This Old House: Mystery of Lyndeborough house takes a year to solve

Editor’s note: If you own a house or know of a home in the Souhegan Valley that’s old, historical or just plain interesting and would like to see it featured in This Old Home, email Editor Erin Place at eplace@cabinet.com.

LYNDEBOROUGH – Everyone likes a mystery, and it is always nice to find a solution, but sometimes, it takes years to find the answer.

That was the problem for the Lyndeborough Historical Society with a post card.

The card shows a Queen Anne-style, two-story house with shutters, a wrap-around front porch and two wings. The right side wing has a gable and a porch, the left side has two gables and a porch. There is a large pine tree in the front. The card is titled “Springside Farm, South Lyndeboro, N.H.”

There is no such house in South Lyndeborough, nor any place else in town. And there is no place in the village where such a house could have been, such as a vacant lot or a location that had a record of a fire. Nor could any of the older residents place it, although it “looked sort of familiar” to a couple.

Once located, it was no wonder that it could not be identified from the post card. Both wings, the porches and shutters are gone, as is the tree. Only the center section remains with a small room on the left side of the building.

Finding the history of the house came about by chance and good fortune.

The Heritage Commission is involved in documenting all of the houses in town that existed prior to 1905. The history printed that year lists all of the houses in town at that time. A problem with that list is that roads did not have names and each house is listed by its then-owner.

As part of that project, the commission collected pictures of houses that no longer exist or have been extensively changed during the past 100 years, and put them in the display case at the town office. That display will remain until after the first of the year.

The post card was included with a note asking if anyone knew where it was. While it drew a lot of comment and speculation, no one knew where it was located.

Until former owner Frank Holden, who now lives out of state, came into the town office. He told administrative assistant Cindy Hasty, “that’s my house.”

Resident Walter Holland also recalled that Holden had identified his copy of the post card. The house is located at 81 Putnam Hill Road

In the old house inventory, the Heritage Commission refers to it as the Algernon Putnam House. According to the town history, the original house was built in the mid-1800s by Deacon David Putnam, who died in 1870.

The house was enlarged by his son, also named David Putnam. His son, Algernon Putnam, acquired the house and remodeled it into the version shown on the post card in 1903. He and his wife, Lucy, lived in the main house and the western (left) side while his parents occupied the other side.

Lucy Putnam lived in the house until the late 1940s when it was sold to a member of the Bullard family.

Ruth Bullard had the right wing moved to the hill behind the house where it was made into a camp or cottage she called “Springside Retreat.” The remains of that building exist but are deteriorating.

Bullard claimed the house was haunted, although no other residents seemed to think so.

Former Road Agent Clayton Brown recalled seeing the removal of the el “around 1950” while working on the road.

The house was empty for some years before it was purchased by Frank Holden. He did extensive repairs and renovations and it is now a rental property.

Prior to the opening of Forest Road (now Route 31) between 1840 and 1843, what is now South Lyndeborough Village was known as “Putnam’s Corner.” Four of the five houses in the area where “the road from Mont Vernon to Temple crossed the road from Wilton to Greenfield” were built or occupied by members of the Putnam family, one of the earliest families in town. One of those was Deacon David.

He was active in town affairs, a staunch supporter and officer of the church, but he is best known to readers of the town history for his five wives, three of them widows. He was survived by his last, Sarah Bradford. They are all buried in the South Yard, Deacon David between two of them.

The second David Putnam was also a church deacon and one of the organizers of the Sons of Temperance. His campaign against the sale of hard spirits in town kept the town “dry.”

Algernon Putnam was born in 1866, graduated from Brown University and married Lucy Daniels, of Middlebury, Vt. He was also active in town affairs and was one of the trustees of the Lyndeborough Public Library when that organization was located in first the upper floor of Armory Hall (later the railroad station) and then the upper floor of the Village Store.