With restoration, Bridges House even more of a state treasure in Concord

New Hampshire Union Leader
November 26. 2012 8:29PM
Dr. Susan Lynch, New Hampshire's first lady, discusses the work done to preserve the Bridges House in Concord. (PAULA TRACY/UNION LEADER)
CONCORD - The state's executive residence, Bridges House in East Concord, is again open to its owners, the residents of New Hampshire.

The historic home, built in 1836 by Charles Graham, has been through an extensive renovation and expansion that was paid for through donations and grants. It will be open this holiday season as a show house and for various events displaying state treasures, art and the furniture of many New Hampshire craftsmen.

The house has roots to the Revolutionary War and was long occupied by Revolutionary War veteran Joshua Thompson, according to its historic marker. It is now on both the state and national historic registers. In 1969, the house was given to New Hampshire by the estate of U.S. Sen. and Mrs. Styles Bridges. Bridges served the state briefly as governor (1935-37) but was best known for his 25 years in the U.S. Senate. The house has been expanded and is now roughly 5,000 square feet in size, but it still has only two bedrooms.

Dr. Susan Lynch, New Hampshire's first lady, said she is thrilled with the results of the restoration efforts, which took about seven years to complete. She and former first ladies Nancy Sununu, Heather Merrill, Kathy Gregg and Dorothy Peterson formed a Friends of the Bridges House foundation, which raised the funds and coordinated the completion just in time for the holidays.

"It blends so nicely room to room. It feels so much bigger; there is more color and light," Lynch said while standing in the sunny new great room on Tuesday morning. "We feel really good about getting this done."

Like most governors, the Lynches chose to stay at their family home in Hopkinton. Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan has also decided to continue in her residence in Exeter when her term begins in January. Only Republican Gov. Meldrim Thomson of Orford and Democratic Gov. Hugh Gallen of Littleton moved their residence to 21 Mountain Road. The Thomsons were the last ones to renovate it.

The house had no climate control, air-conditioning to protect the historic contents or security facilities, and had a really old oil furnace, Lynch said. In recent years, events have been outside in tents with portable bathrooms. Worst of all, Lynch said, the beautiful objects and art inside the house were shuttered.

"No one was getting to see them," she said.

The new kitchen is twice the size of the old, and has native granite and opens to a granite deck. There is an elegant summer dining room and a formal living room. In the dining room, one is drawn to the huge canvases of Osceola and Washington and the long windows with a view to the trees, gardens and stone wall.

There is still work to do and money to be raised for upstairs bathrooms and other finish work, and one way to help pay for that is to open the house up to events.

The Board of Directors of the Friends of the Bridges House has invited the public to participate in a number of events celebrating those recent renovations. Currently open is the Friends of Bridges Designer Show House from Nov. 11 to Nov. 25. The house is located at 21 Mountain Road and is off the East Concord Exit of Interstate 93. Turn left up Mountain Road, and it is only a short distance on the left.

Cindy McLaughlin of Upstairs Downstairs Interior Design was chosen by the Friends to be head designer.

Another series of events is the Friends of Bridges Holiday House Tour from Nov. 29 through Dec. 16. The hours for both the Designer Show House and House Tour will be Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at www.friendsofbridgeshouse.org for $15 or at the door for $20.

Tickets are available online for additional events showcasing the Bridges House. Coming up on Dec. 1 will be a Bridges Mother-Daughter Tour and Tea Party. On Dec. 4, the home will host a Holiday Center Pieces design demonstration by Joan Krause a judge at the National Garden Club and a Winter Container Gardens demonstration by Joyce Kimball, director of the New England Region of National Garden Clubs, on Dec. 6.

More events are being planned, so check the Friends of the Bridges House website often. Funds gathered from the events will be used for renovations and maintenance of the Bridges House.


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