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 firstname.lastname@example.org.