Jen Martel, landscape architect at Ironwood Design Group, spent some time in Kingston, NH this weekend with a super team of designers and planners from Plan NH to help formulate a vision for Kingston’s historic village district.
The two-day event began with a walking tour of Kingston’s historic village area. Situated around an enormous town green locals refer to as “the plains”, dozens of old homes and shops give the village a distinctive rural New England town character. Several properties that line the plains are on the National Historic Register.
The Josiah Bartlett House (which is for sale, by the way), built by the second signer of the Declaration of Independence and first Governor of New Hampshire, is a National Historic Landmark. A massive Linden tree that was delivered on horseback by Dr. Bartlett himself nearly 250 years ago still stands in front of the house healthy and radiant.
The design team toured the interior of the Sanborn Seminary which was on the NH Preservation Alliance’s Seven to Save list in 2013. Most recently used as the town’s High School, the stately building has stood vacant since 2006 and while the exterior has been maintained in reasonable shape, the interior requires significant work to be brought back into use. The town of Kingston understands the value and significance of these historic assets and were looking to Plan NH team to help formulate a vision for the town center that would incorporate the sustainable re-use of these buildings.
Plan NH then conducted several listening sessions with key stakeholders and residents. Turnout was incredible – well over 100 people came out to discuss the vision plan which is a true testament to the town’s commitment and investment in the future of this community. Folks told us about the incredible recreational resources the town has – in addition to the plains which hosts many events including a large festival every August, there are miles of hiking and biking trails, lakes, beaches, and a State Park. But they also told us that their community is facing enormous challenges, including an aging population, high taxes, declining public school enrollment, and a conflict between attracting new business and maintaining the town’s rural charm.
On day two of the charette, the deign team formulated recommendations to address the community’s concerns. They researched and generated plans on everything from how the town could better market its amazing historic and recreational assets to attract visitors and businesses, to programming open space, to re-use of historic properties (Bartlett’s Brewpub was suggested more than once!), and streetscape improvements that would enhance pedestrian safety and create a beautiful entryway to the town center.
Jen says that the design charette, which was her first volunteer experience with Plan NH, was incredibly rewarding. “Not only did I learn more about the wonderful town of Kingston, I had the opportunity to work with some brilliant designers, planners, and architects. I look forward to following the town’s progress as it works to achieve their vision.”