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The Village of Jaffrey Center, New Hampshire

Just the other day, when the sky was a piercingly clear blue and much of the region was still digging out from a recent snowfall, I stopped in the historic section of town known as Jaffrey Center, taking in the natural beauty of its surroundings. It’s easy to take these scenes for granted when they’re ever-present in your daily life. (Jaffrey is but one town over from Yankee’s home office in Dublin, New Hampshire.)

But this day I would snap a few photos and, with pages from the Jaffrey Historic District Commission’s walking tour in hand, take a look at the area like a visitor from away.

We start at the Meetinghouse, constructed in 1775 as a place for townsfolk to gather and to hold church services.  I wonder how many other historic meetinghouses have such a fine mountain view …

The Meetinghouse in Jaffrey Center is sited with a view to Mount Monadnock.

Photo/Art by D. Despres
The Meetinghouse in Jaffrey Center is sited with a view to Mount Monadnock.

In fact, no matter whether you come upon the village of Jaffrey Center from the east or the west, Mount Monadnock plays peek-a-boo through the trees all along Route 124.

A view to Monadnock from Route 124 in Jaffrey, NH.

Photo/Art by D. Despres
A view to Monadnock from Route 124 in Jaffrey, NH.

 

Views to Monadnock from Route 124 Jaffrey NH

Photo/Art by D. Despres
Monadnock emerges again further along Route 124 in Jaffrey.

Out behind the Meetinghouse stand the Horsesheds (c. 1808), which shielded many a beast and carriage from the elements over the years. Though only nine of the twelve original bays have survived to this day, the name of each stall’s original lessee still appears above its entrance.

Can you just make out the names of the original lessees of these stalls above each bay?

Photo/Art by D. Despres
Can you just make out the names of the original lessees of these stalls above each bay?

Here, too, is the Old Burying Ground (c. 1774), the town’s oldest cemetery. Though small, it’s the final resting place of some well-known names, including former slave Amos Fortune (1710–1801), who purchased his freedom at age 60 and then moved to Jaffrey, working as a tanner. He died at age 91. Also, novelist Willa Cather (1873–1947), author of My Antonia and O Pioneers!, who’d become fond of the town, having vacationed here frequently. Hannah Davis’ (1784–1863) gravesite is here as well. She was the first woman in the country to make a business out of fashioning decorative but useful boxes from soft woods; today they’re highly valued by collectors. (Read more about Hannah Davis in Yankee’s 2009 article by Catherine Riedel.)

Old Burying ground Jaffrey Center NH

Photo/Art by D. Despres
The Old Burying Ground lies just behind the Meetinghouse and Horsesheds.

Eventually in the town’s history there came the need to separate church services from public buildings (that ol’ separation-of-church-and-state act), and so the Brick Church was erected just across the road from the Meetinghouse in 1831. Note the church’s Gothic Revival tower; it was replicated in the building of Melville Academy just a couple of years later—a property that operated as a private school for some 30 years before being taken over by the town as a local schoolhouse. Today, it’s open on summer weekends and houses a collection of artifacts and historic photos.

Brick Church and Parsonage Jaffrey Center

The Brick Church connects to the parsonage.

 

Melville Academy Jaffrey Center

Photo/Art by D. Despres
Melville Academy boasted 174 pupils in its heyday (1835), but the private school closed by 1863.

The Little Red Schoolhouse, too, is open to visitors on summer weekends. You might mistake it for a shed today, but this one-room schoolhouse (c. 1822) was moved from its original location (about a mile away) and placed beside the Meetinghouse by the Historical Society when its members took on the task of restoring and preserving it in the 1960s.

It may look like a tool shed, but the one-room schoolhouse was a busy place in its day.

It may look like a tool shed, but the one-room schoolhouse was a busy place in its day.

Atop Blackberry Lane, just past the Meetinghouse, is the oldest home in the village (c. 1784). Although it’s a private residence now, the original owner, Benjamin Cutter, allowed his brother to operate a tavern here for a time, and by all accounts, a very popular one. The original signage for the tavern is preserved at the pubic library downtown.

Cutter Tavern sign

Photo/Art by D. Despres
The vintage sign invited guests inside when the property pictured below was known as the Cutter Tavern.

 

A lovely home and the oldest in the village center, it was the Cutter Tavern in the 1800s.

Photo/Art by D. Despres
A lovely home and the oldest in the village center, it was known as the Cutter Tavern in the 1800s.

Back on the main road sits the Monadnock Inn, initially built as a private homestead in the 1830s. As travelers began to make the Monadnock Region a popular getaway destination in the 1870s, the home’s owner capitalized on the interest and began hosting summer visitors. Today, the family-run inn offers eleven comfortable guestrooms, delicious dinners, a pub for relaxing, and a porch for rocking. That’s some 140 years of hospitality right here in the heart of the village center.

Signs for Monadnock Inn

Photo/Art by D. Despres
Sure signs of good food and a good night’s rest!

The inviting dining room of the Monadnock Inn.

Photo/Art by Courtesy of Monadnock Inn
The inviting dining room of the Monadnock Inn.

 

Comfort awaits at one of eleven cozy guestrooms at the Monandock Inn.

Photo/Art by Courtesy of Monadnock Inn
Comfort awaits at one of eleven cozy guestrooms at the Monandock Inn.

In this compact area, from the Meetinghouse, down Blackberry Lane to Melville Academy, connecting to Thorndike Pond Road, and along the Main Street to the Monadnock Inn, there’s a quiet serenity in winter.

From the base of a freshly plowed Blackberry Lane, the Meetinghouse is ahead, and the former Cutter Tavern is on the right.

Photo/Art by D. Despres
From the base of a freshly plowed Blackberry Lane, the Meetinghouse is ahead, and the former Cutter Tavern is on the right, the church parsonage to the left.

Spring will come and the lush green lawn on the Common will reappear, and the summer visitors will reappear too, and on into fall when the area is most photographed for all the vibrant colors against the stark white clapboards of these buildings. But for now, on this day, the scene is just about perfect—inspiring a keepsake photograph, even if you’re lucky enough to enjoy this view through the windshield every day.

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Debbie Despres

Author:

Debbie Despres

Biography:

Debbie Despres is an associate editor for the magazine. Deb is the primary fact checker for Yankee Magazine and also contributes content to each issue. A member of YPI’s corporate staff since 2000, Deb joined Yankee’s editorial team in 2011. A native of New Hampshire, with a work history that includes several years in the travel industry, she enjoys discovering new destinations, and the myriad of road trip opportunities unique to New England.
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13 Responses to The Village of Jaffrey Center, New Hampshire

  1. Jeffrey Hadad February 24, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    Very nice pics!

  2. Deb Burns February 24, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

    Thank you so much for the lovely photo’s. i have not been for a long time and it’s so nice to see the places and recall the memories.

    • Debbie Despres February 25, 2014 at 10:03 am #

      Thanks, Deb. So glad you enjoyed the photos! It was a gorgeous day when I was out and about, though a bit chilly…such is winter in NH.

  3. Dottie Palmer February 24, 2014 at 8:25 pm #

    These pictures show what country is in New Hampshire

    • Debbie Despres February 25, 2014 at 10:00 am #

      Thanks, Dottie. Gotta love these rural villages…so pretty, so steeped in history.

  4. Judy Chace Doyle February 24, 2014 at 10:09 pm #

    Thank you for sharing these photos. I have wonderful memories of visiting my aunt Eunice Chace Greene (who is buried near Willa Cather) and her husband Walter and have been in all of those buildings. We went to family reunions in the Manse, climbed Mt. Monadnock and swam in Thorndike Pond, and my husband and I spent a few days of our honeymoon in the cottage on Blackberry Lane, 53 years ago.
    Jaffrey Center is a treasure.

    • Debbie Despres February 25, 2014 at 9:52 am #

      Thank you, Judy. It does seem that no matter where I go, there’s always someone with a connection to the Monadnock Region. There’s a reason for all those fond memories–it IS a lovely place to live (or visit)!

  5. Tim Sherry February 25, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

    Jaffrey Center has been blessed by Mother Earth.

  6. Roger Carroll February 25, 2014 at 8:54 pm #

    Stunning! I have close friends in Jaffrey and have been taken all around the area when I made visits. Such a beautiful place, one of the loveliest in the world. And that’s saying a lot coming from a native Virginian!

    Roger Carroll
    Norfolk, VA

  7. will seippel February 26, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    My wife and I restored the Cutter tavern in the mid 1980′s. It was an ordeal as the center chimney that had been earlier removed, but the base was left, was being pushed through the floor base and causing the house to collapse. The western side of the barn had collapsed and their was rot everywhere. Many years prior the previous owners, the Thorndikes, had operated the house as an antique store and the house was filled with wonderful things. The old antique store signs are in my basement in Maine where we operate an internet antique store. We had found this house through the old Yankee New England real estate magazine that sadly has ended.

    The house was a marvel then and still is as the Georgian paneling in the upstairs bedroom is remarkable for Western New Hampshire as is the height of the house for the period. I do not fully remember the details but believe the house to be older than the meeting house as the meeting house needed a right away from the original property owners for the encircling of the road, but people in new England are particular about dates once memorialized.

    One of the treasures I kept to tie me to Jaffrey on leaving is the Amos Fortune perpetual calendar that we stumbled on while living in Jaffrey. It is shaped liked an old New England tombstone cut out of first growth maple. It looks as it was created but a repurposed tanner’s board that had been made useless from heavy use. Carved into is Amos’s name and a verse from Ecclesiastes.

    I had forgotten just how beautiful Blackberry Lane is in the winter until I saw your photo. Thank you for sharing, it made me want to come back and see a place we saved for the ages. Our new homestead in the lower village is another place that deserved to be saved and I am glade we had a chance to do both. This summer we will begin an archaeologist type dig in the basement of the Maine house, (which was built in 1765), which was also the home of Kennebunk’s first shipyard. It should be quite an adventure. The coastal Maine residence with 6 bedrooms is available for rent to the public most of the summer. Some families have come back annually for 10 years.

    Thank you for sharing these photos.

    Will Seippel

    • Melissa Witmer March 5, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

      Mr. Seippel,
      Just wanted to thank YOU for saving a Grand old home. You are living a dream that few of us are able! It is very much appreciated. I long to restore the old homes I see fading away along the roadsides. So glad to hear of someone that is doing just that!
      Please consider blogging for us all so we can see your updates and interesting finds on your adventures!
      Melissa

  8. Debbie Despres February 26, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    Thanks so much for your kind comments and for sharing your memories of the property!

    Indeed, the meetinghouse was built in 1775 and the Cutter Tavern dates back to 1784. The meetinghouse did not look as it does today back in 1775, as the tower was added later (1822). You may be remembering a story (which I learned of from the Jaffrey Historical Society’s writings) about the Tavern’s owner being offered permission by the town to move the meetinghouse in order to create better access to his establishment. Though permission was granted, Mr. Cutter never took on the task. What a project that would’ve been!

    • will seippel February 26, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

      That would have been something to see. At some point I will see if I can find photos of the reconstruction of the house. My wife cried the day we moved in.

      I think we also had friendly spirits in the house, as did the Thorndikes. Will make for a Halloween edition! I loved our 7 years there. I would love to see drawings of all the outbuildings and such that were once on the property if someone has them.

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