SRPC Features: Preservation in the City of Somersworth
Somersworth was founded alongside the mighty Salmon Falls River in 1729, after a small group of settlers decided to separate from Dover and move to the east. Originally known as Summersworth, the spelling was changed by the man who copied out the charter when the town was incorporated in 1754.[i]
Over the last 263 years, what came to be known as the Hilltop City experienced significant changes, and continues to see investment in its future. To ensure new generations understand the history behind these changes, the city actively works to preserve its historic and cultural resources. Municipal officials and volunteers have taken many steps over the years to guarantee this preservation, including several rounds of applications to list sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the last four decades, the city had six listings added to the register including the Hilltop School, U.S. Post Office – Somersworth Main, Queensbury Mill, Lehoullier Building, Green Street School, and the Forest Glade Cemetery.
Forest Glade Cemetery, Somersworth’s most recent addition to the register in January 2017, is a focus for the city as it plans for the cemetery’s repairs and infrastructure upgrades. The cemetery was established in 1851, after Somersworth split into Somersworth and Rollinsford, It is a great example of the rural cemetery movement of the mid-19th century. That movement encouraged city planners to consider rural settings and work with the land when developing cemeteries to promote the integration of landscaping and gardening with a cemetery’s other unique features. Forest Glade’s Furber Chapel and Lougee Memorial Gate are two features the City has focused on preserving. The chapel, located on the cemetery grounds, was dedicated in 1898 and seats 70, while the gate at the cemetery’s entrance has been called “one of the finest cemetery gates in this part of New England.”[ii]
To complete the upgrades, Somersworth City officials have partnered with multiple statewide preservation organizations and funding agencies. In 2017, the city received a $10,000 Moose Plate grant to replace panels and restore granite pillars at the entrance to the cemetery. The City is also working with the NH Preservation Alliance (NHPA), another great resource for promoting the preservation of important landmarks in the state. Money allocated to NHPA through the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program will support the completion of a structural assessment of the Furber Chapel.
Work on infrastructure upgrades to the entrance is planned for spring and summer of 2018, while the Chapel assessment will be initiated in the summer of 2018. Other upcoming/ongoing preservation projects include the repainting of the Italianate Wellhouse, located adjacent to the Furber Chapel, and the planned restoration of historic grave markers (headstones) of some of the earliest burials at Forest Glade Cemetery.
Strafford Regional Planning Commission is excited to feature this important historical preservation project, and we congratulate the City for its diligent and hard work. For more information, contact the Office of the City Manager at 603-692-9503 or the Department of Public Works and Utilities at 603-692-4266.
* A special thanks to City Manager Bob Belmore for reviewing and contributing to this blog post.
Photo credit: Jenne Holmes