Architecture in Hollis
Hollis Houses and Streetscapes
by Evangeline S. Eresian
Edited from the Series Originally Published in The Hollis Times
This is a rough guide to the major elements that define the different
periods of architecture represented in Hollis, the buildings and
streetscapes. We pass daily treasures from the past preserved by
our neighbors. The architecture, in standing buildings not just
pictures is the procession of periods that reflect our rural, agricultural
village heritage. Woodrow Wilson said: "The History of a Nation
is only a history of its villages written large."
Sections: A Bit of History and
Shapes: the Body of a Building and its Clothing
Types and Shapes of Houses ‑ The "Body" of a
Styles Rather than Shapes; Over Time Exterior "Clothing"
Basic chronological sequence of house styles
Sequence of styles: Periods; White Paint & Green Shutters
To Keep Your House's Original Style and Integrity
The Historic District the Whole
Pre Revolutionary Colonial Period
Facade & Trim
Doors & Windows
Roof and Paint Color
Interior Room Space and Chimney
Other Examples of Georgian
Streetscapes Are Different When Leafless
Limitations of Post and Beam vs. Balloon Frame
Other Examples of Federal
Greek Revival ca. 1830‑1860. Example:
The Always Ready Engine House.
Greek Revival Emulates Greek Temples
Color ‑ White, Green Shutters, Red Roofs
The Always Ready Engine House
Victorian Picturesque Architecture
Manufacturing Enabled New Techniques and
Picturesque Victorian is Organic; As Are Its Body Shapes
Population Growth and Demand for
Italianate American Bracket
A Bit about Streetscapes
‑ The Golden Section.
Two Public Buildings of the Picturesque
‑ Victorian Period 1837‑1900
The Farley Building
The Town Hall
Bibliography at the Hollis Library
Bit of History and Shapes: the Body of a Building and its Clothing
Hollis was settled in 1731. The first houses are from this pre revolutionary
period, the "Colonial" period (a "colony" of
Great Britain). The terms which we often use to describe "colonial
architecture" such as: "Salt Box", "Cape Cod",
and "2 story Colonial" and which we see in real estate
ads are not house styles but, refer to the shape of the body of
the building. One might say that the "type" of house is
the body shape; the "style" is applied to the house just
as clothing is put on the body.
Types and Shapes
of Houses ‑ The "Body" of a House
A "salt box" house has a 2 story front, a 1 story back
and a sloping roof on the rear giving it the shape of the box used
in early days to store salt. A "Cape Cod" house is 2 rooms
wide, 2 rooms deep and 1 story high with a steeply pitched roof.
What might be attic in a 2-story house was often used for bedroom
space in the Cape. This shape was economical to heat with a central
chimney. A "Two Story Colonial" refers to a simple, unornamented
box shape 2 rooms wide, 2 rooms deep, and 2 stories high; it may
have a central chimney or not, it simply is the shape of a two story
box with a pitched roof. On the other hand, design elements, which
are applied over the body of the house, are what give it its particular
"architectural style". See McAlester's Field Guide
to American Houses in the Library.
than Shapes; Over Time Exterior "Clothing" Changes
Styles of housing, the "clothing" rather than the shapes
or "bodies", and the time period and the features identify
the style. Decoration on two houses during the same time period
might vary considerably. For example, rural and city architecture.
Hollis as a rural town has architecture, which was practical, simple,
with the purpose of keeping the occupants warm and dry with no fuss.
For economy of building and maintenance many rural homes are unadorned
and appear to be of the "colonial style" although they
were built at the same time as more elaborate houses of the "Georgian"
or "Federal" periods.
We may think our
town is "early colonial" architecture. In fact, the range
of our architecture is broad, of many styles and periods, eclectic,
and as several owners lived in the same house, maintained and "updated"
it, many changes over the years on a given house have enhanced the
appearance of the house and maintained the integrity of the original
style or did not.
Some changes are small, but the combination of many small changes
can significantly alter the appearance of a house and confuse us
as to what was its original date and style.
The most common reasons to make alterations are to: update appearance,
add living space, or minimize maintenance. The most common alteration
is to add, remove, or alter a porch; next common is a door or window
change. In comparing old photos with the current look of a house
one notices these and that trim has been changed and in some cases
additions have transformed the house, or the destruction of a barn
by fire has done so.
chronological sequence of house styles:
Hollis has examples of nearly every style of architecture, but the
basic chronological sequence may be helpful. It is important
to note that a house might be of a given style as noted above while
being built during a different time period. In addition in
renovating and updating, elements of later styles were added to
earlier buildings. The focus here will be on the early styles.
Details are in the books in the bibliography. This is an overview
with a focus on the old styles in the center of town and in the
farm architecture throughout town.
People building today are referred to the popular book The Not
So-Big House, Sarah Susanka, noting that 8-14’ ceilings and
multiple rooms are more public than private spaces and can be difficult
to make feel comfortable.
Colonial: The US began as a “colony”; early architecture
(after Native American Indian) was called colonial 1720‑1780/90
(For example see 16
Cleasby Lane, and 57
Georgian: The Georges were on the English Throne and
influenced US architecture (Remember George III and the Declaration
of Independence) (For example see 19
Main St. and 101
Federal: The colonies became a Federal government 1780-1820
(For example, see 29
Main St. and 35
Greek Revival: The country feeling established and important
tries looking important like a Greek Temple 1820-1860. (For example,
Broad St., and 9
Picturesque architecture - Victorian 1837‑1900;
Influential Queen Victoria reigns. There are many subcategories
of Victorian Architecture that overlap in time (For example, see
Farley Building and Town
Italianate American Bracket
Folk Victorian (For example, see 16
Broad St. and 17
Prairie - Frank Lloyd Wright influence
Sears Roebuck - precut
The car and the beginning of suburban architecture:
Ranches, Splits 1940’s and post WWII suburbia
Contemporary, Shed 1950’s
American Revival 1950-1980
American/French Farmhouse/Castles 1980’s—the beginning
of what are referred to as “starter castles” or “McMansions” large
boxlike, often hip roofed, may have porches, gazebos, verandahs,
3 car garages, little softening landscaping
Mixed façade builder houses 1980—nearly every style represented
in some way on façade to appeal to buyer if 2 story called “colonial”.
Sequence of styles:
Periods; White Paint & Green Shutters
Although Native American "long houses", and early log
cabins are gone, Hollis is fortunate in having good examples of
pre revolutionary houses, and period homes in the Georgian style
1720‑1780/90; Federal style (King George is gone and our Federal
Government has been established) 1780‑1820; Greek Revival
style (the country tries its hand at looking important like a Greek
Temple) 1820‑60, etc.
It was not until the Greek Revival style around 1820 that American
houses began to be white or gray to copy the marble temples that
Greek Revival emulated. Early Colonial houses were not necessarily
painted white with white picket fences. Think of Plimoth Plantation
and houses with no paint at all but simply weathered. If there were
a fence it was likely rough sticks stuck in the ground and perhaps
woven with other sticks or vines. Georgian houses might have had
no paint at all, or, if they were clapboard, might have been cheery
tones of blue, green, salmon, or yellow. In the Federal period there
was some white but not until Greek Revival did we see a predominance
of houses with white clap‑boards, green shutters, and red
Keep Your House's Original Style and Integrity
To enhance the appearance of your home, 1‑ find out what you
have in shape and style: when was it built (period) and for what
use; 2 ‑ learn what was appropriate to that style and time.
Some attempts to make newer copied "colonial" houses look
"colonial" are inappropriate as they are not in line with
the integrity of the shape, period, or style. In this interesting
pursuit consult the collection on architecture at The Library and
The Historical Society. Look for the DAR Book of Hollis Homes,
and Photo Albums prior to 1958, which have interesting history,
particularly if you find your own house there. An annotated bibliography
of helpful books available at the library is at the end of this
Historic District the Whole of Town
Of course these examples of styles of architecture are scattered
throughout the town just as the original farms were spread apart.
There is a concentration of well-preserved Federal and other styles
of houses in the center of town in the Historic District established
in 1971 and documented and listed on the National Register of Historic
Places in 2000. The boundaries of this overlay District (it is not
a zone) are: on the North from Rocky Pond Road to Wheeler Road following
a line 1000 feet north of Proctor Hill, Ash and Broad Streets; on
the East going south from Wheeler Road to Richardson and Van Dyke
Roads; on the South following Richardson to Depot then to Merrill
and Ridge Roads; on the West going North along the Beaver Brook
and High School boundaries to join the Northern Boundary at Rocky
Pond Road North of Proctor Hill Road.
When the Town passed the Historic District Ordinance in 1971,
its intention was that any property within the District Boundaries
ask guidance from the Historic District Commission (HDC) before
making any changes in the property's exterior (not interior) appearance.
Since 1971 many in the District have done this; others have not
even known they were in the District. Most owners of older houses
are interested in conservation, history and architecture to do all
the work of maintaining an old house. A guidelines booklet
about styles of houses and an outline of regulations published by
the HDC is available at Town Hall.
Revolutionary Colonial Period
The first house as an example is known as "The
Meeting House" on Monument Square. Located on land given
the minister by the Town it is near to the actual meeting place,
or church, built in 1740 on the site of the present Congregational
Church. "The Meeting House" is situated to the North of
Town Hall with its front facade facing the Town Hall on Cleasby
Lane and its later addition facing the Common. It has two contrasting
facades (or fronts), and was the first building in Hollis, indeed
one of a few in New England, registered individually on the National
Trust of Historic Buildings as opposed to registration as part of
The owner, Marilyn Wehrle, researched and registered this house
with her late husband, Bill. As a realtor, a member of the HDC a
student of Rhode Island School of Design she has owned and preserved
two houses in the Historic District. Documentation involved defining
precisely the time of construction, what happened there, the saltbox
style, and the changes made to the building over time.
This building, The Meeting House, was constructed on the land of
the first minister in Hollis, Reverend Daniel Emerson, in 1744.
He brought his bride, Hannah, to the house in November that year
and 13 children were born to them there. The main part of the house,
as it is today, was occupied by this family. Originally, as was
typical in the period, the early part of this saltbox house faced
South on its 40 acres of land, toward the place on which Town Hall
has been built. It has a "5 ranked facade", i.e. there
are five openings on each of the two floors (lined up like ranks
of soldiers): a central door flanked by two evenly spaced windows
on each side making 5 openings on the first floor, and five evenly
spaced windows on the second floor as well. The small roof over
the doorway is a later mid nineteenth century addition as are the
brackets which support it. Note the pattern on these brackets that
mark them as done in the Victorian period. (Queen Victoria; we were
friendly with England again). There was likely a central chimney
with the roofline continuing with the same pitch east and west.
This house is built of clapboards, possible only because of sawmills
for which Hollis was known. The 1st mill began in 1740.
The hip roof corner, as the house now turns the corner, was a later
addition. The house had an "ell" (referring to the shape
the building has after an addition is attached at right angles)
added facing Monument Square. The roofline of this addition has
been extended and the pitch changed, to provide more living space
within. This house has very different sides! The West facade is
a contrast with the earlier Southern facade particularly because
of the changes that have been made over time in it: the prominent
bay windows and the porch with columns. The columns are more classical
in style and the low-pitched roof of the porch is typical of the
Greek Revival style, not the Victorian patterned style of the brackets
on the other facade.
Early houses built when there was not technology to make large sheets
of glass would typically have had twelve small window panes in the
upper half of the sash and the same in the lower sash - 12/12, twelve
over twelve, divided by thick "muntins", the wooden pieces
which hold the glass in place in the center of the window. These
are not "mullions", the term used for the piece that divides
one window from another that abuts it. The windows in the
Meeting House that are now 6/6, six over six, with thin muntins,
are replacements of what was originally there.
This house is on the Register because of its unique history including
the fact that the decisions for the locations of other New England
Churches were made here in the Reverend Emerson's house or parsonage
during his 50 year ministry. The Meeting House had several owners,
all of whom put their own mark on the building, including the Meeting
House Shops in 1957 when the prominent bays on the west facade were
added as the building had a commercial use and display windows were
desired. Multiple owners made multiple changes. Currently this building
contains 5 apartments; there are no longer 13 children in residence
as in the Reverend Emerson's time. The latest addition is the fence
surrounding the building. Compare this fence with the fence opposite
the Eveready Engine House on Main Street. Probably neither fence
existed when the houses were built. Note the "skirt" at
the bottom of one of the Main Street fences.
Another example of the treasures in architecture that our neighbors
have preserved for us stands in Monument Square, built in 1797.
Georgian architecture dates are from approximately 1720 to 1780.
(There were three Kings of England named George, but we remember
in particular George III for whom John Hancock signed his name on
the Declaration of Independence so that the King could read it without
his glasses.) In 1800 when this house was 3 years old the population
of Hollis reached its pre‑twentieth century peak of 1557 inhabitants
with 200 residences and nearly as many barns.
Generally, features which identify a house as being Georgian style
are: • a gambrel, gable roof or a hip roof with a ridgeline parallel
to the road, • blockier feel to the mass as the front and back interior
rooms were usually equal in size, • the central chimney moving toward
the ends of the building usually seen as two chimneys, • a low basement,
• eaves close over the 2nd story windows but now eaves decorated
with fuller molding, • clapboards now cut in narrower boards, •
small‑paned window sash (12/12), • most houses are 1 1/2 or
2 1/2 stories high with a 5 ranked facade, • a more elaborate
central entrance than “colonial”, • a paneled rather than plank
door, • often a transom window over the door and a rectangular or
1/2 round entablature above it, often with molded surrounds. • no
side lights (beside the door) or elliptical fanlights over the door.
The owners of this house maintain two historic houses on Monument
Square; they are members of the Colonial Williamsburg Restoration
Association, Strawberry Banke, and the National Historic Trust.
Looking at the facade, or front, of this house we immediately see
a comparison from the Meeting House across the street. Both
the Meeting House and the Georgian house are clapboard with a 5-ranked
facade (five openings lined up like soldiers' ranks on each floor)
and a ridgeline of the roof parallel to the street on which the
facade faces. But the period and style of the Georgian house is
seen in its more substantial, heavier trim (corner boards) vertically
on the corners of the building, a dentilled (teeth shaped) cornice
under the roof line, a doorway with pilasters (flat pillar like
decoration), a pediment (triangle above the doorway) and definite
raised panels on the doors.
Doors & Windows
The door on a Georgian House looks quite different from a Colonial
Period. It often has a transom window over the door and this entablature
or pediment. Windows now have trim and the small‑paned window
sash has sometimes changed in its configuration from 12/12 to 12/8,
or 9/6, 919. On Georgian houses the molding surrounds and
protects the top of the windows which are often 12/12 on the first
floor and 8/12 on the second with thick muntins and imported glass.
The American manufacture of glass came later and enabled larger
panes of glass. Movable sash allowed the opening of upstairs windows
even though they are not the same size top and bottom sash. The
door has a beautiful surround.
Roof and Paint
The roof on the Georgian house is a hip (that is, the ridgeline
or top of the roof tapers before it reaches the end of the same
horizontal line of the bottom of the roof) in contrast to the early
South facade of the Colonial Style Meeting House which has a gable
roof like a child's drawing with a straight ridgeline across the
top and a steeper pitch until it is modified by the addition facing
Monument Square. Note that neither of these houses has louvered
blinds or shutters. Blue or salmon colors might have been used in
this period, not necessarily the white that it is currently painted,
likely a later change.
The Meeting House was the home of the first minister; the Georgian
across the street was the home of the second minister, Eli Smith,
built by Amasa Smith, his brother, probably at the time of Smith's
marriage to the Rev. Emerson's granddaughter. Eli Smith b. 1759,
d.1847 is buried across the street at the Central Burying Ground.
During his pastorate of 37 years between 400 and 500 persons were
admitted to the Church, a large growth from the 30 families in 1743
increased to 200 when the Rev. Emerson ended his pastorate and Eli
Smith began. The 3rd Congregational Meeting House was built during
his pastorate in 1804 and looked very similar to that we see today
on the same site built after the fire of October 1923.
Space and Chimney
The Historic District Commission has no authority over the interior
of an historic house. A typical Georgian house would have had raised
panels on walls, doors, and interior window shutters, perhaps a
grand central staircase in a center hall in contrast to the earlier
buildings with a simple staircase. The central hall with this space
is made possible by the movement of the earlier central chimney
toward the ends of the house often in the form of two chimneys.
On Main Street are two other examples of Georgian: 19
Main across from Wheeler House has a beautiful Georgian doorway.
The ell on this house is older, cape style. This was the Whiting
House where 2 of the 5 Tories in the town lived in the Revolution.
The Worcester History tells of their trial and banishment from Town.
Another example of Georgian architecture is across from the Ever
Ready Engine House and has a wide "coffin" door.
Georgian is said to be masculine; Federal delicate or feminine.
These houses are now usually two rooms deep. Copies of Colonials
built in the 1940's can be distinguished by wider clapboard width,
shallower roof pitch, window size, ranking (number and arrangement
of openings in the façade), and doorway.
If you have lived in a different part of the country you may have
seen different styles of architecture built in the same periods
as these. There are regional differences in building materials,
proximity of the basement to the ground, set backs from the street,
open space between buildings, trim and balustrades in cities vs.
rural. Trees or shrubs and seasons when the foliage changed the
openness can vary as can sidewalks and the look of the commercial
and civic buildings and their proximity to each other and the street.
Traffic, parking, easy pedestrian access and signage of streets
and for promotion of trade affect the look of the streetscape and
of the individual buildings within it.
Are Different When Leafless
The expansion of views when leaves fall is striking. We can
see the rear of houses on one street from another, e.g., Merrill
Lane houses and additions, Richardson Road houses, and Main Street
houses can be seen from Depot Road. Depot Road houses can
be seen from Main Street through private and Town properties. We
can see from Broad through to Ash; the North side of Broad Street
now shows the commercial buildings of Brookdale where the hard work
of the farms is transacted. The symbol on the Town seal of a plow
is meaningful. All through the District, along Rocky Pond Road,
Silver Lake Road, Ash and Broad Streets the streetscapes are different
as one can see through to the backs of houses and to other roads.
One can see the Town Hall, the Congregational Church and the new
High School from greater distances. We are fortunate to have so
much open space in Hollis. These leafless views are with us more
of the year than leafed here in New Hampshire and are a consideration
in setting off a building, screening, and privacy.
No matter the season, we cannot see through the berm to the Village
Marketplace, which may be an advantage or disadvantage for customers
and for businesses. Ash Street has a different look of some small
villages, or Main Streets in neighboring towns as the buildings
are set back from the street and from each other and there are no
sidewalks or trees.
Another example of the treasures in Hollis, are the well-preserved
examples of Federal Architecture on Main Street built ca. 1800-1830.
(No longer a colony, we now have a Federal Government.) This area
is not only a treasure for us but appeals to visitors from other
places, boosting our festivals, produce and craft sales. In 1800
when these houses were built, Hollis had 1557 residents, 12 mills,
4 stores, and 2 taverns. The town was prospering and the houses
reflect this with more trim and some brickwork. Even the name, given
one built in 1806 by Josiah Conant, "The Little Mansion",
speaks of prosperity. Federal houses look refined, some say lighter
and more feminine than the earlier Georgian style.
Generally features which identify a house as being Federal style
are: • a gable or often a low hip roof with a ridgeline parallel
to the road (sometimes with a balustrade hiding the low hip roof
and making it look flat); • twin interior or end chimneys (the central
chimney is usually gone, allowing a different interior arrangement
of rooms); • central entrance, often with a fanlight which may have
iron tracery between pieces of glass, • glass transom lights, •
partial sidelights beside the door; • 5 ranked facade often with
• narrow, molded surrounds 6/6 sash window; • Palladian windows
in gables or above entrance; • walls of brick or clapboard (often
brick ends with facade clapboarded); • more delicate, refined
moldings and proportions than the earlier Georgian style.
Looking at Federal buildings we see a 5-ranked facade with 12/12
windows on the first floor and 8/12 on the 2nd just as in a Georgian
house. But what probably strikes us first is the beauty of the doorway
as well as the proportions of the building. The house is two rooms
deep and two stories high, but it seems less bulky than Georgian.
The pilasters are more delicately carved, the cornice decoration
is lighter, and a fan, and sidelights lighten the doorway both figuratively
and literally. The entrance has a prominence and a sense of welcoming.
That “first presentation” which realtors talk about is here in the
doorway of a Federal House. We want to go inside. Were we invited,
we would be impressed by the molding around the ceiling in one Hollis
house on which it is said Josiah Conant, a cabinet maker, spent
3 years of hand carving. (Worcester's History says Josiah's father
built the stocks in front of the meetinghouse where punishment was
meted out for profanity and other offenses; Josiah did more elaborate
woodworking.) Half of the second floor was used as a dance hall
with access by the central staircase. This hall was also a reading
and writing school and later a singing school. On a few of these
properties the barn that was once a part has been moved some time
ago to another location and house.
Post and Beam vs. Balloon Frame
We have many houses in Hollis which are between the Georgian and
Federal style. In a real Federal chimneys have moved to the
ends of the building. Some of our houses have a Federal look
in most ways but still have the central chimney of Georgian.
On some Main Street Federal houses we see four end chimneys; some
have brick ends, some covered with vines. As noted, moving the chimneys
has enabled a central stair and more flexibility in room design
although there are still limitations caused by the post and beam
construction and the symmetrical lining up of windows. These houses
are delightfully proportioned on the outside partly because they
seem to be designed from the outside in. Houses that are designed
from the inside out may have irregular window placement that fits
with more comfortable room arrangement. This desire for comfort
and later changes in household furnishing and equipment dictated
different house styles as new construction methods were available,
and in some cases have dictated the additions which we see on our
older homes. Thoughtful additions do not detract from the architectural
style but enhance it thoughtfully. The windows are not evenly spaced
on the second floor in some Federals as interior space is for central
hall and two other rooms.
We cannot examine closely the decoration of the eaves on some houses
because newly added metal gutters hide them. How gutters would change
the Georgians and their dentils. Early gutters, if the house had
them, were wood and incorporated into the roof and eave design.
Most New England houses would not have had gutters that can create
ice dams and interior damage. The house would simply have had small
rocks on the ground along the drip line to help drain and avoid
splashing of mud on the house. In other regions gutters, downspouts,
and rain barrels might be other architectural features.
Some Other Examples
Briefly here is a bit about some other examples of Federal Style
and Period 1780‑1820 in the District. Some are better preserved
than others and are real assets to the Historic District. "The
Brick End House", 1806‑08 was at one time a tavern and
later held the post office. An ell of this house which once projected
north was moved to Broad Street and remains a part of 36 Broad built
in 1847‑49, Greek Revival style. This section had a dance
hall on the second floor. If you look closely you can see where
the ell was attached. Some front door iron hinges go all the way
across the door. Different rooflines can also be seen.
"The Parsonage"' is another well preserved Federal House
which has had much remodeling, not all in keeping with the Federal
architecture. It was originally 4 rooms built for Esther Frothingham
Emerson, widow of Rev. Daniel Emerson III in 1813. It has a fanlight
and very shallow hip roof. The barn was demolished in 1955, replaced
by a 2-car garage. The Congregational Church used the house as a
parsonage until the 1980's when it was sold in poor condition. The
new owners extensively remodeled it including an addition on the
South partially screened by lattice from the street with large expanses
of glass for active and passive solar heating, and modern double-glazed
6/6 windows with interior muntins. Gutters also appear on this house.
Pictures of the interiors can be seen in one of the books on the
architecture bibliography at the Library.
At 29 Main
we have not only a well preserved and cared for house but an attractive
small shop (not Federal). Now a guesthouse, this was the cobbler
shop of Joe Gates and is said to have been built prefabricated from
a mail-order. Sears Roebucks at one time had several models
for houses a good sized house can be seen on Depot Road.
Perhaps the most beautiful Federal doorway in Hollis is at “the
Gatehouse” with a delicate fanlight, and a portico with Ionic
columns flanking the entrance on Broad Street. This house was built
in 1820, post and beam with pedimented gable ends (the triangle
extension of the rectangular end wall which tops the 2nd floor and
supports the roof). In 1980 it was completely remodeled for commercial
use, but is now a private residence although the barn is still a
business facing on Ash Street.
Revival ca. 1830‑1860. Example: The Always Ready Engine
Emulates Greek Temples
Following the Federal period the country feels grand about itself;
its western boundary is the Pacific. Texas, Minnesota, and Kansas
are opened for settlement. This is the period of Greek Revival style.
Housing in the East begins to emulate Greek Temples. Houses are
gray or white to copy the marble of the temples, and may have corner
board sections that look like stone in this copying. The space at
the end of the attic is treated like the pediment of a temple and
trimmed accordingly with "returns" of the roofline toward
the center and wide frieze boards below the roof like the stone
topping to columns in temples. A major change is that the ridgeline
is frequently not parallel with the street but is turned with gable
front (often pedimented or with a cornice and cornice return) facing
the street. Unlike a Greek Temple where the entrance may be centered,
Greek Revival houses usually have off center doors with a sidehall
floor plan. Should you own a lot where views or restrictions
ask for a narrow presentation to the street, you might choose to
copy a Greek Revival.
There is often a 2-story temple front with columns freestanding
or applied, and perhaps a portico. Doors and windows are boldly
delineated with emphatic lintels (the cross piece above the window),
pediments or carved keystones. 3 or 5 unsymmetrical windows face
the street (replacing the 5 ranked facade), with 6/6 sash. There
are wide corner boards and broad frieze boards (just below the roof).
The roof may be pitched or hipped but is usually lower than earlier
styles. Often there is a porch. The entrance usually has full‑length
sidelights and transom window. Often there are wings creating the
shape of an L or T. Greek Revival Houses are often one or
one and a half storeys. Notice the side elevations and the
different window arrangements depending on the height of the building.
White, Green Shutters, Red Roofs
In the Federal period there was some white color on houses but not
until Greek Revival did we see a predominance of houses with white
clap‑boards, green shutters, and red roofs which are now hallmarks
on New England scenes. On previous styles we have seen some exterior
shutters, but many early houses are undecorated by shutters and
some of the shutters we see are later additions. During Greek Revival
exterior shutters were common and often green. (These are not the
very early "Indian" shutters used for protection from
rain, cold, and animal or human intruders that were often interior
and still exist in some Main Street Houses.)
The Always Ready Engine House
This is a prime example of a building where, even with remodeling,
preservation has maintained the integrity of the original architectural
style. We have a good example of Greek Revival in a utilitarian
public building. This is an important asset to the Historic District.
The Engine House was slated for demolition but saved. It is currently
managed by the Historical Society as a museum. Built in 1859 strictly
for utilitarian use, originally it had 3 one-room stories; two-faced
Main St. and all 3 faced the Common. Built as a firehouse it was
used by volunteers to store equipment including 2 hand pumped engines.
In 1870 a small lock up was built in its basement. In 1874 the grammar
school occupied the building for summer. Many groups used its central
location for regular meetings. From 1971 to 1986 the Hollis Police
Department used the building and jail cell already there (the remodeled
facade had regular doors). In 1988 when the Town Meeting voted to
dispose of the building, citizens joined with the Historical Society
to save it, the oldest public building in town. James Garvin, State
Architectural Historian wrote that it was a building "distinct
from its neighbors...with very strong Greek Revival characteristics:
widened pilasters at the corners, slightly pitched window caps,
heavy entablature at the roof, and the low pitched roof itself,
seldom attempted in Greek Revival era except in more monumental
buildings" indicating it may have been professionally designed.
Its "presence in the center of town is characteristic of the
mid 19th century,...the choice of a prominent central site showed
not only sensible planning but also civic pride...it should not
only be preserved but remain on its present site." Through
hard work it did.
Look at its gable end toward Main Street and note the characteristics
that Garvin enumerated. See the wide lintel board topping the columns
and the other belt course that separates the two stories facing
Main Street. Even the divisions in the restored engine doors can
be imagined as columns: a small temple: with fire engine goddesses.
The shape of this building is definitely utilitarian as is its spare
design. Look at all four sides making good use of the sloped terrain.
of Greek Revival
The peak of Hollis population was around this time; business was
good. Examples of Greek Revival abound; this is a very well represented
period in town. Some of the best examples are noted below although
not all are well preserved in terms of architectural integrity.
Many of these are in the DAR photo books at the Library and the
Historical Society showing porches and other earlier looks for comparison
(some startling). Look at their gable ends facing the street with
bold cornice returns or pediments, side entrances and evidence of
more irregular interior room placement than available earlier.
Right next to the new high school is 43‑45 Main ‑ "Buttonwood
Farm", Compare the old photos from the DAR book of this
farm with the current look. Note the elements no longer with us.
The main entrance and facade are on the South. There is a full pediment
with two attic windows within in and heavy molding. The entrances
both have porticoes with columns. Notice the irregular placement
of the windows compared with the earlier 5 rank facade; here there
are 2 windows on the left and 1 on the right on the first floor.
The doorway has transom and sidelights. Windows are 6/6. Notice
the broad lintel band near the roof, the columns. There are two
large chimneys mid house. A large cupola between them was removed
in the 1950s. The inside of this house had marble mantels and very
ornate decoration including porcelain rosebuds. Old photos show
roof brackets, shutters, a picket fence and a summerhouse. The building
as with many of our old farmhouses, is now apartments. The surrounding
property still has barns and silos, although not in good condition.
Just off the Common on Broad, built in 1840 is a Greek Revival which
even has the red color on the roof that was common in this era.
The ell is no longer Greek Revival in appearance or feel due to
1994 remodeling but this is a beautiful, centrally located 1 1/2
storey house with the entry facing the Common on the south side
right next to the ell. The side placed entry door has sidelights
and a pediment. The house has pilasters, and a gable roof with over
hang and wide cornice board. There are no gutters to detract. The
windows have heavy surrounding molding and are 6/6. From Broad Street
the side ridgeline of the house is parallel to this road.
at the corner of Ash, was built in 1847‑49 and shows its continuing
farm history in the attached barn. An ell moved from the Brick End
House is still in use at the rear of the house. From Broad Street
the facade shows a heavy overhang roof faced with wide cornice board
following the roofline. There are wide corner boards as columns.
Windows are uncentered 2/2. A recessed doorway is again on the side
with a wide lintel / pediment and side-lights behind the aluminum
This is a large building by virtue of its ells and cross gable,
standing barns and porch, yet it does not strike the passerby as
large as some new box-like houses.
On Monument Square is an easily seen well maintained 2 story Greek
Revival with pedimented gable end toward the common with wide corner
and water table boards, a pediment over the entrance door in the
5 ranked side facade, and 2/2 windows with a 6/6 attic window.
Many Greek Revival are one and one half storey houses. Just outside
the District is an example on Ridge Road. A look at this house's
west side shows very clearly the one and one‑half story design.
Note especially the molding under the roof along the edge of the
gable; it is double giving a real definition. There is an ell with
a three-floor exposure. Sadly the barn with its very sharply steepled
cupola behind the house has collapsed.
Depot Road has another good example of well-preserved Greek Revival
which once also had a stable. The number of Greek Revivals in Hollis;
may surprise you.
Victorian Picturesque architecture 1837‑1900
Queen Victoria reigned from 1837‑1900. During that lengthy
period many changes were taking place, some reflected in American
architecture. Authors disagree on labels during this period, particularly
since many are overlapping. Not all have examples in Hollis and
most of those that exist have been greatly changed.
Enabled New Techniques and Materials
Technology, manufacturing, and transportation changes greatly influenced
architecture. Now available were: mass produced brick, cut stone,
plate glass, cast iron, jigsawed wood, embossed pressed tin walls
and ceilings, indoor plumbing, central heating, gas light (later
electricity), refrigeration, telephone, and up to date easily available
builder’s guides. The rail system made transportation of this material,
often preformed, from other locations feasible. Balloon frame construction
of lighter framing material held together with nails not wooden
pegs made for freer design. This affected not only new building,
but also remodeling and up‑dating. Outhouses were out and
even the shape of the buildings is no longer what we earlier described.
Early house bodies were one or two rooms deep, wide and high and
had rectangularly attached ells of similar shape.
is Organic; As Are Its Body Shapes
Picturesque ‑ Victorian houses are free of the rectangle in
most cases and have unpredictable projections and setbacks. The
body shape under the clothing is quite different. Symmetry is gone
and porches appear as living spaces with balconies, brackets and
railings. The house can now, by virtue of new technology, be designed
from the inside out with an eye to comfort including heat and indoor
plumbing (available from Sears).
Population Growth and Demand for Housing
The demand for these materials and the growth of houses continued
as the US had an exploding population. In Hollis the population
was affected slightly differently as the opening of manufacturing
drew some young people away from a rural community to work in the
mills, or west for better farmland. In 1840 at the beginning of
the Victorian period the population was 1501 but by the close in
1900 it had dropped to 1079.
An early subsection of the period is Gothic Revival, actively promoted
by Andrew Downing Architecture of Country Houses, 1850, an
influential house pattern book. It was according to Baker, American
House Styles, "picturesque, rambling irregular time of
romance with the past Stylistic elements: steeply pitched roofs,
cross gables, carved verge boards along the rakes and hood moldings,
front and rear facing gables at right angles to main axis, tall
diamond paned windows, vertical siding.
If we had an original picture of Four Corners at Silver Lake Road,
1847, we could see many of these elements. Once known as “The Gingerbread
House”, a current look shows much of the gingerbread trim is gone.
A 1958 photo shows much deterioration. Subsequent renovation has
preserved: the barn; the ell (and its porch with appropriate trim
near the roofline) which connects the barn and the cross gable of
the house; and the main house itself. (Perhaps there is hope for
some other antique but deteriorating buildings.) We see a sharply
sloped roof with wide overhangs, and the typical central cross gable.
Thanks to the current and just previous owners’ care, the house
maintains its basic character. A picket fence reminds us of the
gingerbread even though its straight picket is more classic than
Imagine Silver Lake Road with the high maintenance icicle gingerbread
trim seen on Pine Hill Road, outside the District. Here, accentuated
by the difference in color of house and trim, is jigsaw carpentry.
Scrolls highlight the windows; there is much lattice.
Another subdivision of this period is Italianate American Bracket
that has many examples in Hollis. At Depot Road and Merrill Lane
we have a stylish update with many brackets "supporting"
the roof. On Main Street near Love Lane are two examples, 1878-79,
although the porch is now missing, other changes which have been
made fit the rest of the house maintaining its basic architectural
style. Note the steep gables, the circular vent window, the stick
trim on the barn building (an illusion of bracing which ties with
the lines of the gables on other parts of the building), the double
entry doors. Next door there are double doors as well. Just outside
the District see the renovation of the Town's SAU Administration
Building at 4 Lund Lane off Silver Lake Road. (Note the Gothic window
in the attic and the window overhang. Also note the architectural
shingle roof that does an excellent job of economically emulating
Folk Victorian Houses with their symmetrical facades are seen along
Main Street including #17 and its neighbors. They are also at #1
Broad. Observe their gables and steep roofs, their bay windows
with wide mullions, their remaining porches with balustrades and
supporting posts with scrolled bracket trim. See the entry's sheltering
roof supported with brackets. Some have double entry doors; many
now lack their welcoming verandahs. These porches may at one time
have had turned spindles and lace like spandrels or flat jigsaw
cut trim. Some lost a wrap around porch but kept indications of
where missing parts were, e.g. now clapboarded windows openings
retain the exterior trim.
Hollis has one example of the organic Picturesque‑Victorian
look in a Queen Anne style on Depot Road. This was one of the “fanciest”
houses in Hollis in 1910, the residence of Dr. Hazard. If you look
very closely at it and its adjacent barn to the South you can see
shingles and areas where the shingles at one time turned rounded
corners. At the Northwest corner of the 2nd floor one can
see the remains of this where the flare of the roof could not be
easily covered by the artificial siding that was probably added
in an attempt to economize on upkeep. See the original shingling
on the top of the barn. Much of this has been covered. Non-breathable
siding needs to be carefully done to avoid trapping moisture within
The roof turns as it flares around corners. There were 2 porches
with balusters on both the first and 2nd floors. The door has fan
& sidelights; small paned windows are in bands. Of special note
is the different texture from one section of shingled exterior to
another, the broad overhanging roof, the overhang of the third floor
over the front porches and different colors of paint on the trims.
This is a rural version of the "painted lady" look popular
now in San Francisco and being revived in some of our neighbor Nashua's
old period houses. We have very few examples in Hollis.
Bit about Streetscapes ‑ The Golden Section.
Hollis builders and designers creating rural simple houses were
not unsophisticated. In fact the Always Ready Engine House possibly
had an architect. Not until the middle 1800s did pattern books become
readily available. Prior to that builders and designers used the
principles that they knew of like the "golden section".
Jonathan Hale, The Old Way of Seeing speaks of early architecture,
basic design, and principles found in nature used by early builders.
Hale notes that our eye is pleased by patterns in nature using the
"golden section" as an example. The proportions seen in
the height and width of trees, in seashells, and even in our most
admired facial features, e.g. Aubrey Hepburn, follow proportions
of 1 to 1.618. This might be measured in a section of fence where
the height of the post is one unit and the horizontal section of
fence before the next post is 1.618 times the height of the post.
If a fence post were 3 feet above ground, the golden section would
be almost 3x5.
It may be interesting to look at your favorite model, the measurement
from end of eyebrow to outer end of other brow is one section; chances
are the measurement from the top of brow to the middle of the lip
will be 1.618 times the first measurement. It is interesting to
try this on fences and signs that you like or don't like.
A good place to compare signs is at the Post Office, next-door at
Uniquely New England, down the street at Adamyck's and Merritt’s.
Apply the "golden section" to buildings: The Meeting House,
Monument Square, Federal Houses on Main Street, the Schools, the
Bank, and the Fire Station. Streetscapes or the flow of one building
next to another and the open spaces can also be reviewed. Are you
more pleased with the North or South side of a street, e.g. Ash
Street? Compare with Broad Street or Main Street. See the
difference in feel of the open spaces and setbacks between North
and South Main Street as divided by the Fire House.
Public Buildings of the Picturesque ‑ Victorian Period 1837‑1900
The Farley Building
Look at old and new pictures of the Farley Building, built in 1877
by the bequest of Mary Farley as the Town's high school. In 1902
it also housed grammar school pupils and the Odd Fellows met on
the 3rd floor (above the 3rd floor windows the arc of
writing says "Odd Fellows". Here is a very typical example
of rural Victorian architecture in a civic building that has been
The 1902 photo of the original building shows a symmetrical front.
A porch covered the two front doors that flanked a central window.
This fenestration with 3 windows on the 2nd floor, and 2 on the
third all shuttered added to the symmetrical look. The roof was
crowned with a striking 2 staged cupola which could be seen at some
distance and was reminiscent perhaps to some of the many Harvard
graduates listed in Worcester's History of the entry to Memorial
Hall at Harvard built about the same time.
The roof of this cupola was flared and had an elaborate metal crest
and finials. Below the main roof were pairs of wooden brackets.
The roof returns were decorated. Windows were capped with pediments.
In another picture of the High (and Graded School Building and I.O.O.F.
Hall) we see an addition on the north of a cross gable design Perhaps
in a modest attempt for balance, the south side has an opposing
added dormer. The entry doors are changed - still 2, but one in
the old building, and one in the addition - asymmetrical. The porch
remains. Later the north side would be expanded further and the
porch shrinks making the lines quite different.
Today the outline and shape as well as the clothing of the building
are totally different particularly without the cupola and with the
large north addition making the building definitely asymmetrical.
Some windows are permanently boarded up; gone is the facade of 3
openings on the 1st, 3 on the 2nd and 2 on the third floors. The
entry doors remain asymmetrical with a small porch; The windows
on the facade bear little relation to what they were. A necessary
fire escape has been added on the rear. Remaining are only vestiges:
brackets may still be seen and 2/2 windows. The building itself
does not strike the same note of civic pride it once did, even though
it provided good education for many of our leading citizens.
Inside, when built, it had many tin ceilings with pressed patterns.
This type of old tin may still be seen on the interior walls of
the entry at Town Hall. The condition of the building is not good.
Help might come from its listing on the National Register (eligibility
for grants), the Heritage Commission, a caring community, or an
interested project leader as was the case with the Always Ready
The Town Hall was built in 1887 for $8000 when the population was
about 1000. Offices had been housed in the Congregational Church,
as had the Library. Old pictures show the original sunburst design
on the tower surrounded by much detailed woodwork. In 1903 a clock
replaced the sunburst. Although it sits on lower ground than the
Farley Building, the Town Hall tower can be seen as a symbol of
civic pride at some distance.
Steal for yourself a special moment when the sun highlights the
woodwork to look at the tower and building closely and you will
be rewarded and amazed at the variety in texture. The detail of
woodwork survives, obscured by the fact that the paint is all one
color. In stick style "the surface...is treated as a decorative
element". Above the windows seen best from the North, siding
is applied in varying directions, some vertically, some at a 45•
angle, some horizontally. There are projections, shingles, flat
sections and brick.
Heavy arched doorways remind us of Richardson Romanesque, as do
brownstone sills. The 1950 addition (fire station turned community
room) is a "plain Jane" in comparison to the tower and
the rest of the building. The main building has wall dormers and
small panes with colored glass that may have tied originally with
the paint color scheme, (which in some locations would have been
polychrome). There are windows in varying sizes and shapes: square,
rectangular, arched, divided, found at unusual places (through some
stairs can be seen).
Note the almost completely round projecting bay with red metal roof
on the North, the elaborate chimney on the South, a piece of art
in itself, seen above the one storey addition, the brackets at the
roof cornice line, other cornice trim, and the steeply pitched pyramidal
roof of the tower echoed somewhat in the addition's roof with its
Inside are moderately serviceable rooms, patterned pressed tin walls
in the entry, and a few other hints of the past if you go up the
stairs to the 2nd floor or should you dare the basement. This period
found civic buildings making use of basement space beneath a high
pedestal. The pedestal of the wooden floored porch with its recessed
entrance and double doors is modest but permits a usable basement
space. It is interesting to note this period's new basement space
and windows enabled by technology.
This piece does not venture into describing styles of homes in the
mid 20th century when the automobile and roads as well
as the demise of the RR passenger system meant suburbia. Farmland
was more valuable for building than for growing and ranch houses,
splits and now very large houses are growing up all over the States
and in Hollis. The reader is referred to Baker and Susanka.
A drive down a designated “scenic road” in Hollis can now take one
past trees, woods and wildflowers and suddenly a square of chem.-lawn
green. Many houses are not softened by trees, nor are they
the simple designs practical for farmers. Trees are clear-cut;
new landscaping which is not native, and lawns are beginning to
prevail. Hollis is very conservation minded with 19% of its
land in some type of preservation, e.g. Beaverbrook, and with
Brookdale Farms and its state preservation for agriculture keeping
the center of town with open cultivated land, but new houses are
often not built with thought to their fit with neighbors in a town
that is dedicated to preserving “rural character”.
Expansion and progress will take place. The author hopes that as
it does builders and new home owners alike will look at the history
and examples of architecture in the town and think about style,
landscape, massing, spacing, rooflines, multiple gables, etc. as
they help to expand the town which they selected for its rural character.
Most people building and buying in Hollis today can afford to think
about the aesthetic as well as monetary value of their buildings.
A simple ridge roofline rather than a hip, a large house which is
composed of house and ells in a Big-little-back-barn design like
an old farmhouse can provide just as much space, comfort and pride
as a large box with multiple gables and hip roofs. (The roof
may be better for shedding snow as well.) Just as old farmhouses
like 36 Broad show this, there are examples of recently built houses
in town that illustrate this possibility. It is not important
or even appropriate to build a copy of a “Colonial” or “Greek Revival”
to have a beautiful house which fits with its neighbors in Hollis;
thinking of integrity, balance of mass, the Golden Section, clean
lines, native materials and fit with topography and landscape is
a good way to begin.
at the Hollis Library:
bibliography of books on architecture pertinent to Hollis architecture
to accompany the newspaper series Hollis Houses and Streetscapes
Fall 1997. For other books use the key word “architecture”
on the computerized card file.
Reference Do Not Circulate
DAR Book of
Hollis Homes, and Photo Albums prior to 1958 keyed
to map of locations. This same collection is at the Historical
Society and those with permission are online at Windows on Hollis
on Historic Commissions. National Historic Trust, Inherit NH
Includes reprints of pamphlets and other information useful as
background on how the Historic District Commission derived guidelines
and regulations. Of special interest: Jaffrey Historic District
Commission Design Guidelines. The National Trust for Historic
Preservation, Historic Home ownership Assistance Act H.R. 1134/S.
496, March 1997. A reproduced pamphlet on registration on the
Historic Trust and the financial benefits of doing so. Melissa Bouvet
's design for Hollis.
Field Guides with Pictures and Photos
& Lee, A Field Guide to American Houses.
A very detailed look at house shapes, styles,
periods, and decoration arranged for ease of identification like
any good field guide. Looks at regional architecture throughout
Non-Fiction New England Arch. Background
The following are
not about Hollis but apply as they describe similar towns and settings.
Davidson, Marshall B.
The American Heritage History of Notable American Houses.
Life in An Old New England Country Village 1969,
The story of New England farm and village
life in reconstructed Old Sturbridge Village; buildings moved from
other locations recreate lost history.
Kent, Louise Andrews,
Village Greens of New England, 1948. Many photos.
Marlowe, George Francis,
Churches of Old New England. 1947
Their Architecture and Their Architects, Their
Pastors and Their People.
Kidder, Tracy, House.
An award winning book describes the building
of a copy of an old style New England House in Amherst, MA; the
financial relationships of the architect, owners, and builder. Interesting
on architecture and as a character study.
Building, Remodeling, & Travel Guide Books
Locke, Jim, The Well
Built House. The builder of the house in Tracy Kidder's book
House outlines in clear lay language important items to include
in plans and any specifications for a house to serve well, last
long and be faithful to its heritage. Useful in building and remodeling.
Grow, Lawrence, The
Fourth Old House Catalogue, Styles, and where to get authentic
reproductions, salvage, and advice on remodeling old buildings.
Maynard, Mary, A
Yankee Books Travel Guide. Open Houses in New England.
Photos, description easy daytrips.
Powell, Anne Elizabeth,
The New England Colonial Features the Endicott Peabodys'
interiors and solar remodel of "The Parsonage" 33 Main
Tolles, Bryant F, NH
Architecture, An Illustrated Guide. Note that this book has
some inaccuracies about Hollis.
Susanka, Sarah, The
Not So Big House, A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live. Much
talked about; theory: quality, comfort, and individual planning
for space needs are as important as number of rooms and can make
a better house. Many photographs. Easy reading.
Clients come to this architect after difficulty being comfortable
in rooms which impress as they are built as public spaces not on
a family scale. Also Creating the Not So Big House: Insights
and Ideas for the New American Home 2002.
Town HDC Architectural
Reference Library available at the Town Hall for use there
Baker, John Milnes, American House Styles. Easy reading,
clear and concise, a good quick reference tool.
Rifkind, Carole, A Field Guide to American Architecture
Photographs and clear explanations of styles and periods
and decoration in U.S. Easy to read and understand; a good quick
Harris, Cyril M. Ed., Architecture & Construction Dictionary
Bouvet, Melissa, A Community Youth and Senior Center, Hollis
NH, May 1997 Study of Monument Square area traffic and buildings;
commentary and scale drawings from thesis study presented to the
Town. Scale 3D model in the Town Hall.