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Wakefield commission delivers archeological report on mill sites

Heritage Commission gets selectmen's approval to pursue easement on tavern site

THE SITE of the Two Old Maids Tavern on Old Stage Road in Wakefield is visited by Wakefield Heritage Commissioners Pam Judge and Phil Twombley. Twombley’s brother Paul wants to give a preservation easement to the half acre site where the tavern stood from 1789 to 1921 to the Heritage Commission. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)
October 06, 2011
WAKEFIELD — Pam Judge, Chairman of the Wakefield Heritage Commission, and Commission Member Phil Twombley presented Wakefield selectmen with the final archeological report on 18 industrial and mill sites in town at the board's Sept. 28 meeting.

The 295-page report was prepared by archeologists Sheila Charles M.A., Victoria Bunker, Ph.D. and Dennis Howe of Victoria Bunker, Inc., Consultants in New England Archeology and Cultural Resource Management. It features historical and current photos and maps of the 18 sites plus new maps and dam cross-sections for selected sites. The four older maps from the 19th century included in the study (from 1805 and 1861 and two from 1892) give the places and the names of businesses.

The study divides the town into five districts for the purpose of surveying the water-powered mill sites and dams. The districts are: Woodman and Dorrs Pond area (three sites); Pine River area (two sites); Great East Lake and Horne Pond area (three sites); Lovell Lake, Sanbornville, and Branch River area (four sites); and the Union Village Area (six sites). The abundance of water power is Wakefield was a major source of its early economic development.

Selectmen were presented with a printed copy of the report. The report will also be made available shortly for sale by the Heritage Commission on a compact disc. The CD version features photographs and maps that are in color.

Judge says she wants to have a public meeting this winter where the archeologists will give a visual presentation on what they found during the study.

She said there were still unsolved mysteries at the 18 sites. There was no digging done during the study and the current view of historic sites is to leave them undisturbed. To protect the sites from being disturbed, a good approach is to secure preservation easements on them.

Easements in general are voluntary legal agreements that conveys a partial interest or right in a property to a second party. A common example is a right-of-way easement that allows access to another property or to utility poles.

An historic preservation easement gives a second party the right to protect and preserve a designated area of a property while the property owner retains ownership of it. The easement is filed in the county registry of deeds and stays with the property, thereby binding future owners.

Old Maids Tavern

Judge and Twombley also came to the Board of Selectmen to get their support for obtaining an historic preservation easement on a half acre of land on Old Stage Road where the Old Maids Tavern once stood from 1789 to 1921. While a photo of the building has not yet been located it has been described as a two-story yellow house that faced west on Old Stage Road, which used to be the main road from Milton through Union to Sanbornville. Two Gilman sisters bought the place in 1803 and it was reportedly very popular with travelers and locals alike. It is not clear whether the building was burned or torn down in 1921, and a Grange sign that used to identify the spot for years has disappeared.

The property and farmland surrounding it came into the ownership of the Twombley family in 1889. Phil Twombley was born and grew up just down the road from the tavern location, and his brother Paul now owns the parcel that includes the Old Mains site. The field is currently being hayed.

"We need a survey or at least we need to stake it off," Judge said. Twombley added that his brother is willing to give an historic preservation easement on the half-acre of land that contains the tavern site at no cost, but is anxious to do so soon since he also wants to sell the surrounding land. "My brother is thrilled with the idea it will be preserved," Twombley said.

Judge said that although the easement will be without cost, there will be legal and recording fees. Speaking as a realtor she said having the easement in place will increase the value of surrounding properties. The Heritage Commission would fence the site and put up a sign.

Selectman Peter Kasprzyk asked if the easement gives the public access to the site. Judge answered that it depends on what the owner agrees to. She sais she imagines a right-of-way onto the site to encourage visits. The Commission intends to work with the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance on the easement language to make it clear what can and cannot be done.

Judge said she has been in touch with a relative who is willing to do a presentation on the tavern at Heritage Day next year.

Town Administrator Teresa Williams pointed out the town would need to hold a public hearing to accept the preservation easement.

Selectmen voted unanimously to approve the Heritage Commission proceeding to secure the easement.

More information about the Wakefield Heritage Commission and the 12 historic buildings it has been involved with preserving can be found at www.wakefieldheritagecommission.com.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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