Abandoned mansion in New Hampshire

Drewsville Mansion, Walpole New Hampshire
Date added: March 16, 2023 Categories:
Looking southeast (1996)

The Drewsville Mansion was constructed in 1880 on the site of the former Hope Lathrop house by Lathrop's daughter, Sarah Lathrop Lovell and her husband Bolivar Lovell. In addition to the main house and service wing with a projection originally constructed to house Lovell's law library, the property includes a horse barn which appears to have been built at the same time as the house. The property is prominently located at the head of the Drewsville Village common.

A rather unique Vernacular expression of the Stick and Eastlake Styles, the Drewsville Mansion exhibits a simple boxlike form embellished by stylistic detailing typical of the style including jigsawn cutout ornament, incised foliate decoration, decorative stickwork and trusses. Although there are several other Queen Anne style residences in Walpole village including the present Hitchcock Clinic on Main Street and the Hastiness Memorial Parish House on Union Street which displays a combination of Shingle and Queen Anne style influences, the Mansion appears to be the singular remaining example of Stick Style architecture in Walpole, a town where the Federal and Greek and Gothic Revival styles predominate. A structure which is interesting for its comparison to the Drewsville Mansion is the old Wentworth Hotel in Walpole Village (no longer extant). The hotel, illustrated in the town history, appears to have been a rather late example of the mansard style, clothed in Stick Style trusses and bracketwork, was constructed in 1880 on the site of a hotel which burned that year. According to a newspaper account, the architect of the structure was William P. Wentworth of Boston (Keene Sentinel, 12/9/1880). Just a few months earlier, a Bellows Falls newspaper credits the design of the new Catholic Church in Charlestown (St. Catherine's) to Pitt Wentworth (Bellows Falls Times, 9/2/1880). Like both the Drewsville Mansion and the Wentworth Hotel, St. Catherine's was built in a vernacular expression of the Stick Style. The fact that all three structures were constructed in 1880, in an architectural style which appeared to be otherwise seldom used in this region would suggest that William Pitt Wentworth may have also served as the architect for the Drewsville Mansion. Like the Wentworth Hotel, the Drewsville Mansion has at its core a simple, rather outdated form, in this case a hipped roof box, draped in Stick Style trappings.

Little is known of Wentworth's career. According to Withey's Biographical Dictionary of Architects, William Pitt Wentworth (1839-1896) was a native of Vermont who went on to study architecture in New York City. He practiced in Boston for more than thirty years. He designed a number of churches including the Flower Memorial Church in Watertown, as well as several hospitals including one in Lynn, Massachusetts, the Washingtonian Home in Boston and the State hospital for the Insane at Medfield, (1896). Based on his Vermont connection, it is not inconceivable that Wentworth designed several structures in the area in 1880.

The Drewsville Mansion was constructed in 1880 for Bolivar and Sarah Lathrop Lovell on the site of Mrs. Lovell's father's house. Her father, Hope Lathrop came to Drewsville in 1819 and was appointed deputy sheriff soon thereafter. Lathrop also operated a local hotel, was a postmaster and a merchant. According to the County History, Lathrop "was not a progressive man, his paramount thoughts and energies centered on the accumulation of money...His wealth and shrewdness gave him some local influence, but beyond his own town he was but little known". At the time of his death Lathrop was a wealthy citizen of the village of Drewsville, serving as president of the Connecticut River National Bank in Charlestown. He died December 31st, 1878 when the team he was driving collided with a freight train as he crossed the Vermont Central Railroad track. According to the Keene newspaper, Hope Lathrop left two daughters to inherit his large estate; the wife of Hon. Bolivar Lovell of Alstead and Mrs. Norman H. Farr of Bellows Falls, Vermont.

Bolivar Lovell, son of lawyer Aldis Lovell, was born in Drewsville on August 30th, 1826 and married Sarah Lathrop (1829-1904) in 1848. After working as a clerk in Providence, Rhode Island for three years, he returned to New Hampshire and began studying law in his father's office at Alstead about 1845. In 1847 he was appointed deputy sheriff and in 1855 he was appointed Sheriff for Cheshire County, an office which he held for ten years. In 1862 he was appointed United States assessor of internal revenue for the Third New Hampshire District and held the office for eight years. In 1869, Lovell was admitted to the bar, practicing initially in Alstead and later in Drewsville. In 1873-4 he was elected a member of the Governor's Council. The County History indicates that Lovell "is considered a safe reliable business man, and an honest lawyer."

After his father-in-law's death in 1879, Bolivar Lovell moved his family to Drewsville in 1880 where he continued to reside until his death in 1892. According to the Keene Sentinel of September 9th, 1880, Lovell "has moved across the line from Alstead, has a local habitation and is building a palatial residence in the quiet secluded village of Drewsville".

Little is known of Sarah Lathrop Lovell. She apparently made a grand tour of Europe in the summer of 1886 (Frink:253). Sarah and Bolivar had three children. Upon her death, Sarah Lovell left Drewsville Mansion to her daughter, Martha Ellen Lovell Smith Shrimpton who sold the property to George Brown of Everett, Massachusetts in 1910.

The property passed through a rapid succession of owners in the following years. In 1911 it was purchased by Annie E. Higgins, wife of Frederick Higgins of Newton, Massachusetts; in 1912 to Galon Howard of Alstead. In 1919 Howard's heirs, Mabel Sawyer, Ruth Bergeron and Ethel Buswell sold to Ralph and Belle Halladay. The Halladays continued to own the eastern section of the building, formerly a single story serving as Lovell's law library, into two apartments with the addition of a second floor. In the 1960s this section of the building was reconfigured once again to provide a total of four apartments. The Pinard family owned the property until 1989 (Interview Robert Pinard). It continued to serve a multi-family use. The structure has been vacant since 1993.

Building Description

The Drewsville Mansion was built in 1880 at the south end of the Drewsville Village common, on the Old Cheshire Turnpike in Walpole, New Hampshire. Exhibiting elements of the vernacular Stick and Eastlake styles, the main block is 2 stories, 4 x 3 bays in configuration, oriented with its end to the turnpike and its facade facing the common. The wood frame structure is supported by a granite block foundation exhibiting rough faces and smooth margins. Some filling in of brick is notable on the facade foundation. The exterior walls are sheathed with clapboards and molding with paired brackets. A brick corbel cap chimney is located on the west slope of the slate-shingled hip roof. Iron cresting decorates the summit of the roof. Although the fenestration on the facade is actually asymmetrical, it still achieves a sense of balance. Throughout the building double-hung 1/1 sash with plain board surrounds is the predominant fenestration form. Exceptions include a single story three sided bay window located to the east of the center entry and the two part 1/1 window centered above the bay window. On the west end, two three-sided bay windows, each two stories in height, flank a blind opening on each level.

The focal point of the main house is the central of the facade's four bays. The double doored centered entry along with the window opening to the west is sheltered by a single story entrance porch center supported by chamfered wooden posts. The porch frieze is decorated by jigsawn cutout ornament including circles and quatrefoils, incised foliate decoration is centered in the arched panel above. Resting on the porch roof is a projecting second, three-sided bay window outlined with decorative stickwork and curving brackets marking the cut-away corners. Directly above, a gabled projection rises from the roof containing a three part window decorated with stickwork and capped by a gable filled with cutout geometric patterns. According to the son of a previous owner the front originally spanned the entire facade of the main block.

The rear (south) elevation of the main house displays five bays on the first floor with four above. With the exception of two second floor two-part windows, the windows display the same 2/2 form exhibited elsewhere on the house. The central bay is sheltered by a single story, single bay entrance porch, trimmed similarly to the main porch.

A two story, hip-roofed wing extends from the east end of the main house while a two story gable roofed ell of lesser height projects from the east end of the wing facade. The north side of the wing is punctuated by irregular fenestration of varying widths including gable wall dormer framed by brackets and capped by a decorative truss in the gable. A fire in 1991 has resulted in the boarding up of nearly all of the openings on this elevation. Varying window sizes coupled with variations in the amount of exposure the clapboards display, suggests that this elevation was reconfigured. The northeast projection displays decorative trusses at the apex and gable ends supported by brackets. Projecting from the facade is a decorative truss supported by plain posts. Cuts visible in the clapboards on this elevation suggest that the openings were originally somewhat higher than the two shorter levels now visible. Robert Pinard, son of the Mansion's former owner, Arthur Pinard stated that after his father purchased the property the single story projection was converted into two levels. Mr. Pinard also indicated that the wing facing the common was formerly fronted by a single story porch. This was removed about 1965.

On the south side the length of the wing is fronted by a single story porch supported by plain chambered posts resting on a brick foundation of recent construction. The simple porch frieze consists of spaced vertical boards. Fenestration is irregular and contains simple 1/1 windows, multi-light window and several four panel doors. Trim on this section is limited to a bracket at the end of each elevation. The east end of the building displays irregular fenestration.

The interior of the main house retains many decorative detailings befitting a house constructed for a member of the rural gentry. Typical of the era is the stair hall embellished by an impressive two story staircase displaying fancy turned mahogany balusters, bold square newel posts and an individual colonette at the base of the stairs decorated by medallions, paneled veneers and incised lines. A parallel beam with chamfered corners and decorative braces decorates the foyer ceiling at the beginning of the staircase. The main entrance features a set of eight foot tall oak interior doors with etched glass panels while four panel doors of a similar height, in both single and double formation, open into the four first floor rooms. Decorative plaster cornice moldings encircle the foyer as well as the other first floor rooms. Other plaster work includes an elaborate food, motif in the dining room and floral patterns in the west side of rooms. There are six fireplaces in the house; the most elaborate is found in the front drawing room and consists of a white marble mantel with an arched opening supported by Doric colonettes. With the exception of a single "Colonial" replacement in the second floor, northwest room, all of the remaining fireplaces are variations on the marble mantel with arched openings decorated by cartouches, inlays, incised ornament and medallions. Some of the fireplaces appear to have been coal burning while others appear to have been used only for venting purposes. The window and door surrounds consist of simple wide moldings with side baseboards. Most of the woodwork is varnished. The flooring throughout the Mansion consists of hardwood boards.

Several original gas fixtures are in evidence, including a single gas lantern fixture in the front hall and two light gas fixtures suspended upstairs in the hall of one of the western rooms. There are several built in cabinets in the dining room.

The interior spaces of the service wing are expectedly lacking in decorative detailing. This section of the house consists of several small rooms and a staircase. Damage from the 1993 fire was fortunately limited to this area but left charred wood surfaces and smoke damage.

The interior of the eastern end of the house is without significant detailing and appears to date to the 1920s. Formerly serving as a law library for the original owner, this section was initially divided into two apartments in the late 1940s or early 1950s and reconfigured into four apartments in the 1960s. Woodwork throughout this section consists of plain maple moldings surrounding the 1/1 windows with a single seven panel door notable in on of the unites. One of the bathrooms displays paneled metal on the walls, linoleum floors and twentieth century fixtures. In one of the apartments the floor is concrete and the kitchen has been entirely removed. Carpeting and linoleum are the predominant floor coverings. One of the units retains a c. 1950 kitchen.

Located to the southeast of the wing is two story horse barn, rectangular in plan and consisting of two sections. The building is capped by a hip roof sheathed in slate shingles with a two stage ventilator consisting of a square base and flared pyramidal cap. The exterior walls are sheathed with clapboards and trimmed with plain cornerboards and fascia with corner brackets and horizontal stickwork spanning along the tops and bottoms of the first floor window openings. First floor windows contain 6/6 doublehung sash with plain surrounds while the second floor openings contain 3 x 2 fixed sash windows. The center entry on the west elevation has a set of sliding 'double-X' doors. An upper loft opening is sheltered by a gable dormer with decorative trusswork supported by brackets. On the rear elevation, the sloping site exposes a mortared stone foundation and lower level sliding door opening.

Situated at the head of the common, the house is set in the larger context of a small rural village grouping which radiates out from the common along the Old Cheshire Turnpike and Route 123. The Drewsville Mansion is the only structure of the group which appears to date to the late 19th century. All of the other structures in the village center date to the first three decades of the 19th century.

Drewsville Mansion, Walpole New Hampshire Looking southeast (1996)
Looking southeast (1996)

Drewsville Mansion, Walpole New Hampshire Looking northeast (1996)
Looking northeast (1996)

Drewsville Mansion, Walpole New Hampshire Looking northwest (1996)
Looking northwest (1996)

Drewsville Mansion, Walpole New Hampshire Looking southwest (1996)
Looking southwest (1996)

Drewsville Mansion, Walpole New Hampshire Carriage house looking northeast (1996)
Carriage house looking northeast (1996)

Drewsville Mansion, Walpole New Hampshire Carriage house looking southwest (1996)
Carriage house looking southwest (1996)

Drewsville Mansion, Walpole New Hampshire Carriage house looking southeast (1996)
Carriage house looking southeast (1996)