New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources

Individual Inventory Form

Bristol Town Hall

Created on March 5, 2014 at 3:42 pm by Sandra Heaney
Last updated on March 29, 2014 at 9:18 am by Sandra Heaney.

NHDHR Inventory #
Name, Location, Ownership
1. Historic name
Bristol Town Hall
2. District or area
3. Street and number
45 Summer Street
4. City or town
5. County
6. Current owner
Town of Bristol
Function or Use
7. Current use(s)
Government: Town Hall
8. Historic use(s)
Government: Town Hall
Architectural Information
9. Style
Greek Revival
10. Architect/builder
11. Source
12. Construction date
13. Source
Musgrove (1904: 92). Estimated date of alterations based on visual inspection.
14. Alterations, with dates
c. 1990 Simple wooden
handicapped entrance ramp in front
15. Moved?
Exterior Features
16. Foundation
17. Cladding
18. Roof material
Metal, standing seam
19. Chimney material
20. Type of roof
Front gable
21. Chimney location
22. Number of stories
23. Entry location
Fa�§ade, center, recessed
24. Windows
c. 1900
Site Features
25. Setting
Small town
26. Outbuildings
27. Landscape features
28. Acreage
29. Tax map/parcel #
30. UTM reference
19 279185 E, 4830234 N
31. USGS quadrangle and scale
Bristol, NH, 7.5 min
Form prepared by
32. Name
Bruce G. Harvey
33. Organization
Consultant for Bristol Historic District Commission
34. Date of survey
April 26, 2013
Main Photo and Maps
Main photo

35. Photo #1
Looking NW
36. Date
37. Reference #:
11-Summer St 45 looking NW.jpg
39. Location Map:

40: Property Map:

41. Historical Background and Role in the Town or City’s Development:
The region that now includes the Town of Bristol was a part of proprietorship created within an original 17th century grant of land from the English crown to John Mason. Mason’s descendant, another John Mason, conveyed the portion of the grant within what is now New Hampshire to a syndicate of proprietors in 1746. A new syndicate purchased the grant in 1753 and called the territory New Chester. This new syndicate began the process of surveying the land, and laying out and selling lots, in the early 1760s. An early focus of the syndicate was to lay out roads that would provide new settlers with access to the land (Musgrove 1904, Vol. I: 28-37).

European settlement in Bristol began in the 1760s, when Major John Tolford built the first two mills, a saw mill and a grist mill, at the falls of the Newfound River, with a mill dam across the north channel of the Newfound River near the upper bridge on Water Street. Due to the water power on the Newfound River, what is now Bristol very quickly emerged in the late 18th century as an industrial center for the region, and as a stopping-off point for settlers moving further north into New Hampshire. Originally called Bridgewater, by the early 19th century the village boasted the two original mills along with three blacksmith shops, a harness shop, two tanneries, a shoe shop, and a fulling mill.

The original focus of settlement was the Central Square area, as both businesses and residences congregated around the mills that lined the falls of the Newfound River. The Town of Bristol was created in 1819 from parts of the Towns of Bridgewater and New Chester, and was named after the English city at the suggestion of Capt. James Minot. Based on a description provided in Musgrove (1904, Vol. I: 114), it appears that at least portions of what is now Summer Street was a part of one of the original roads through New Chester laid out the late 1760s, that extended from the Town of Franklin in the south, along the Pemigewasset River, and toward New Hampton before turning north toward Plymouth. The present Summer Street was the original road from what was then Bridgewater to Plymouth. Running along the Pemigewasset River, it was variously known in the 19th century as the River Road and as the Plymouth Road; it was identified consistently as Summer Street by the late 19th century.

After its creation in 1819, the first town meeting for Bristol was held in the school house on the west side of North Main Street; subsequent town meetings were held in the Methodist chapel, also on North Main Street. Discussions regarding the construction of a separate Town Hall began in 1841, with several options being considered including purchasing the Methodist chapel and to build a Town Hall in connection with an academy in town. As late as 1848, the committee appointed by the Town recommended not building a new Town Hall, but in early 1849 the committee drafted plans for a new Town Hall, and built the current building on Summer Street on a lot purchased from a Mr. Bradley (Musgrove 1904, Vol. I: 91-92).

Musgrove (1904, Vol. 1: 92) provides a detailed description of the interior of the building as it was originally constructed, including, incidentally, the ways that building was used in the 19th century:

The building as originally constructed was 45 x 54 feet. The entrance was from a porch 14 x 13 feet. On the west of the porch was the selectmen’s room 14½ x 13 feet; on the east was another room of the same size used as a wood room and for the stairway to the attic. The hall had a floor space of the same width as the porch, extending north and south, and on both sides were fixed pine benches on the amphitheater style. At the north end was a platform about eight feet square, raised about eighteen inches above the floor. This platform was surrounded by matched boards three feet or more high, which kept the voters from crowding upon the town officials at town meetings. When the young people gave a theatrical entertainment, a stage was built above the seats on the east side, and the floor space was filled with settees.

In 1872, the building was enlarged when the rear (north) side was extended by 20 feet (Musgrove 1904, Vol. 1: 92). This extension allowed for a permanent stage to be built at the north end of the interior, 12 feet wide. The 1872 alterations also included interior renovations including constructing new rooms and rearranging the old spaces on either side of the porch.

In addition to serving as the site for Town Meetings, the Town Hall housed theatrical entertainments, town offices, the town jail, and meeting space for the local armory and fraternal societies.
42. Applicable NHDHR Historic Contexts:
Local Government, 1630-Present
43. Architectural Description and Comparative Evaluation:
The Bristol Town Hall is a one-story frame building with a tall, steeply pitched front gable roof. It has a rectangular footprint, with the narrow end facing the street, and rests on a granite foundation. The symmetrical three-bay façade is divided by wide pilasters with recessed panels, and features a central recessed entrance flanked on each side by a double window with two narrow 1/1 double hung windows beneath a simple wooden lintel. The corners are also
marked by pilasters with recessed panels; with the pilasters framing the recessed entrance, they support a narrow cornice beneath the pedimented front gable. The tall pedimented front gable forms an equilateral triangle, and contains two evenly-spaced vertical 2/2 double-hung windows.

The east side of the Town Hall features four evenly-spaced single double-hung 6/6 windows extending back from the front of the building, with a single door providing access to the interior near the rear of the building. On the west side of the Town Hall, a one-story shed roof section is located near the middle of the long side. This one-story section was in place by 1904, when a photo of the building was published.

The Greek Revival style was extraordinarily popular throughout America in the first half of the 19th century for private houses, churches, and community buildings. As several architectural historians have noted, it was the first national style in America, so ubiquitous are the examples. While the popularity of the style was beginning to wane by the late 1840s and early 1850s, the Bristol Town Hall remains an excellent example of the style, and contains many of the typical architectural features. These details include a pedimented gabled roof, heavy horizontal features including cornice lines, and pilasters with wide proportions. The Bristol Town Hall also represents an interesting sub-type, in which the central entrance is recessed behind the façade.

Musgrove (1904, Vol 1: 92) presents a photograph of the Town Hall, which is attached below.

The Bristol Town Hall is relatively uncommon example of a purpose-built municipal building that is residential in its design, scale, and materials. By the mid-late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the majority of the surviving examples were built, town halls constituted an identifiable architectural type that is larger in scale than most houses; the North Hampton Town Hall (1846), the Stoddard Town Hall (1868), the Hooksett Town Hall, and the Gorham Town Hall in Gorham (1919) are examples of larger, non-residential town hall buildings. By contrast, the state contains relatively few town halls that are residential in scale and design: one or one and one-half stories in height, with timber or frame construction. Other similar examples include the Nelson Town Hall (1846) and the Orford Town Hall (1859).
44. National or State Register Criteria Statement of Significance:
Research was conducted in maps and local history sources in order to evaluate the significance of Site BRI0044 in its historic context. Under Criterion A (History), the research clearly indicated an association with trends or events that are important in the history of the region, the state, or the nation. In particular, the former Bristol Town Hall was an important component in the development of Bristol as an independent Village following its creation in 1819-1820. Under Criterion B (Persons), the research did not indicate an association with persons who are significant in the history of the region, the state, or the nation. Under Criterion C (Design), the former Town Hall is a valuable surviving example of a mid 19th century community building, and an excellent, if relatively late, example of the Greek Revival style of architecture applied to a non-residential building. As such, it exhibits the distinctive characteristics of a type, namely, a 19th century town hall; moreover, it has retained its integrity as defined below. Under Criterion D, the house is not likely to yield information that is important to history or prehistory.

Site BRI0044 is recommended eligible for the State and National Register of Historic Places under Criteria A (History) and C (Architecture).

In addition, given the placement of the house at the western end of Summer Street close to Central Square, its having retained good to excellent integrity, and being residential in scale and design, Site BR0044 would contribute to a potential historic district. This proposed historic district, which has been described in an accompanying document, includes those buildings which front on Summer Street (Route 104) from the intersection with Central Square in the southwest to the intersection with Merrimack Street in the northeast. This section of Summer Street, once known as the River Road, was an early extension of the Village of Bristol, and provided access along a ridge that ran on the north side of the Pemigewasset River toward Plymouth, and was occasionally referred to as the Plymouth Road.
45. Period of Significance:
46. Statement of Integrity:
The Bristol Town Hall shows a very high level of integrity, having retained its integrity of location, setting, materials, feeling, design, workmanship, and association. According to Musgrove (1904, Vol I.: 92), the building was enlarged in 1872 when the north (rear) end was extended by 20 feet from the original footprint, along with a reconfiguration of the interior. This alteration is not visible, however, as both the cornice and the foundation on the sides of the building appear unbroken. It is likely that the windows were replaced c. 1900, a small shed roof section has been added to the rear of the west side prior to 1904, and a simple wooden handicapped entrance ramp has been added to the front of the building in recent years. Otherwise, however, the building appears to be little changed from its original design, and retains its clear Greek Revival architectural details.
47. Boundary Discussion:
The current tax parcel lot (114/047) appears to coincide with the historic boundaries of the Town House lot.
48. Bibliography and/or References:
D.H. Hurd Co., Town and City Atlas of the State of New Hampshire. Boston, 1892.

Musgrove, Richard W., History of the Town of Bristol, Grafton County, New Hampshire. Volume I: Annals; Volume II: Geneaologies. Bristol, NH, by the author, 1904.

Norris, George E., Bird’s-Eye View of Bristol, NH, Brocton, MA, 1884.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, Map of Bristol, NH, 1929, 1949.

Walling, H.F. Map of Grafton County, NH. 1860.
Surveyor’s Evaluation:
NR listed:
NR eligible:
NR Criteria:
Additional photos
Date photos taken:
Additional Photo 1
Photo #
Roll and Frame # OR Digital file name:
Additional photo #1 file
Additional Photo 2
Photo #
Roll and Frame # OR Digital file name:
Additional photo #2 file
Photo Log
Photo Log
11-Summer St 45 looking NW
Signature I, the undersigned, confirm that the photos in this inventory form have not been digitally manipulated and that they conform to the standards set forth in the NHDHR Photo Policy.
These photos were printed at the following commercial printer OR were printed using the following printer, ink, and paper:
The negatives or digital files are housed at/with: