the History

The Ross Coon Tavern was built around 1795 when Haverhill Corner was the Grafton County seat. The need for accommodations when the circuit court was in session led to the establishment of many inns and taverns. Built by Ross Coon, a physician as well as a tavern-keeper, this two-story hip-roofed Federal structure was originally sited on Dartmouth College Highway and moved to its present location on the village green around 1821. The shire town of Haverhill Corner hosted circuit court sessions during the late 18th century and well into the 19th century. The historic courthouse still stands on the village green, as do many of the taverns which were needed to accommodate visitors having business before the courts.

The evolution of northern New England is reflected in the buildings of this village. The fertile ox-bows of the upper Connecticut River became known in the early 1760s as the French and Indian Wars ended. Because alluvial lands are relatively rare in New England, those who saw or learned of the flood plains of the area were eager to settle in this frontier district, bypassing much intervening land of lesser agricultural promise. Settlers obtained a grant of the township of Haverhill from New Hampshire's royal governor in 1763, and soon constructed the first permanent dwellings.

The success attained by the community through its natural advantages and promotion in early years, resulted in an architectural evolution that can hardly be equaled by any other community of northern New Hampshire. Haverhill was designated the western shire town of Grafton County. Because of its widely-known agricultural productivity, Haverhill also became the terminus of the first Province Road, completed between coastal New Hampshire and the Coos intervales around 1773-74.

By the early nineteenth century, Haverhill Corner was the juncture of the Coos Turnpike (1808) and the north-south thoroughfare; a county seat with a court house, county records building, and jail; the location of a distinguished private academy; the home of a prosperous bank; the site of a private "social" library; a printing center with its own newspaper and book publishing business; the center of mercantile activity, crafts, and trades, including cabinetmaking; and a village of many fine private homes of frame and brick construction, some of them doubling as offices for lawyers and judges. Supplementing these private dwellings were a number of taverns, required by the importance of the village in transportation, county government, and law. Surrounding the town center on the north, east and south were prosperous upland farms and, still more important, rich bottomland below the village terrace on the west. Haverhill Corner was richly endowed with natural advantages which had been improved by the enterprise of its settlers since the 1760s. The prosperity of the village was, and still is, reflected in a variety of quality architecture.

Several of the public buildings of Haverhill Corner are especially significant. The Congregational Church of 1827 is a fine example of a brick meeting house in the Federal style. Its overall design is characteristic of rural meeting houses of its era, its detailing is refined and imaginative, and its state of preservation is excellent. Next door is Pearson Hall, the brick academy building of 1813-16. As a private institution that provided secondary education before New Hampshire established public high schools in the mid-nineteenth century, Haverhill Academy built one of the most ambitious structures in the state. Because of its sub¬stantial size and architectural dignity, the academy building doubled as the county courthouse until a specialized court building was completed in 1846. Today, the academy building survives as one of the earliest and most ambitious structures of its kind to survive in New Hampshire.

Of similar architectural importance are the county buildings constructed during the 1840s east of the academy—the county office building (now Library) and court building (now Alumni Hall). Of equal significance are the many private structures included in the district, especially the houses and taverns. The largest and most ambitious residences in the district were built as taverns in the late 1700s or early 1800s. The architectural importance of these buildings reflects the itinerant traffic brought to the village by its agriculture and its status as a county seat and banking center at the end of an important colonial road.

The destruction by fire of a large commercial block on the west side of Main Street in 1848, coupled with the decision of a railroad to direct its route north to the village of Woodsville, weakened the predominance of the Corner village within the region. Removal of the courts to Woodsville in 1891 sealed the architectural and commercial fate of the village. Because Haverhill Corner was relatively unaffected by change in the late nineteenth century and later, the village remains a remarkably well-preserved example of a prosperous northern New England colonial town center.

Writing of Haverhill Corner in the magazine ANTIQUES, historian William Nathaniel Banks observed “Today residents and visitors alike cherish this placid village, an enchanted relic of a glamorous past.”

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