Exemplary Country Estates of NH

Cristina Ashjian

July 21, 2022  7pm

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In the early 20th century, the New Hampshire Board of Agriculture launched a program to boost the rural economy and promote tourism through the sale of abandoned farms and estates to summer residents.

After describing the country house movement, Cristina Ashjian will focus attention on some of the great country estates featured in the New Hampshire program between 1902 and 1913. Which private estates were recognized as exemplary, and who were their owners? Using historic images and texts, Ashjian discusses well-known estates now open to the public such as The Fells on Lake Sunapee, The Rocks in Bethlehem, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, and she includes local examples when possible.

Cristina Ashjian is an art historian and an independent scholar based in Moultonborough, where she is presently the chair of the Moultonborough Heritage Commission. Her current research focuses on late 19th- and early 20th-century country estates. Ashjian holds an MA in the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London and a PhD in Modern Art and Architecture from Northwestern University.

This program is sponsored by New Hampshire Humanities.


Event Report
Exemplary Country Estates of NH

Cristina Ashjian

July 21, 2022  7pm


Art historian and independent scholar, Cristina Ashjian, came to the park to share her knowledge and passion for a piece of NH history that might not have been very familiar to many people.

By the end of the late 1800's many New Hampshire farmers had given up on farming and simply abandoned their farms.


The State of New Hampshire embarked on an effort to attract people of means to the Granite State for the purpose of purchasing these properties.  One of the programs was "Farms for Summer Homes."


Another program along these lines was the creation of "Old Home Week."


One of the very interesting things in her talk was that this publication on New Hampshire farms was actually done by the NH department of agriculture and immigration. Nahum Bachelder, later Governor, was the author of many of these early editions.

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In 1888, renowned Statesman, John Hay, purchased 1000 acres along the shore of Lake Sunapee. The first cottage on the site was built in 1891.

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 Descendants of John Hay expanded the estate, called "The Fells" in 1915.

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Above is and example of the 1907 edition.


Sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens began summering in Cornish in 1885 but established residence full time beginning in 1900.


Closer to home, Bethlehem was the site selected by J.J. Glessner for "The Rocks."

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Cristina talked about other estates which owed their establishment to the Farms for Summer Homes program - here the Kona Farm in the Lakes region.


This was a familiar estate, of course.

Most people in New Hampshire are probably quite familiar with the Great Hotels in the Granite State.  

These exemplary country estates that Cristina talked about are not only a little less well known, perhaps, but the fascinating history of how the State of NH encouraged and promoted these estates is a history of which many of us were unaware. Thank you so much, Cristina, for coming to Weeks State Park to share your expertise with us. We're willing to bet that many in the audience are planning to visit these estates soon.