2020-04-29: Former village center named to National Register of Historic Places2020-04-29T12:48:31-04:00


Shelly Angers, N.H. Department of Natural & Cultural Resources
Twitter: @NHDNCR

Former village center named to National Register of Historic Places

The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources has announced that the Old Deerfield Center Historic District has been honored by the United States Secretary of the Interior with placement on the National Register of Historic Places both for its architecture and as an example of settlement and community development.

Located near the geographic center of Deerfield, Old Deerfield Center was originally part of Nottingham, which was founded by royal charter in 1722.

The historic district spans 220 acres and includes 12 properties of primarily 18th- through early 20th-century buildings, 10 of which pre-date the Civil War. Sections of historic stonewalls that line roads and mark property boundaries remain.

Several Georgian Colonial homes, dating from 1770 to 1830, are within the district. Each is 2½ stories and sided in clapboards; most have large center chimneys. One is an example of a connected farmhouse, with the house connecting to the barn by a single-story wing.

Four Greek Revival style homes, built in the late 18th century to the decades before the Civil War, have outbuildings unique to their properties: a 19th century shoe shop, a post-and-beam shed, an off-set barn and a large detached barn.

Because early settlers often first built smaller homes and then expanded them, the wings of some buildings within the district may be older than what are currently considered the main part of their houses.

Two large barns remain within the district. One dates to the early 19th century and the other to the late-19th or early-20th century. Each has hand-hewn framing.

Old Center Cemetery includes both family plots and rows of gravestones, the earliest of which dates back to 1772. The cemetery’s stonewall and gateway were constructed in the 1920s, replacing an earlier wooden fence.

One of those interred at the cemetery is Major John Simpson, who achieved notoriety by reportedly firing the first shot – albeit unauthorized – at Bunker Hill while serving in Col. John Stark’s regiment. Stark later became a general and penned New Hampshire’s state motto, “Live Free or Die.”

Agriculture was Deerfield’s major business in the 19th century; it was the largest farming town in Rockingham County in 1874. Wheat, corn, oats, peas, potatoes, barley, hay, molasses, maple syrup, fruit and honey were among the crops produced.

Most local farms had a shoemaker’s shop where residents would work on various shoemaking steps and then sent their work to another location to be completed. In 1874, 230,000 pairs of shoes were produced in Deerfield.

Deerfield experienced a 68 percent population drop from 1850 to 1930, when younger generations were drawn to both better more prosperous farmland and to jobs in industries other than agriculture. Many former farms were purchased by wealthy individuals and became second homes.

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.