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27 October 2014

A Visit to a New Hampshire Historic Place Known as Old Hill Village

Thanks to info provided to me a few months ago by a Facebook friend (Suzanne Reihs Moore), my wife and I recently spent an enjoyable afternoon walking for several miles at a place called Old Hill Village.  It's located on the western edge of the Lakes Region, just a short distance from the present day village of Hill, NH.  We began our trek from a parking area at the Needleshop Recreation Area located at the end of Old Town Road.

The village of Hill that existed pre-1930 was representative of many small, rural, New England towns.  There was one major tree-lined road which extended along the contour of the Pemigewasset River.  The Boston and Maine Railroad ran along the river's bank and was a major source of public transportation and shipping. Small farms dotted the surrounding countryside. Most residents worked in town, although some commuted to nearby towns such as Bristol and Franklin.

In February 1937, the residents of Hill learned that their village would have to be either disbanded or relocated in order to accommodate the Franklin Falls dam project.  The citizens carefully considered all their options and by January 1940, they had formed an association, purchased land, and began construction of a new village on higher ground just a short distance away.  Amazingly, by June 1941 a new town hall and school were built, along with streets, a water system, and 30 houses.

Within the Old Hill Village, there are no actual buildings or houses remaining since all structures had to be razed to ensure that there would be no manmade debris in the impoundment area for the Franklin Falls flood control project.  Only 14 buildings from Old Hill were saved.  This was done by moving them to higher ground using a railway and a winch turned by horses!

The Franklin Falls dam project was designed to prevent flood damage to downstream communities during times of high water.  The former village of Hill was "sacrificed" since it was located within an area that would become what is known as a "dry bed reservoir".  Throughout the year, some water is always stored behind the dam, but most of the river water is allowed to flow through the dam.  However, after a large rainfall or a period of rapidly melting snow, more water is impounded behind the dam and it fills the "dry bed reservoir".   Once conditions  improve, the impounded water is slowly released through the dam.

The illustration shown below depicts the general location of the Old Hill Village and the present-day town of Hill, NH.
Illustration depicting the general location of the Old Hill Village and the present-day town of Hill, NH
For anyone interested in learning more about Old Hill Village, the Hill Historical Society has some reasonably priced maps/publications that are very informative and useful.  (Click HERE for a link to their website.)

Shown below are a few photos taken on the day that my wife and I visited Old Hill Village.
Historic marker near south end of Old Hill Village
An old foundation and stairs
In the northern part of Old Hill Village you can still see the sidewalk the ran along the main street of town
Still standing in many places are stately trees that once lined the main street of Old Hill Village
A field behind the main street that might have once been someone's backyard in Old Hill Village
A brook that runs through Old Hill Village was used as a power source for many things, including a saw mill and a grist mill.
Abutment for bridge that once crossed the Pemigewasset River and linked Old Hill Village and Sanbornton, NH
To sum it up, our exploration of Old Hill Village was a unique and enjoyable experience.  We spent a couple of hours walking along the main street of town, and along some of the pathways near the river.  However, there are still other areas within the Old Hill Village area that we hope to explore on another visit.

ADDENDUM (added 28-Oct-2014):

This addendum is for those of us who enjoy studying maps!  The composite map below shows the village of Hill as it appeared on topographic maps before relocation (left panel) and after relocation (right panel).
(Click/tap to enlarge)


Rita Wechter said...

John, I enjoyed your description of a pre-1930s town—a few small farms, a main thoroughfare serviced by a railroad—those old villages were so full of character compared with endless subdivisions filled with rows of houses and driveways which make up the "towns" of today. (Especially in the Salt Lake Valley.)

And I also enjoyed your photographic representation of the old village. So nice to see that the landscape has returned to forest field and stream. It looks like a wonderful place for an autumn stroll!

1HappyHiker said...

Rita, the Old Hill Village is indeed a wonderful place to visit in Autumn. Not only do you have the colorful foliage to enjoy, but also the underbrush has started to die back which reveals more of the foundations for the structures that once stood here.

As I’ve said many times before, thank you for faithfully reading my blog and posting your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

That's a great little spot. I live not too far from there and have jogged it, mtn biked it, & xc skied it numerous times over the years and love the feeling of history one gets when you walk through the old village. I'm glad you found this place! It is popular in the winter with sled dogs in particular and in the summer it is popular with local horseback riders. The only drawback are the flies are pretty bad come spring time given that it is near the water. One thing about living in NH, it is full of small gems like this one!

Hiking Lady

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Hiking Lady for dropping by to read my blog and for taking time to post your comments!

It’s terrific that there are so many recreational opportunities at this location. One has to wonder if anyone anticipated this positive outcome when moving the village of Hill to higher ground.


Suzanne Riehs-Moore said...

Hi John! My husband had never been to Old Hill Village (OHV to those in the know! ��) and after reading your blog entry with his interest piqued decided today would be the day to explore. We had a great afternoon wandering about with our dog, along the old roads, fields and railroad grade. Thanks for the great write-up!

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Suzanne!

Wow! Thanks for letting me know about the great afternoon you and your husband spent at OHV. (I appreciate you giving me “insider” info about how those “in the know” refer to Old Hill Village!) :-)

Last, but certainly not least, thanks once again for making me aware of this terrific place. Hope to get back down there this winter to do some XC skiing!

All the best,