Discovering the Delightful Town of Dublin
Don’t miss out on Dublin's artistic and literary history
In the nearly half-kilometer of bookshelves that cover the walls of my home and office are several yards of books on New England, most of them on New Hampshire. Many are long out of print, a few are bone-dry town histories, but most lead to a few hours of browsing whenever I pull one from the shelf.
“Dublin Days” is one of those, a lighthearted combination of history, village life, gossip and the reminiscences of the town’s long-time storekeeper, postmaster and selectman, Henry Darracott Allison. A fair part of the book relates to an especially interesting period in Dublin’s history when the town was both a noted art colony and the summer home for prominent figures in government, business and other endeavors. This included, for several summers in the early 1900s, the British Embassy.
The art colony drew not only artists and writers, but luminaries in other fields who were drawn to the intellectual and cultural climate of Dublin summers. The first boarding house opened here in 1840 and the first summer “cottage” was built in 1872 for a Boston family. Others followed and the community grew to include notable (and wealthy) Bostonians and others.
The lure of Mount Monadnock and the clear, cool country air attracted outdoor enthusiasts and later inspired artists and writers. By the turn of the 20th century, those who returned regularly, along with their house guests, formed a who’s-who of the arts and government.
Artists John Singer Sargent, Abbott Thayer, Barry Faulkner, George de Forest Brush and Rockwell Kent worked and played here. Mark Twain, poet Amy Lowell, novelist John P. Marquand, actress Ethel Barrymore, Amelia Earhart, Admiral Richard Byrd, ambassadors, at least one cabinet member and President William Howard Taft all spent time in the “cottages” that sprang up around Dublin Lake and along the surrounding hills.
Local families found opening their farms to paying summer guests and working on their estates more profitable than sheep farming, which had long since replaced trying to wrest a living from the scant soil.
In “Dublin Days,” Henry Darracott Allison recounts personal experiences with many of these summer guests, to whom he delivered groceries. Allison was an interesting character himself. His fine penmanship reached the point of calligraphy and he was in great demand to create diplomas and award certificates. When he died in 1963 at the age of 94, his grave in the Town Cemetery was marked by a bronze plate imbedded in a rough field stone. Across the top of the plate lies his inscribed, elegant signature.
The cemetery, on a slope overlooking Dublin Lake, reveals much about Dublin’s early history — with the stone walls of the Town Pound at one corner, and signs identifying the land as the location of the original town center. The first settlers came in 1753 but didn’t stay; a hardier lot arrived 10 years later, and Dublin was incorporated in 1771. Winds sweeping across the lake made the original town site uninhabitable — or at least uncomfortable — so the town center migrated up the hill to a more hospitable site.
Originally the town included Harrisville, where there was a water source to power mills. But in the 1860s the two parts of town differed over funding the building of a railroad. The textile village of Harrisville needed rail transport to get their mill products to markets, but farmers in upland Dublin outvoted them. Harrisville petitioned the Legislature for a separate town, which was carved out of Dublin and a portion of Nelson, in 1870.
Meanwhile, the town center grew, with the 1852 Dublin Community Church at its core. Today this center comprises the Dublin Village Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Distinguished among the dozens of buildings included in the listing as historically and architecturally significant is the 1825 Dr. Asa Heald House on Main Street, built from plans by Charles Bulfinch.
The arts and crafts-style Dublin Public Library comes from a later era — the final successor to the Dublin Juvenile Library, the first free public library in America, formed in 1822 and supported by contributions. The 1901 library, built in stone and wood, has Gothic Revival accents in the façade windows. Its historic copper gutters were replaced with replicas in 2021.
Also in this historic district and from a later era is Emmanuel Church, the second oldest of the nine seasonal chapels of the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire, one of two on the National Register. Built in 1882, the wooden, shingle-style church has original Tiffany stained glass windows and an octagonal cupola.
Eminent in the village center is the headquarters of Yankee Magazine, founded here in 1935 by Robb and Beatrix Sagendorph, and expanded in 1939 with the purchase of “The Old Farmer’s Almanac.” Yankee Publishing purchased assets from McLean Communications in 2012, taking over New Hampshire Magazine. Thus, this article comes by way of Yankee Publishing, continuing the town’s abundant artistic and cultural traditions to the present day.
The glory days of the Dublin summer colony faded with the Great Depression and World War II. But they left Dublin with another rich architectural heritage, recognized by the town’s second listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The Dublin Lake Historic District includes the cottages around the lake itself and those above on Beech Hill. These represent two prevalent styles of the era’s summer homes. The Victorian shingle style, primarily on the hill, were the earliest wave, characterized by gambrel roofs, wide verandas and dark wooden shingle siding. Later and grander were the Italianate villas, usually set in more elaborate landscaped gardens that could be enjoyed from terraces, gazebos and pergolas.
While most of the grander cottages are secluded by trees or walls, you can glimpse some of them on a slow drive around Dublin Lake or on the hilltop roads between Dublin and Harrisville.