Enfield Supports Saving Town House

  • Rot in the floor of the Enfield Town House in Enfield Center, N.H., is forcing town officials to assess the future of the building. Built in 1843 and moved to its current location in 1859, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. The buiding is also suffering from a lack of rest rooms and poor accessibility. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/20/2018 11:44:47 PM
Modified: 7/23/2018 11:34:11 AM

Enfield Center — Town officials are confident that the Enfield Town House someday will be reopened, after the historic building received an outpouring of community support in the last week.

About 25 people who attended a public forum last Friday offered their support and expertise to save Enfield’s first town hall, which has been closed to events for nearly three years, according to Selectboard Chairwoman Meredith Smith.

”This is the seed hopefully that will begin to stimulate interest and local support for the building,” Smith said of the event. “It’s been a long haul.”

The building, which was constructed in 1845 on what is now Route 4A, was deemed unsafe for occupancy after the town’s 2015 Old Home Day dance, when people first reported that a corner of the floor felt “spongy.”

Engineers later determined that the Town House’s structure was compromised because of moisture from a nearby brook.

The building also lacks running water and bathrooms, which are provided by the nearby Enfield Center Union Church during public events.

The town hoped to mitigate the moisture when it received a $10,000 grant from the New Hampshire conservation license plate program. Officials also planned on applying for a $15,000 state Land and Community Heritage Investment Program grant, but withdrew the application in June after a builder found the Town House floor was rotting.

With the news that building renovation could be a much more costly endeavor, Smith and the town’s Heritage Commission sought to regroup at the community forum, which brought some hope that the building is now on track to be saved.

Attendees agreed to form a task force that will soon explore the building’s future, Smith said. Several people also promised to help raise funds for a potential renovation, and White River Junction architect Jay Barrett offered his services pro bono.

”I have always admired the building and always enjoyed driving by it ever since I was a kid,” Barrett, who specializes in historic buildings, said on Tuesday. “It’s really just frozen in time for the past 100 years.”

Barrett did a walkthrough of the Town House last week and, although he hasn’t formally assessed its condition, there does appear to be problems with the foundation and floor supports.

”I think the issues that the building is experiencing are very, very manageable,” he said, adding it will be important to accurately study Town House solutions before jumping to construction.

”It’s really great when people want to preserve old buildings but there are so many things that come into play,” such as building codes, budgets and preservation guidelines, Barrett said.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

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