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Balsams among historical sites on ‘Seven to Save’ list

By MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader

October 12. 2011 10:07PM



Twice rejected by suitors, the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch tops the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance's list of seven historic structures worth saving.

The 'Seven to Save' list was announced at the Alliance's annual meeting Wednesday at the University of New Hampshire. The list also includes a small grist mill in Kingston that could date into the late 17th century and town halls in Middleton and Charlestown.

'Visitors and businesses come to New Hampshire because we are an authentic place with history and beauty. And connections to place and community seem more important than ever to those of us who live here,' said Mike Tule, chairman of the Seven to Save committee.

The designation of the Balsams comes as its owner, the Tillotson Corp., seeks to sell the hotel, whose origins date back to shortly after the Civil War.

'We're very proud of the Balsams, and I think it deserves to be the on the (Seven to Save) list,' said Thomas Deans, president of the Tillotson Corp.

The 300-room resort is now closed, and no decision has been made on whether it will reopen in mid-December for the winter season.

Ocean Properties Ltd. planned to acquire the structure, its two golf courses and ski area, and spend $25 million in renovations. But the deal fell apart this summer.

A group of Maine investors apparently had worked out an agreement with Tillotson this summer. But no deal has been inked. Deans said Tillotson is only talking to the Maine group, as well as other potential buyers, at this point.

'Somebody's got to pay a lot of attention to it, care for it and put a lot of resources in protecting it,' Deans said. 'These grand resorts are expensive to operate and maintain but are wonderful assets to the state of New Hampshire.'

This year's list of preservation favorites targeted rural locations and small towns.

The list includes:

-- The Old Grist Mill on Little River, Kingston. It was built prior to 1717, possibly as early as 1690, and is the oldest structure of its type in the state. Neglected for many years, it is in precarious condition though all its interior components appear to be intact.

-- Middleton Town Hall. Vibrant murals by itinerant artist John Avery adorn the walls of the former Freewill Baptist Church on the second floor, while the first floor serves as meeting space for town functions. The building's condition has been a concern since 1996, when town offices moved to a new space.

-- Farley Building, Hollis. Built in the Italianate style, this former school has undergone several alterations since its construction in 1877. It has been vacant since 2005 and despite roof leaks, is in sound condition.

-- Pearson Hall, Haverhill. Built as a private academy building in 1816, the unoccupied structure is now owned by the Haverhill Historical Society, but needs to be fully rehabilitated before it can be used for exhibits and collections storage.

-- Wheaton-Alexander House, Winchester. The owner wants to demolish the structure and develop a shopping center at the site. The local Historic District Commission has denied a demolition permit, but the issue is now in the courts.

-- Charlestown Town Hall. The brick building was constructed in 1873 to replace a smaller town house. It originally contained a grocery store, meeting and office space and an elegant second-floor theater. Today, only the first floor space meets code requirements.

'Investments in these buildings will be good for the long term because they help preserve and enhance our villages, towns and cities, and their on-going use - and reuse - will help keep local economies going in tough times,' Tule said.


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