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Isaac Adams Project seeks to preserve views, foster stewardship, establish campus for agricultural studies

A NEWLY LAUNCHED PROJECT that includes plans for the Adams Wentworth Campus -- a place to learn about agriculture and forestry -- sets out to preserve the beauty of Sandwich and these views of the Sandwich Range from Wentworth Hill. Larissa Mulkern. (click for larger version)
May 20, 2009
SANDWICH — A flock of trained doves could not have had better timing.

Just as local and state officials, family and friends of the late real estate broker and philanthropist Denley Willis Emerson gathered in his honor on Friday to unveil plans that would protect the beauty and character of his beloved town, a young bald eagle soared across the panorama of the Sandwich Range and Mount Chocorua.

Emerson, who fell in love with Sandwich and the views from Wentworth Hill as a young teenager, eventually purchased hundreds of acres of land and many buildings here, and lived in the stately Colonel Wentworth mansion atop Wentworth Hill until he passed away in 2008 at the age of 89.

On Friday, May 15, local and state officials, close colleagues and family members unveiled the Isaac Adams Project LLC, a "unique hybrid, symbiotic alliance" between the Adams Wentworth Campus and the Emerson Brook Forest in Sanbornton, according to the project founder.

The project, according to Sandwich historian Douglas Brackett, the project's founder and president, is a tribute to Emerson and represents a unique opportunity. The Isaac Adams Project, named for one of the town's major landowners who invented the steam powered printing press, includes plans for the Adams Wentworth Campus on Wentworth Hill, and Emerson Brook Forest and Village at a separate location in Sanbornton where Emerson also owned hundreds of acres in the equally picturesque landscape with views of the Belknap Range, Lake Winnnisquam and Lake Winnipesaukee.

Prior to Brackett's overview and detailed history of the colorful and influential landowners of the regions, Jill Emerson Rawson, the middle of three daughters, and Sandwich Town Moderator Lee Quimby spoke for a few minutes about Emerson the man, and his vision.

"Not only did Denley and I share the same birthday, we shared a love of Sandwich that we talked about a lot. We both came from Massachusetts to Sandwich as teenagers but in late years we expressed fondness for town in different ways. I did it as serving as selectmen and moderator; Denley did it in unique way at that time – by his conservation efforts to keep the town the way it was when he first discovered it at age 14," said Quimby.

Quoting from a history book of Sandwich, Quimby said when Denley walked up from a camp at Bear Camp Pond as a teenager, Denley was astonished at the view. "And little did he know that some day he would own this hilltop and thousands of acres, and he was always reluctant to sell his land to development. He once said he did not want to look at this hilltop and see a row of condominiums," said Quimby.

And with the unveiling of the grand plan that is the Isaac Adams Project, Jill Emerson Rawson said her father's dream was being achieved.

"Throughout the years he has told me and my two sisters what his wish was for this hill and for this town; he truly did love this town. As Lee said, at 14 he walked up hill for first time, saw this particular home and jumped the fence and walked back through the yard and met up with the owner, a farmer, and instantly fell in love with this place and it never went away. He loved the town," said Rawson.

"I promised him I'd do everything in my power to follow through with his wishes and never change his goal for this town," said Rawson, crediting Brackett with the vision, precision, intelligence and organizational powers to make that happen through the Isaac Adams Project.

"He is truly the star of the show," said Rawson, " the man of the year."

In a PowerPoint presentation, Brackett hit the highlights of the two parts of the project, the not-for profit Adams Wentworth Campus, and the partially for-profit Emerson Brook Forest and Village.

The Center Sandwich project includes an educational campus to promote green stewardship for pre-college students, a meeting and retreat location to inspire business and political leaders, and professional offices and a media center all houses in restored historical buildings surrounded by pristine conserved lands where "green and technology" meet and meld, according the outline.

The Emerson Brook Forest and Village would fund the Adams Wentworth Campus. Brackett said the concept is to design a self contained village that includes 24 upscale row houses like those seen in Washington, D.C. or Boston, a general store, shops, open market and 12 New Hampshire gentleman's farms, a dozen Georgian and Federal style homesteads and six hilltop mansions.

The project would employ dozens of local craftsmen in the construction phase, and permanently employ 50 people once it was finished.

"The goal is to preserve Mr. Emerson's property and complete the planned village phase of the project within five years in order to fund and perpetuate the vision forever. The commitment is to provide an opportunity for combined economic gain and a commitment to green stewardship at the same time," according to Brackett.

"This hill has repeatedly inspired people for 250 years…. What we have here is something that inspires… we have mountains that are larger, monuments that are more awesome but when you look out here at this view there is something about it that makes you feel comfortable. It's as if you are home, and I think that's part of the inspiration of this hill, that it isn't so awesome that it scares you – it gives you the feeling you can do something, and that's what we're going to do here," said Brackett.

The project will allow for the property to become an education center for pre-college students to learn agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and forestry. Courses will be offered in eight-week semesters.

"This is one of the things Denley really and truly wanted to have happen," Brackett said.

Following the presentation, state officials including Executive Councilor Ray Burton of Woodsville expressed support for the project.

Van McLeod, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Culture Resources, encouraged the group to focus on their vision. "The concept and vision here is huge," he said, noting its beauty as a location site for filming. Referring to the eagle's earlier flight across the landscape, he urged the project

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