New Boston’s Baker homestead listed on state registry of historic places

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NEW BOSTON – What is now called the Baker Homestead is one of the newest listings on the New Hampshire State Registry of Historic Places.

It dates to the mid-1700s, but has been owned by only three families. Richard and Betsy Moody, who bought the New Boston farm in 1967, are only the second family to live there. That limited ownership made researching its long and varied past a little easier, but it also resulted in the house being little changed.

“We bought it without any electricity,” Elizabeth “Betsy” Moody said.

The house is furnished with antiques and period pieces, “which is sort of a hobby, many are family heirlooms, and some we bought if we liked it and the price was right,” she said.

The mostly muted wall colors in the low-posted rooms are as authentic as they could make them.

“We took the paint down to the last layer and copied that,” Richard Moody said. A small corner of living room was left as they found that layer.

The parlor, or living room, is unchanged, he said. “The wide board paneled wainscoting is original, and pretty classy for the period.”

In going through the detailed process of putting a property on the state registry, a property owner acquires a lot of information, Richard Moody said.

What is now a Georgian-style house with a long connecting carriage shed to the large barn, began as a salt-box style, he said. The change of style, made between 1900 and 1920, can be seen in the attic and a lone window on one end marks the original gable peak of the salt box.

“They added three upstairs bedrooms so they could take in summer boarders,” he said. “While guests were here in the house, the owners lived in a camp out back.”

The New Boston history’s earliest reference to house is a “frame,” built by Abraham Cochran around 1756.

“Three generations of Cochrans lived here,” Richard Moody said, “and then they ‘daughtered out.’ A daughter married Benjamin Baker, so essentially the same family.”

In 1955, Charlie Baker sold the property to “two ladies, a mother and daughter on the Cape, who had some kind of investment in mind. They never lived here,” Richard said, adding, “I met the daughter. She bragged she had never been in the attic or the barn.”

There were changes made over the years. At some point, a front entry was added. Richard Moody did some research and rebuilt the curved entry stairs.

“It’s a copy of the stairs in the old parsonage in Newington,” he said. “We found this was exactly the same size.”

They also removed a hardwood floor, restoring the wide pine boards, replaced a chimney and restored bricks.

Last fall, they added a modern downstairs bathroom and laundry.

“We thought it was about time,” Betsy Moody said.

Betsy is originally from Peterborough, and Richard is from Alfred, Maine.

They have eight horses and a mule, “so we have a working barn,” he said.

She gives riding lessons and he is a Revolutionary and Civil War cavalry re-enactor. There are Civil War artifacts on display throughout the house.

Richard Moody said he did not start out with the idea of putting their house on the registry.

“I wanted to get some of New Boston’s old buildings, like the railroad depot on the list. When I started looking into it, I decided to start with something I knew,” he said.

It is a long and detailed process, one that sometimes frightens owners of eligible buildings.

The N.H. Division of Natural Resources oversees the programs and provides the guidelines, “What you need to have to get recognition,” he said, “all the interior and exterior features.”

In providing the background, “you have to prove why it is important to the town’s history. This one is a good example of a converted farmstead, originally a self-sustaining farm, and a big apple orchard. Then you have the summer boarder part.”

The application has to include an architectural description, maps, photographs, floor plans, a list of previous owners, genealogies, “who came here from where. They were a big help in Concord.”

Richard Moody ended with a file more than one inch thick. The designation doesn’t really change anything as far as the owner goes, he said, you can still do pretty much what you want with it, but it does add value” and there is some relief from building codes and regulations, according to the NHDHR.

For public buildings, there can be special consideration for state grants, such as Moose Plates.

Moody began the process in 2006, he said, “and worked at it off and on. We decided to complete it last year.”

The State Historic Preservation Office was established in 1974 to promote to preservation understanding and use of historic resources for education, inspiration, pleasure and enrichment of New Hampshire’s citizens.

For more information on the program visit www.nh.gov/nhdhr or call 271-3483.