Architecture in Hollis

Hollis Houses and Streetscapes
by Evangeline S. Eresian
Edited from the Series Originally Published in The Hollis Times in 1997 

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 House

Styles Rather than Shapes; Over Time Exterior "Clothing" Changes

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 of Town

Pre Revolutionary Colonial Period

Georgian Architecture

Facade & Trim

Doors & Windows

Roof and Paint Color

Interior Room Space and Chimney

Other Examples of Georgian

Regional Differences

Streetscapes Are Different When Leafless

Federal Architecture

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 1837‑1900

Manufacturing Enabled New Techniques and Materials

Picturesque Victorian is Organic; As Are Its Body Shapes

Population Growth and Demand for Housing

Gothic Revival

Italianate American Bracket

Folk Victorian

Queen Anne

A Bit about Streetscapes ‑ The Golden Section.

Two Public Buildings of the Picturesque ‑ Victorian Period 1837‑1900

The Farley Building

The Town Hall

20th Century

Bibliography at the Hollis Library

 

A 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.

Styles Rather 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.

Basic 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.

1.      Colonial: The US began as a “colony”; early architecture (after Native American Indian) was called colonial 1720‑1780/90 (For example see 16 Pepperell, 2 Cleasby Lane, and 57 Federal Hill)

2.      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 Hill)

3.      Federal: The colonies became a Federal government 1780-1820 (For example, see 29 Main St. and 35 Ash St)

4.      Greek Revival: The country feeling established and important tries looking important like a Greek Temple 1820-1860. (For example, see 'Always Ready', 36 Broad St., and 9 Pepperell)

5.      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 Hall)

6.      Gothic Revival

7.      Italianate American Bracket

8.      Carpenter Gothic

9.      Stick Style

10.  Richardsonian

11.  Folk Victorian (For example, see 16 Broad St. and 17 Main St.)

12.  Queen Anne

13.  Prairie - Frank Lloyd Wright influence

14.  American Foursquare

15.  Craftsman/Bungalow

16.  Cottage

17.  Sears Roebuck - precut

18.  Period Revivals

19.  The car and the beginning of suburban architecture:

20.  Ranches, Splits 1940’s and post WWII suburbia

21.  Contemporary, Shed  1950’s

22.  Neo eclectic

23.  American Revival 1950-1980

24.  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

25.  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 roofs.

To 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 paper.

The 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.

Pre 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 a district.

     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.

 

Georgian Architecture

     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.

Facade & Trim

     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 Color

     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.

Interior Room 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.

Other Examples of Georgian

     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.

Regional Differences

     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.

Streetscapes 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.

 

Federal Architecture

     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.

Limitations of 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.

Gutters

     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 of Federal

     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.

 

Greek Revival ca. 1830‑1860. Example: The Always Ready Engine House.

Greek Revival 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.

Color ‑ 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.

Other Examples 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.

     36 Broad, 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 door. 

     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.

Manufacturing 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.

Picturesque Victorian 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.

 

Gothic Revival

     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 shaped Victorian.

     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.

 

Italianate American Bracket

     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 slate.)

 

Folk Victorian

     Folk Victorian Houses with their symmetrical facades are seen along Main Street including #17 and its neighbors. They are also at #1 and 16 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.

 

Queen Anne

     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 and unseen.

     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.

 

A 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.

 

Two 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 seriously changed.

     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 Engine House.

The Town Hall

     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 cupola.

      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.

 

20th Century

      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.

 

Bibliography at the Hollis Library:

     An annotated 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 Past.

     Notebook 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

      McAlester, Virginia & 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 U.S.

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.

     Fennelly, Catherine, 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.

Non-Fiction, Narrative

     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 Street.

     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 reference tool.

     Harris, Cyril M. Ed., Architecture & Construction Dictionary 2nd Ed.

     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.

 

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