Tuesday, May 22, 2012

President's Annual Report for 2011

At the annual meeting of the Haverhill Historical Society in July 2011, two long-serving officers stepped down, so I would like to begin by acknowledging the contributions of Lawrence Sedgwick as treasurer and, especially, John Page as president.

John Page’s long-term devotion, hard work, and accomplishments as leader of the organization have made his name virtually synonymous with that of the Society. His knowledge and skills as an historian, his associations with other historians, and his deep family roots in Haverhill contributed in many ways to the growth and success of this organization. We current board members are grateful for his example and his years of service, and thankful that he continues to offer the benefit of his advice and counsel.

Over the past year the Society has continued to focus on the renovation of Pearson Hall while continuing to offer programs and services to the public. In addition, we have improved access to the Ladd Street School through construction of a ramp at the rear entrance. And of course, we are already looking forward to 2013, when Haverhill will celebrate the 250th anniversary of its founding.

One highlight of the year was our successful campaign to have Pearson Hall included on the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance’s 2011 list of Seven to Save; this is an annually compiled list of seven historic properties in the State whose historic significance makes them priorities for preservation. Inclusion on the list publicizes the effort to renovate the building and will support our grant-seeking efforts. We also benefit from the Alliance’s advice and continuing support as we work to complete renovations.

The HHS Board is currently developing a fund-raising plan to move the renovation project to the next stage; much has already been accomplished. In May 2008 Pearson Hall was given to HHS by Haverhill Heritage, Inc., a local nonprofit dedicated to preservation in Haverhill. Preservation of three facades of the exterior of Pearson Hall was completed in 2010 thanks in part to a grant from the NH Land and Community Heritage Program (LCHIP) and to matching funds from generous local contributions. Unfortunately, our proposal for a second LCHIP grant ths past fall was not funded.

As we develop out fund-raising plan, the board is taking the opportunity to refine our vision for a history museum and research center at Pearson Hall. We are also exploring new partnerships and enhanced educational uses for the museum that would make it more attractive to potential funders. We have secured a $4,000 contribution from the Mildred Page Trust for maintenance of public buildings in Haverhill Corner, and this will help pay for essential engineering services. Additional local funding will be necessary to match grant funds before we can begin to install new wiring, heating, and plumbing, and generally refurbish the first floor, which would permit the building to open.

Contributions of significant artifacts including furniture from historic Haverhill homes is growing, thus making the vision of a well-equipped museum very attractive. Major donations of historic artifacts this year have come from John and Ruth Page, Edith Celley, and Richard and Elizabeth Merrill. These contributions include the Westgate family scrapbook, many photos of the people of Haverhill in the 19th and early 20th century, furniture from a Merrill family Haverhill home of 19th century and Page family documents.

This year, the board has also developed and expanded our relationship with a longtime supporter, Dr. Kimberly Alexander, an architectural historian and part-time Haverhill resident. Dr. Alexander has helped to raise Pearson’s profile with other preservation-minded people throughout the state, and she has been promoting Haverhill history and material culture through a new blog she has created. (Zephyrs10.blogspot.org) In addition, she has designed and will implement the Society’s first-ever internship program. Under Dr. Alexander’s supervision, Ariel Meyers, a Senior at Plymouth State University, will begin a much needed inventory of our collections. In addition, Dr. Alexander will use textiles from our collection in her work with two of her own interns from UNH. We are very grateful for the time and expertise she has contributed to the Society.

During the past year, we have also continued to implement programs and services for the community. Our Museum was once again open to visitors on Wednesday and Sundays, staffed by volunteers from the membership. We sponsored evening programs on the muralist Rufus Porter, the Old Man of the Mountain, and the Weeks Act and a fascinating Sunday afternoon tour of the East Haverhill cemetery under John Page’s leadership. We were fortunate to find Martina Stever to take over teaching the annual school program at Ladd Street Schooolhouse when the original presenter retired.  We  greatly appreciate the service of all the volunteers who helped with these services.

The annual HHS Progressive fund raising dinner for members was again a success. This allows members to visit other members’ and friends’ historic homes and meet other members in a social and informational evening. This year’s event was planned by a committee consisting of Vesta Smith and Shirley Cobb as advised by June Klitgord, who initiated this program more than ten years ago. Featured buildings were Edith Celley’s home in Haverhill, Ruth Wellington’s family home on Jeffers Hill in Pike and the Oliverian School in Pike. Many thanks to all who assisted with this popular event.

HHS has planned six lectures  related to Haverhill history from antiques and law, life in Haverhill in 1793 as documented by Montgomery Store Journals to Pike Whetstones and Woodsville Railroads. These will be held as a part of Haverhill’s 250th Anniversary on even months throughout 2013. 

Respectfully submitted,

Edith E. Celley

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