We do a lot of browsing of real estate listings. It’s almost an obsession really. Spring, of course, is the best time to look at real estate listings because so many new cool properties are coming onto the market. Recently, we came across this listing for “Aldworth Manor” (for $690,000) which has a fascinating history.
Before we get to that history, however, we are very concerned about his historic property. The listing has this to say:
160 acres with stunning views perched on a hilltop — the second homesite of Aldworth Manor. Aldworth Manor was a historic summer estate house in rural Harrisville, New Hampshire. The house is located at the top of a hill and was one of the premiere estate houses of the early 20th century in the town. The house was originally built and located in Worcester, MA & was inherited by Arthur E. Childs, a Worcester native from a wealthy family, in the early 20th century. Childs had the house transported in pieces to Harrisville by train on 17 railroad cars & then hauled to the Chesham Hill Farm, where it was reassembled and restyled into a Renaissance villa. Also on site are two rental properties, a former light manufacturing plant and several other structures. Today, the Manor & several of the other buildings have fallen into disrepair and the primary value is in the land and the stunning views.
We were stunned that such an amazing building would simply be written off like that. As such, we decided to post this under our “Demolition Alert” status based on that statement. We do not have any first-hand knowledge that demolition is eminent, but even if it is remotely possible we want to alert folks to it–perhaps someone reading this will step up to save it.
Additionally, as you will see in the history we found, several other major estates of similar nature have already met the wrecking ball. With the costs of heating such a grand home going up and up, the chances of saving it appear to be going down and down. We hope we are wrong.
At any rate, we managed to find the nomination form for Aldworth Manor to the National Register of Historic Places submitted by Historic Harrisville in 1987. The following is a from the “Statement of Significance:”
This estate achieves historical significance as the home for several decades of one of Harrisville’s most flamboyant summer residents: Arthur E. Childs. A Worcester, MA native of great family wealth and at one time manager of the Manchester, NH Travelers’ Insurance Company office, Childs inherited a Victorian mansion in Worcester and a large sum of money in the early years of the 20th center.
Required by a stipulation of the legacy to live in the house, Childs contrived to circumvent his benefactor’s intentions by having the house moved to Harrisville by train and completely transformed into a Neo-Renaissance summer villa. This feat, which was accompanied by a costly and extensive landscaping program, reflects the boundless enthusiasm and great financial resources characteristic of the builder/owners of the premier summer estates of the period in Harrisville and Dublin.
Anxious to be good local citizens as well, the Childs were early supporters of the Village Improvement Society and instigated the first tarred road in town in 1920.
The establishment of a great summer estate like Aldworth Manor on an earlier farm site which was subsequently subsumed by the new, larger scale development is illustrative of an important early 20th century trend in Harrisville history. Fasnacloich, Wellcroft, now razed and the summer residences on Beech Hill are other examples.
Further many of these large houses face a common challenge in the last decades of the same century: the discovery of an economically viable use for structures of such size and remote location. Fasnaclocich stands empty, Wellscroft was razed a decade ago, and the Aldworth Manor estate, dwindled from over 500 acres to 172, has seen since the 1950s a rapid succession of owner/occupants: a sanitorium, the St. Thomas More School, Antioch College and the affiliated Harrisville School, and since 1975, the Mountain Missionary arm of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
The Aldworth Manor building derives consderable architectural importance not despite its move but precisely because of it. In addition to being a fine (and Harrisville’s only) turn of the 20th century American Neo-Renaissance summer house, it also represents an impressive engineering achievement. Moved all the way from Worcester on 17 flatbed railroad cars, it then had to be unloaded at the Chesham station later to to be reassembled on a special caisson-like foundation on a 1620′ hilltop at Chesham Hill Farm. Further, its post-transformation appearance shows a remarkably successful response to a difficult design challenge.
Aldworth Manor’s many resuses, while necessary for its survival, have not produced especially felicitous results for the building itself. Pragmatic interior changes such as the partitioning of larger rooms to create offices, small classrooms and living spaces have somewhat compromised the building’s integrity.
However the changed use of the library to a chapel has not marred the structural or aesthetic character of the room. Likewise the building’s main and rear stairwells and the large oval dining room retain their historic integrity.
The 1962 concrete block one-story wing which was added to serve as the dining room and science laboratory of the St. Thomas More School has compromised the buildings exterior historic integrity. The placement of this wing at the northeast corner of the building lessens the overall impact of the wing. As it is not visible from the south, east or north sides, and it is well screened on the east side by the garden shrubbery.
The current owners have put considerable effort into the restoration of the extensive gardens. It is hoped that the vast expense involved in maintaining such a property with respect will not prove overwhelming to present and future owners.
Indeed, those last words seem prophetic in this case.
See all of our Demolition Alerts here.