The Woodsville Opera Block is both significant architecturally and in the social and commercial history of the community because of its design and prominent location and for its role in the development of the local economy. Begun in 1890, by Ezra B. Mann, local entrepreneur and drug manufacturer, for the purpose of containing the offices of the newly-formed Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank (1889), the building was completed under the auspices of the Woodsville Opera Building Association.
Built for $25,000, the original tenants included the Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank, Woodsville Loan and Banking Co., the drugstore of E.B. Mann & Co., the U.S. Post Office, General Merchandise store of Howe & Goron, all on the first floor; offices of attornies C.H. Hosford, Fred S. Wright, and the dental rooms of Dr. F.G. Weeks and Dr. P.E. Speid, on the second floor; and on the third floor, the Railroad Club, an organization of railroad employees.
The timbers used in construction were cut from E. B. Mann’s land in Benton, New Hampshire, and hauled by ox team to the building site. The Opera Block with its prominent clock tower was considered “the monument in town” and for many years was the center of community activities including all high school graduations, proms and similar events. The opera hall had a seating capacity of 600 and its level floor permitted great flexibility in its use.
The E. B. Mann & Co., principal tenant in the building since its opening in 1890, also has [now had] the distinction of allegedly being the oldest family-owned drugstore still operating in the same location in the United States. Ezra B. Mann II, the founder’s grandson, is the current manager of the property. The Opera Block also has the distinction of being the location of the first long-distance telephone call ever placed from Woodsville, the occasion being a call made in 1899 by A.L. Willoughby, E.B. Mann’s partner, to Mann himself in the Paker House in Boston, to inform him of a fire which had occurred in the building.
The tower clock was presented to the Precint of Woodsville by the Woodsville Women’s Club in 1927, and a plaque on the corner of the northeast elevation of the building commemorates this event. Original equipment in the building also included two hydraulic, water-powered elevators. Both E.B. Mann and his brother, died as a result of injuries suffered in falling down the elevator shafts in the building.
The addition for the expansion of the Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank was contructed in 1918. The canted floor of the stage in the opera is said to have been the only one of its kind in New Hampshire’s North Country. Small operas, plays, vaudeville acts and even a one-ring circus were held in the opera hall. The interior furniture and cabinetry of the drugstore is original and intact and serves as an important record of late nineteenth century interior commercial décor.
The architectural exterior of the Opera Block is significant because it occupies an anchor position in the downtown business area and is well related in scale and massing to the former Grafton County Courthouse on Court Street, a Romanesque Revival structure, and the former Boston & Maine railway station on Central Street. The Opera Block is the physical, geographical and symbolic center of the business district and its conservative, timeless architectural style makes it an extremely important contributions to the built environment of the Woodsville community.
Source: National Register of Historic Places (pdf)
Sidenote: Woodsville is technically a village of the town of Haverhill, New Hampshire with its own elected officials separate from the the town selectmen. Haverhill is one of the few towns left in New Hampshire to have different villages, or formally called precincts, as other towns have consolidated. The other villages include: North Haverhill, Haverhill Corner, Pike, and Mountain Lakes.
The only other town we are aware of like this that has not consolidated is Wakefield, New Hampshire. The other villages include Wakefield Corner, East Wakefield, North Wakefield, Sanbornville, Union, Woodman, and Province Lake.
Does anyone else know of any other towns in Northern New England with sub-town jurisdictions?