Gilmanton works to preserve a historic barn where flax was once turned into linen

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  • Paula Gilman opens up the Tom Howe barn on Meeting House Road in Gilmanton on Thursday. Gilman is working on securing grants to help fix up the barn for the public.

  • Tom Dombrowski opens up the Tom Howe barn on Meeting House Road in Gilmanton on Thursday, September 1, 2022. Paula Gilman and Dombrowski are working on securing grants to help fix up the barn for the public. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Part of the artifacts inside the Tom Howe barn on Meeting House Road in Gilmanton on Thursday.

  • Paula Gilman and Tom Dombrowski open up the Tom Howe barn on Meeting House Road in Gilmanton on Sept. 1. Gilman and Dombrowski are working on securing grants to help fix up the barn for the public. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Paula Gilman and Tom Dombrowski open up the Tom Howe barn on Meeting House Road in Gilmanton on Thursday, September 1, 2022. Gilman and Dombrowski are working on securing grants to help fix up the barn for the public. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Paula Gilman and Tom Dombrowski open up the Tom Howe barn on Meeting House Road in Gilmanton on Thursday, September 1, 2022. Gilman and Dombrowski are working on securing grants to help fix up the barn for the public. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Paula Gilman and Tom Dombrowski open up the Tom Howe barn on Meeting House Road in Gilmanton on Sept. 1. Gilman and Dombrowski are working on securing grants to help fix up the barn for the public. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Paula Gilman and Tom Dombrowski close up the Tom Howe barn on Meeting House Road in Gilmanton on Thursday, September 1, 2022. Gilman and Dombrowski are working on securing grants to help fix up the barn for the public. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Part of the artifacts inside the Tom Howe barn on Meeting House Road in Gilmanton on Sept. 1. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Published: 9/7/2022 4:44:26 PM

Now that the historic Tom Howe Barn has been put on the state’s register of historic places, plans to turn it into a museum and educational facility are moving ahead. But an awful lot remains to be done.

“A lot of the slats do have holes in them. A lot of the doors need to be fixed, and then we have a window away up above that’s missing one pane. So we need to get that fixed just to button that up so no snow is coming in, no birds,” said Thomas Dombrowski, a member of the Gilmanton Conservation Committee.

Easier said than done, since repairing and upgrading a historic building can be tricky, above and beyond the difficulty of getting enough money.

“Before we can put a shovel in the ground we need to have an archeological consultant ... Then we have to have drainage,” said Paula Gilman, director of the town Historical Society. “We need to have all the windows restored, taken out and restored. ... We have to have electricity put in ... and a security system installed.”

Barns have become an increasing focus of historic preservation in New Hampshire and many other places. They are often large and difficult to maintain, but changes in agriculture have often left them with little to no economic role. For example, hay is rarely stored loose indoors anymore, but that was a major function of many early barns.

The Howe barn on Meetinghouse Road was known as Twigg Barn after earlier owners, but was renamed in honor of the late Tom Howe, who helped preserve dozens of properties in town and across the state. Howe, a Gilmanton resident and senior land director for the Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests, led the preservation efforts for the structure and surrounding land. He died in an accident on January 26, 2021.

The barn’s history extends back to the days of farming flax and weaving it into linen cloth, a practice that was largely supplanted by cotton in the early 1800’s. The historical society’s Farm and Flax day in July at the barn helped relive that history. It is also used to store some of the growing collection of Gilmanton agricultural artifacts.

The town Historical Society and Conservation Commission are working together to preserve the barn for both groups, especially since it sits in the midst of large swaths of protected land.

Getting listed on the state historic register was the first major step in bringing it back to life as a museum and educational facility. Next up, Gilman said, is trying to have it listed as one of the Seven to Save sites chosen by the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance and then to get a financial grant through the state’s Moose Plate program.


David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.



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