CENTER HARBOR — Efforts to save an important link to the town’s early history got a boost with the award of a $9,500 grant from the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources.
The Center Harbor Heritage Commission applied for the grant, funded via the purchase of moose license plates, to restore electricity to the 1843 Town House located at the corner of Route 3 and Waukewan Road in West Center Harbor.
In 2015, the Board of Selectmen and the Heritage Commission launched efforts to rehabilitate the Greek Revival-style building and return it to seasonal use as a meeting space for town functions.
Commission Secretary Karen Ponton said the grant funds allowed the original brass pendant lights to be refinished and rewired and for the purchase of reproduction milk-glass globes. The restoration work was done by the Alexandria Lamp Shop of Meredith.
According to the deed, the town bought the property in December 1843 for $5 as a venue for town meeting and as a polling place. It fulfilled that roll until the current municipal building at 36 Main St. was constructed in 1970.
It also served as a one-room school house starting in 1933 with 24 students and continued until 1944 when it closed. The remaining 11 students moved to the Village School on Route 25B that now houses the Center Harbor Historical Society.
“Part of our mission is to preserve the history of the town. Once it is gone it can’t be replaced. We’ve lost so many of the old buildings it’s important to be able to preserve one for the future,” said Ponton.
Most recently it had been used for storage by the town and had become a warren of old file cabinets, aging paper records, books and broken chairs.
The one-story building that offers about 1,000 sq. ft. of space retains many of its original features. Key among them its unpainted woodwork, pink brass door knobs and hinges, spruce floors and a slate blackboard.
Its early construction is evidenced by the hand-forged square cut nails, and the lath and plaster walls.
The centerpiece of the Town House is the Waterman-Woodbury heater that was considered cutting edge technology for central heat in schools in the early to mid-1900s. The heater is encircled by a five-foot-high heat shield. Its surface is elaborately decorated with hand-hammered and punched designs.
Ponton recounted that when Olympic silver medalist and former Center Harbor resident Penny Pitou visited the building where she once went to school, Pitou recalled students would hang their wet mittens on the heat shield to dry and slide their lunches beneath it to warm them.
The building is now listed on the New Hampshire Register of Historic Places and has benefited from grant funds provided by the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program.
“Four years ago, this treasure was headed to ruin and no one really acknowledged it. They’d drive by and see the old DAV (Disabled American Veterans) sign and wonder about it. Today, it’s just beautiful,” said Hanson.
He credited Ponton for her tireless efforts in pursuing grants that have helped the fund the renovations and for townspeople’s interest and support.
“We really can’t thank the moose plate program enough. With this grant we are going to be able to bring electricity back, turn the lights on and make the Town House really shine,” said Ponton.
Those interested in helping fund additional renovations can make tax-deductible donation by writing a check payable to the Town of Center Harbor Heritage Fund and delivering it to the municipal offices or by mailing it to Town of Center Harbor, P.O. Box 140, Center Harbor, N.H. 03226.