on October 1, 1861. This remodeling presumably gave the building its present Romanesque Revival style. In 1872, the Episcopalians began building their own new church (7) in Tilton and sold the old building to the Town of Northfield. The former church has served as the Town Hall since 1873 and as the home of the Friendship Grange since 1885.

23. Samuel B. Rogers House, 23 Summer Street, a brick Italianate house, was built for Rogers, a brickmaker in 1857. Now turn around and head north on Summer Street.

24. Archibald Clark House, 16 Summer Street, an attractive mid 19th century cape, was the home of Archibald Clark, who moved to Northfield in 1838.

25. Chase-Hill House, 9 Summer Street, is a fine Gothic Revival house on a commanding hillside site. It was built in 1856 for Thomas Chase, Jr. to replace an earlier home that had burned.

26. Stephen Chase Tavern, 2-4 Summer Street, was the home and tavern of Stephen Chase, (d.1817) one of Northfield’s most prominent early citizens, who built and operated some of the earliest mills on the river. He erected a fulling mill nearby in 1798 and probably built his home around the same time. Continue northeast on Elm Street to the Upper Bridge.

27. Copp Gristmill is the nearest, of the two old wooden mill buildings looking downstream from the bridge. Built for Hazen Copp in 1872. [NR]

28. The taller, western mill is Copp Mill No. 3, built in 1877 for Copp. The upper story was added in 1889 when the building was converted to a shoe factory. [NR] Walk north to Veterans Square and then turn east (right) onto Main Street.

29. Tilton Inn, 255 Main Street, incorporates two smaller buildings erected in the late 1870s after a fire destroyed the previous buildings here. In 1903, H.L. Jordan remodeled the eastern building as a hotel. Sometime between 1912 and 1923, the western building was incorporated into the inn, which now appears form the outside as a single building with a two story front porch. [NR]

30. Europe, Main Street, is another of the Four Continents purchased by Charles E. Tilton. Tilton bought the marble statue in London in 1882 and used to ornament a fountain on the grounds of the newly built railroad station. Affectionately known as “Timetable Mabel,” the statue was placed in storage after the removal of the railroad station. In 1970, she was moved to this prominent site on the highway to resume her role of greeting visitors to the village. (The third Continent, Asia, stands near the Winnisquam Regional High School, 3/4 mile west on Route 3 from Veterans Square.)

31. The Island, in the Winnipesaukee River, at first a small island, was enlarged with fill from the construction of the railroad and the rebuilding of a mill canal. It was used as a drying place for cloth and as a vegetable garden before its purchase in 1865 by Charles E. Tilton. He converted it into an attractive park. The original Victorian summerhouse and the statuary that once graced the Island arenow gone. (A gazebo was recently donated as part of the rehabilitation of the Island.) But, the cast iron footbridge, [NR] erected in 1881, still remains. The bridge, manufactured by A.D. Briggs & Co. of Springfield, Mass., employs now rare Truesdell truss. Return west on Main Street to Veterans Square, then turn north (right) onto School Street.

32. Copp House, 6 School Street, a fine Italianate style side hall plan house, was “elegantly rebuilt” for Hazen Copp after an 1874 fire.

33. Quimby House, 24 School Street, a Stick Style residence formerly owned by the Weare family, was bought by Tilton School in 1918.

34. Charles E. Tilton Mansion, The Terraces, 27 School Street, is a grand Second Empire style building, one of the most impressive residences in the state. Born and raised in Sanbornton Bridge, Tilton briefly worked in his brother’s New York hardware business, then went searching for business possibilities in the West Indies and prospecting in South America. When the California Gold Rush began, he managed to obtain passage from Panama to San Francisco. Arriving virtually penniless, Tilton was quick to realize that the real profits were not in prospecting, but in supplying the prospectors. He opened a branch of his brother’s business and prospered. His business ventures in California and Oregon, including merchandising, banking, real estate, shipping, and railroads, made him a millionaire. In 1856, he married a Sanbornton woman and soon began building this mansion on the hill overlooking the village. The main block was constructed in 1861-64. In 1879, after his wife’s death, Tilton retired from his West Coast businesses and settled permanently in his native village. He added east and west wings to the house in the late 1870s, and in the 1880s extended the two story porch around three sides of the building. The mansion remained in the Tilton family until 1952. It served as a guest house before being purchased by the Tilton School in 1962. The building now houses the school library, guest rooms, faculty apartments, and, in the former stable, the school’s art center. Save for the stable interiors, the building is little changed since the days of Charles E. Tilton. [NR]

35. Fred Andrew Smart Chapel, 43 School Street, began its career as the First Free Will Baptist Church in Canterbury. Built in 1852, the church was basically Greek Revival in style, although the brackets on the cornice are more typical of the Italianate style. In 1964, the abandoned Church was given to the Tilton School by the Community Church of Canterbury. The church was dismantled and moved in large sections to the campus. At its new site, the building was lengthened by 40 feet, set on a high basement containing classrooms, and embellished by the placement of a tall spire on the older two state belfry. But generally, the rebuilding was quite respectful of the original design. In 1966, the completed chapel was dedicated in honor of a longtime English teacher.

36. Plimpton Hall, 30 School Street, was built in 1926-27 to provide more classrooms and offices for the school. Designed by Boston architects Hutchins & French, the building is a fine example of the Jacobethan architecture so popular in early 20th century schools. Follow the footpath west (left) into the campus, (up the brick steps) to the north of Plimpton Hall and along the top of the sloping lawn.

37. Knowles Hall, overlooking the village, incorporates in its central block the classroom building erected in 1863 or 1864 under the supervision of Concord architect Edward Dow. The building was then flanked by separate girls’ and boys’ dormitories. In December of 1886, fire damaged the classroom building and destroyed the boys’ dormitory. As the girls’ dormitory was unsou8nd, it was decided to remove to the two dormitories and enlarge the academic building. Designed by C. Willis Damon of Haverhill, Mass., the enlarged building was completed in late 1887. The original building was engulfed in a massive structure that for many years housed virtually all the school facilities, classrooms, offices, library, chapel, meeting halls, dining hall, faculty apartments, and student rooms. A new tower marked the center of the remodeled building. In 1909, a dining hall wing designed by C.R. Whitcher of Manchester, was added on the rear. Although Tilton School has acquired and erected other buildings, which have taken over many of the building’s original functions, Knowles Hall still remains the center of the campus and is a major dormitory with several faculty homes as well.

38. Hamilton Hall, west of Knowles Hall, was built in 1905 to the plans of architect Frederic H. Loverin as the school gymnasium. It now houses the school’s theater and student center. A footpath descends the hill to the south to Main Street and the municipal parking lots.

We hope you enjoyed the walking tour of our communities. We would appreciate any of your comments. If you would like any additional information about the area, please contact: Northfield/Tilton Economic Development Corporation PO Box 659, Tilton NH 03276 (603) 286-4211. Text by: David L. Ruell, Historian, PO Box 1254, Ashland NH 03217

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