Saving the Mineral Springs House
With $15,000 to go, residents work to save historic site before
new high school opens
CONWAY—The 120-year-old Conway Mineral Springs House, besides
claiming a unique spot in the history books, holds a special place
in the memory of local residents such as Bayard Kennett.
"As kids, we were frequently taken out there to see the spring
and knew of its history as, at one time, a source of water that was
bottled," recalled Kennett, whose family bought the land —
along with the building and two mineral springs — in 1920. Today,
Kennett is one of those pushing for the spring house's restoration.
A grant application developed by consultant Cindy Russell explains
the site's history.
"Used at first to produce steam for a steam mill in the late
1800s or early 1900s on Pine Hill, the men used the spring water to
produce steam for their lumber mill and also for drinking purposes,"
the historical summary recounts. “The White Mountain Spring
Water Co. was soon formed and the water distributed both by bottle
and by cask. It was flavored and used aboard ships on long ocean voyages,
for it was claimed to remain fresh for a long period of time. An unusual
building was constructed over the spring and, early on, the plant
was managed by Myer Wolf. At some point, the spring water was used
as a base for soft drinks such as root beer and ginger ale, as well
as being sold as pure mineral water. Delivered by horse and buggy,
this beverage was served in the hotels of the region and for a time
was shipped to customers both near and distant."
In 1996, Kennett High School’s vocational education program
students volunteered to replace the flooring in the hexagonal-shaped
gazebo-like structure. But the spring house, despite sporadic maintenance,
is showing its age.
Kennett recalls outings to Pine Hill.
"When I was a kid, the old farmhouse was still on the site, and
that was a wonderful house to explore," he said, recalling another
landmark near the mineral springs.
The farmhouse gradually fell into disrepair, the victim of vandalism.
Now, Kennett and other residents want to make sure the Conway Mineral
Springs House doesn't suffer a similar fate.
Conway Mineral Springs House is the only one of its kind in the state
— a wooden 19th century mineral springs pavilion, intact in
its original location.
"The Conway Mineral Springs House and the Bradford Mineral Springs
House (1881) ... are the only two known 19th century wood-framed mineral
spring pavilions in New Hampshire which are still intact," wrote
Linda Ray Wilson, deputy state historic preservation officer.
Conway's mineral springs pavilion stands alone as the only wood-framed
building of its kind to survive without being moved, according to
the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources. (Bradford Mineral
Springs House was relocated to Musterfield Farm historical museum
complex in Sutton in the 1980s.)
"The remains of another late 19th century pavilion, built of
stone, still stand at the Lafayette Crystal Springs in Derry, but
in poor condition and without a roof," Wilson wrote. "Of
the two wooden pavilions, the Conway structure is much more architecturally
elaborate, and it has a higher degree of historical and architectural
integrity because it remains on its original site and retains its
original pool enclosure."
When voters approved a $44 million bond in 2003 for construction of
the new Kennett High School at Pine Hill, they inadvertently exposed
the spring house to public view and awareness. The road to the new
high school passes right by the spring house.
Wilson praised the community for rallying to save the historic structure.
"It is wonderfully encouraging to hear that construction of the
new Kennett High School across from the Conway Mineral Springs House
property has rekindled local interest in preserving the pavilion and
its site," Wilson wrote.
The Conway School Board has voted to accept ownership of the Mineral
Spring House along with 1.6 acres of land from the Kennett Company.
And by the end of January, citizens were within $15,000 of raising
enough money to save the historic building.
"We started the effort to fund the rebuilding of it through our
company and through our offer to deed it to the school to be part
of their campus, and since that time we've had great response from
the philanthropic community in support of doing the restoration of
it. That is ongoing. We're still about $15,000 short of our $60,000
goal," Kennett said.
Kennett explained why he wants to preserve and restore the spring
house: "The historical value and the antiquity of it. Its unique
design and the fact that because it is in such close proximity to
the new high school, to allow it to deteriorate and continue to be
an eyesore would not complement the new school."
Russell agreed, "The Mineral Spring House has been there in existence
since the late 1800s, and many people in the area knew about it, but
it became astonishingly revealed when work on the new Kennett High
School began. I describe it as being a peanut butter sandwich throw
away from a school bus."
In June, Russell was asked by Carl Lindblade and Kennett if she would
help them raise funds "under the auspices of the Conway Historical
Society" to restore the site.
"Our goal is to have this finished by July when the high school
is finished so everything can be conveyed," Russell explained