FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 13, 2018
Armstrong Memorial Building in Windham named to National Register of Historic Places
The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources is proud to announce that the Armstrong Memorial Building in Windham has been honored by the United States Secretary of the Interior with placement on the National Register of Historic Places, for both architecture and its history in the community.
Located in the historic town center, the Armstrong Memorial Building was the first building in Windham constructed specifically to be a library. Windham had co-operated a private, fee-based social library with the town of Salem in the late 1700s and continued to operate its own private social library in the years following.
Part of a trend of philanthropy that funded dozens of libraries statewide, Windham native Colonel Thomas Nesmith donated funds to establish Windham’s first fee-free public library, which began operation in 1874 and was housed in the town hall.
In 1897, Leonard Allison Morrison, a Windham resident who had been instrumental in establishing the Nesmith Library in town hall, approached George Washington Armstrong – a descendant of one of the town’s founding families – in 1897 to help secure funding for a stand-alone library building. The project was approved at town meeting in June 1898 and was dedicated on January 4, 1899.
One of a handful of New Hampshire public libraries constructed of local fieldstone, the one and a half story Armstrong Memorial Building is a mix of Shingle and Colonial Revival styles, both of which were popular in the late 19th century; elements of each style frequently mix in the same buildings. Architect and Windham native William Weare Dinsmoor used a variety of random laid, rough stone from local pastures on the exterior; they were laid by Loren Emerson Bailey, another Windham native. “ARMSTRONG BVILDING” is inscribed in granite at the bottom of the porch gable. Visitors still enter through the original heavy wooden door with large decorative hinges and square glass panel grid.
Armstrong Memorial Building’s interior retains a high level of integrity, including its original floor plan, cypress wood wainscot and trim, and hard pine floors. A Palladian-style archway, accented by fluted columns and piers, and with delicate balusters rising from the wainscoting, divides the reading and delivery rooms.
The reading room is the most elaborate space in the building. Its features include an eight-foot wide cypress mantel, four-by-two foot bronze tablets detailing Armstrong’s donation and his family history, marble tablets inscribed in gold with the names of Windham’s Revolutionary War soldiers, additional marble tablets of town residents who fought in all subsequent wars, and portraits of Armstrong and Morrison. The original quartered oak reading table is still in place.
The Armstrong Memorial Building has remained largely unchanged with the exception of an addition to the back in the late 1970s, constructed by George Dinsmore, also a descendant of the town-founding Dinsmoor family. A new Nesmith Library opened in 1997, and the Armstrong Memorial Building is now the Windham Town Museum.
Administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of historic resources worthy of preservation and is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect our historic and archaeological resources.
Listing to the National Register does not impose any new or additional restrictions or limitations on the use of private or non-federal properties. Listings identify historically significant properties and can serve as educational tools and increase heritage tourism opportunities. The rehabilitation of National Register-listed commercial or industrial buildings may qualify for certain federal tax provisions.
In New Hampshire, listing to the National Register makes applicable property owners eligible for grants such as the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program or LCHIP (lchip.org) and the Conservation License Plate Program (nh.gov/nhdhr/grants/moose).
For more information on the National Register program in New Hampshire, please visit nh.gov/nhdhr or contact the Division of Historical Resources at 603-271-3583.
New Hampshire’s Division of Historical Resources, the State Historic Preservation Office, was established in 1974 and is part of the N.H. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. NHDHR’s mission is to preserve and celebrate New Hampshire’s irreplaceable historic resources through programs and services that provide education, stewardship, and protection. For more information, visit us online at nh.gov/nhdhr or by calling 603-271-3483.