New Boston Historical Society
New Boston, New Hampshire
Weathervanes on the Old Engine House and Town Hall
New Boston Weathervanes
If you want to know which way the wind is blowing in New Boston village, you need only look up. There are old weathervanes on top of the Town Hall, the Old Engine House (now the Recreation Department offices) and the Community Church. A weathervane which was once on top of the new Fire Station is temporarily in storage.
You may have noticed that the wind generally blows from the west in New Boston, and when the wind changes direction that often signals a change in the weather. A weathervane is a simple but useful device in a farming community! Here is a story about some of these weathervanes, written by Gail Parker in 1983. The color photos are more recent.
Weathervanes In New Boston Watch Over The Town
by Gail Parker
November 23, 1983
After decades of playing hide-and-seek and musical chairs, three historic New Boston weathervanes have settled onto permanent perches atop the town's public buildings.
The Fire Station wind vane has been in action for some time, and installation of weathervanes atop the cupolas of the Town Hall and Town Offices last month completed the array.
Each of the weathervanes has its own history of narrow escapes from a final resting place at the Town Dump.
The stories begin with the reconstruction of New Boston following the great fire of 1887.
This conflagration destroyed the center of the village, including the Townhouse, Firehouse, two churches, the Schoolhouse, the store where Dodge's is now located, and several dwellings, one reason why the architecture of downtown New Boston is Victorian rather than colonial.
When completed at the turn of the century, the three central municipal buildings - Town Hall, Firehouse and School - each sported a new weather-cock. Now, 80 years later, the three vanes once again point steadily into the wind.
Brightest of the three is the Fire Station weathervane, resplendent in its covering of gold leaf and bearing the initials NBFD. This is the original Fire Department weathercock, installed on the old Firehouse, now the Town Offices.
[In 2014 the yellow, green and red "old Firehouse" is used for Recreation Department offices and its NBFD weathervane has been replaced by the one you see in the color photos.]
When the Fire Department modernized its communications system in the 1940's, the wind vane was removed and replaced by a radio antenna. Eventually the vane was carted to the town dump, where it was found and rescued in 1949 by Charlie Davis.
After two decades in storage the brass vane was refurbished by Reginald Hayes, who gave it a new layer of gold leaf. It was then installed atop the cupola of the new Fire Station in the early 1970's.
The Fire Station was built on the site of the old New Boston High School, and the old school bell hangs in its cupola.
[The photo of the new Fire Station was taken in 2005. Subsequently the cupola was removed, and the weathervane and school bell are now in storage.]
The last class of New Boston High School graduated in 1965, after voters acted to send junior and senior high school students to Goffstown. When the old school building was being torn down its weathervane was unceremoniously thrown into one of the trucks for carting to the dump.
Roland Sallada spotted it and took it out for safekeeping. However, the cardinal points - N (north) E (east) S (south) and W (west) - were missing.
New Boston High School c.1908 (to left of church) and its weathervane being installed on the Town Hall in 1983
When the old Firehouse was being converted to Town Offices, it was determined that the cupola of the small building would be a fitting location for the schoolhouse weathervane. A spire was found in the attic of the offices, and a set of iron cardinal points picked up at an antique auction. The vane was installed at the end of last month [October 1983].
As far back as oldtimers can recall (at least 50 years), the vane on the Town Hall has not had a set of cardinal points. In 1980 when the Goffstown Fire Department visited New Boston, their hook and ladder truck was used to remove the Town Hall weathervane for repair and completion. Roland Sallada eventually acquired a set of cardinal points at auction.
Meanwhile, Charlie Davis was refurbishing the vane itself so that it would indicate wind direction accurately for another century: Limerick Steeplejacks of Limerick, Maine, installed the vane as the final touch to painting the Town Hall this fall .
Each antique weathervane turns on a ball bearing, actually a marble. During installation, a marble is placed atop the spire, and the tube of the weathervane fits down over it, giving the pointer a smooth ride in all winds.
The Town Hall weathervane shares the cupola with the town clock, made by the E. Howard Clock Company in 1903, and bell, cast in Troy, New York, in 1913.
Both were a gift to New Boston by the New Century Club, founded in 1901 and disbanded in the 1950's. Ladies of the club, whose purpose was to provide a forum for sharing ideas and knowledge in many fields, raised $750 for the clock project.
I thank Gail Parker for permission to post her article! She mentioned "musical chairs" and as of 2014 the old High School weathervane is now on top of the Town Hall, and the "NBFD" weathervane (see photo to the left) from the Old Engine House that was on top of the new Fire Station until 2009 is in temporary storage. -Dan R.
More weathervanes of New Boston
When a new Whipple Free Library was built in 2010 upstream from its original location in the village center, Karen Salerno designed a weathervane to be placed on top of its cupola and sun scoop. Karen's design includes a blue heron, a large graceful bird often seen in the Piscatquog River. The weathervane was made by SkyArt Studio in Meriden CT, in a building where Springfield rifles once were manufactured. Karen points out that all the SkyArt artisans are women.
The new Whipple Free Library and its weathervane
When "About the Farm" was published by the J.R. Whipple Company in 1910, the illustration of the new barn for Guernseys showed a weathervane with a cow on it. One hundred years later, the cow had wandered off. (January 2015 update: A newly discovered photo from 1955 shows that the cow was actually a bull.)
The Valley View Farm's Cement Barn once had a cow weathervane
The New Boston Community Church has a weathervane that looks like the other weathervanes in the village center so we'll discuss instead the Church on the Hill. This Presbyterian church was built in the 1820s when the center of New Boston was near the top of Meetinghouse Hill Road. The painter was looking west along Bedford Road, past what is now Peter and Nancy Clark's house (middle left) towards the cemetery (extreme left of painting). To the right is the valley where the village center is today.
1894 painting of the Church on the Hill
The church stood in what's now the empty pasture opposite the Clark's, where there is a historic marker with the story of the church. The Church on the Hill was struck by lightning in 1900 and burned, with the flames from this conflagration visible in Manchester, twenty miles away.
However by this time (1900) the church was abandoned, and its parishioners had moved to what is now the Community Church in "downtown" New Boston. They brought with them the Paul Revere bell that once hung in the Church on the Hill. Perhaps they also brought the weathervane!
July 2014 update: I finally got a decent photo of the weathervane on top of the New Boston Community Church, which I've added to this page (to the right). This is the church across Mill Street from the Historical Society.
To be continued! I'm still working on this page. If you know of any interesting New Boston weathervanes (past or present) please e-mail me, Dan Rothman: firstname.lastname@example.org