Meetinghouse a historic landmark

MONT VERNON – In a town known for its unique, dog-shaped gravesite monument and a natural stone formation known as Frog Rock, a classically recognized landmark has garnered the attention of state historical officials.

The New New Hamp­shire Division of Histori­cal Resources recently added Mont Vernon’s Greek Revival-style meet­inghouse to the New Hampshire State Regis­ter of Historic Places.

The division is tasked by the state to preserve New Hampshire’s histori­cal and cultural heritage, specifically structures, sites and other elements deemed particularly meaningful.

Mont Vernon, located at the crest of Storey Hill, is also known to locals as home to the Stone Dog monument at the gravesite of William G. Bruce, and a glacial erratic in the form of a giant frog-shaped rock. Residents can now claim their meetinghouse as a notable component of its small-town character.

Division spokesper­son Shelly Angers said Wednesday that placing a building on the regis­ter "is a way of showing that the community cares about that resource."

"It’s a point of honor," Angers said. "It’s part of how they identify them­selves."

According to docu­ments filed with the state, the building’s central role in religious and civic affairs in town qualified it for the special desig­nation. Equally impor­tant was that the origi­nal building was erected from oak timbers origi­nating from the farms of area parishioners.

The division noted that its location adds to the special nature of the des­ignation.

"It is on a hilltop in one of the few hilltop villages in New Hampshire," the division said.

Citing a 1906 publica­tion titled "History of the Town of Mont Ver­non, New Hampshire" by Charles J. Smith, the orig­inal structure was built between 1781 and 1792. It has undergone signifi­cant renovation over the years, but has retained much of its early stylings and components.

In 1837, it was moved across the street to its current location and a second story was added. It was remodeled for use as the town hall in 1897.

Early in its settlement period, Mont Vernon was known as the Northwest Parish of Amherst. Set­tlers were granted land for their service in King Philip’s War, which pitted colonists against Native Americans.

When people became unhappy with the services of the minister, they be­gan a process to petition the state’s General Court and form their own par­ish. Their request was de­nied several times, but it didn’t prevent them from beginning construction on their own building across the street from where the building is today.

Mont Vernon became a town in 1803.

Area farms contrib­uted timbers to build the original structure. The building was significantly renovated in 1821. Horse sheds were built 10 years later. A fire damaged the building in 1834, and it was repaired again.

As the town was consid­ering more renovations in 1837, it decided to relo­cate the building across the street to the location it occupies today. The town configured the back half of the bottom floor of the building for town meet­ings. A belfry and organ were added to the second floor, which remained as worship space. Two original porches were removed and two front doors were installed.

The Congregational So­ciety, operating out of the top floor, and the town maintained a mutually beneficial but separate financial arrangement for more than 50 years.

More remodeling plans led to the decision to build a new church in the 1890s. Money was raised for the effort from both locals and out-of-towners, as Mont Vernon had become a des­tination for summer visi­tors to the town’s sprawl­ing resort hotels. The last church service was held there on July 5, 1896.

A year later, more ex­tensive renovations be­gan to turn the building into a larger town hall, in­cluding leveling a sloping floor and reconfiguring entrances.

Nominated buildings go through an approval process before the state’s historical resources council. Approvals are announced quarterly.

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-1249 or dhimsel@cabinet.com.