Freedom Rings Here
A historic visit to a quaint New Hampshire village
Route 153 divides the Carroll County town of Freedom geographically in two, but the divide is just as apparent in the character of the two sections. The year-round town center of historic buildings populates the east, while the west contains the summer playground of Ossipee Lake and its many meandering bays.
Historic buildings make up the cozy core of the village, seven of which are listed on the New Hampshire Register. The oldest is the Masonic Hall, built in 1830, before Freedom was a town.
As a new wave of the Great Awakening spread a Protestant revival across New England, differences with the church in Effingham prompted followers of Free Will Baptist, Calvinistic Baptist and Universalist doctrines to join in forming a new church. In 1830, they engaged Amos Towle Jr. to build a church on a hilltop in what was then known as North Effingham.
A year later, residents of North Effingham voted to become a separate town and in 1832 voted to change the name to Freedom, likely referring to their freedom from Effingham.
In 1850, Elias Towle, brother of Amos, furnished the bell of a newly added church steeple. In 1867, Elias changed church affiliations to join the New First Christian Church built on Elm Street. Elias had the bell moved to the steeple of his new church, where, despite three subsequent court cases over its ownership, it remains today.
The old church’s congregation diminished, and the building became a place for community gatherings. In 1926, the building became the Masonic Hall — still used for community events to this day, including the ice cream social during Old Home Week.
Behind the hall, along with the Towle Family cemetery, you can see the stone remains of the baptismal pool used when the building was a church. Beside and slightly behind the Masonic Hall stands a shed housing the town’s snow roller, a huge wooden-slat drum pulled along roadways to pack the snow. Before snowplows, snow rollers kept roads open through harsh winters. Although a number of towns still utilize snow rollers, Freedom is one of only three in the state that still has its roller shed.
The Freedom Village Bandstand, built a year after the roller shed in 1902, also holds a place on the New Hampshire Historic Register, along with the 1895 former grammar school next to the Masonic Hall.
On nearby Elm Street stands the Greek Revival First Christian Church, built in 1867 and financed by the sale of pews at $50 each. The lawsuit over the ownership of its bell went all the way to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The stately Town Hall next to the church, also in Greek Revival style, was built in 1889.
Preceding both of these buildings, the Freedom Village Store opened in a handsome Second Empire building with a mansard roof and bay windows across the street. Run largely by volunteers and a part-time manager, the Freedom Village Store sells products from local farms and artisans, hosts community events and classes and operates as a coffee shop and gathering place.
Freedom was still a busy rural village when the store first opened, with a grist mill, blacksmith and tinsmith shops, a feedstore and other services to supply local farms and families. Route 25 passed through the center of Freedom until 1939, when it was moved south; the bypass allowed the town to retain its original character and appearance. Opposite the store and beside the church, Freedom Gallery shows paintings by owner Barbara McEvoy and other artists in rotating exhibitions.
Stop by the Freedom Historical Society, opposite the Bandstand, for a glimpse of life in the mid-19th century. Rooms in the house are furnished in high Victorian style, featuring an Estey parlor organ, a dollhouse, period needlework and costumes and a fully outfitted kitchen. A barn and shed house farm equipment, a surrey carriage, sleds and tools for former rural arts such as ice harvesting.
Just down the street, Freedom House Antiques features two floors of an 1860s barn filled with reminders of the past in furniture and home decor. The go-to place to add to your carnival glass or White Mountain souvenir collection, or maybe complete your 1930s kitchen decor theme, the shop arranges its medley of vintage collectibles in themed displays
The portion of Freedom east of Route 153 borders the irregular shoreline of Ossipee Lake and Broad Bay, and includes the Danforth Ponds and Shaw Pond. Camp Huckins, Camp Robin Hood and Camp Cody all offer traditional summer camps for kids, while Danforth Bay Camping & RV Resort is a combination campground and summer camp for families. Spacious campsites accommodate tents or RVs, and the park provides kayaks and other equipment to enliven its sand beach along with a schedule of outdoor activities, music and food truck parties. The company’s sister property, The Bluffs, serves adults ages 50 and older.
Goodhue Boat Company, at the northern end of Broad Bay, rents pontoon and fishing boats, runabouts, tubes, water skis and wakeboards, and offers lessons in watersports.
Each summer at the end of July and beginning of August, Freedom’s two worlds mix at one of the state’s few remaining Old Home Weeks. In 1899, Gov. Frank Rollins worried that small towns were declining. As a means of inviting back former residents, attracting newcomers to sample village life and celebrating all that he loved about Freedom, Rollins invented Old Home Week, the first of its kind in the country.
Freedom is one of only five Granite State towns still celebrating Old Home Week (running July 28 to August 6 in 2023). Freedom’s 124th Old Home Week plans to include all the traditional events: an ice cream social, craft show, lobster feast, lawn party, multitude of sports competitions and parade — the biggest spectacle of the week. Each year’s parade features classic and antique cars, pipe and drum corps, a marching band, jugglers and floats from the area summer camps. Gov. Rollins would be proud.