Reprinted from www.moultonboroughhistory.org
By Judith A Ryerson
The large white house next to the Town House in Moultonborough
"Corner" is the future center of the Moultonborough
Historical Society. And it is appropriate that it be so.
The original structure was built in the town's early settler
days; it was later home to one of the town's most prominent
merchants. It has also been an inn, and a store. Stylistically
and structurally it represents a hundred years of growth
and change in Moultonborough's development.
The Moultonborough Historical Society bought the building
9 years ago. Stuart and Robert Lamprey, prominent citizens
of Moultonborough and Center Harbor today, grew up in
this house which their parents Mary and Robert Lamprey
ran as the Moultonboro Inn. They were instrumental in
helping the Society acquire the property and are still
active in the fund raising effort to allow the building
to be resurrected as a museum. To understand why this
building would function so well as a museum and interpretive
center it is important to know some of its history.
Simon Moulton owned this land in the early
19th century. Simon was the son of Nathan Smith Moulton
a nephew or grandnephew of Col. Jonathan Moulton one of
the original proprietors of the town, even before it was
a town. Simon either inherited or bought land in the newly
emerging center of town, known as Moultonborough Corner,
where the roads crossed leading from Center Harbor to
Tamworth, and Sandwich to Tuftonboro. By the 1830s it
was beginning to resemble a village with a new Town House,
a school, a tavern, a couple of stores, an inn, a few
houses and several blacksmith shops. Simon Moulton was
a blacksmith and a farmer. His land and buildings were
next to the Town House and across from the district school.
In the 1850s the settled church would build its second
meeting house on the other side of the Town House (moved
later to its current location and rededicated as the Methodist
Simon was truly in the center of things.
He also owned property north of town east of Berry Pond
. In 1843 Simon sold a quarter acre of that land to the
Methodist Episcopal Church of the Sandwich circuit which
built a meeting house there; it is the nucleus of the
large building that for most of the 20th century has been
a restaurant under several names--Country Fair, Moultonborough
The buildings on Simon Moulton's land next
to the Town House probably included a home and sheds,
perhaps a smithy, and a barn; architectural historian
Allen Charles Hill estimates that the house dates from
around 1812. The current house was greatly expanded in
the l870s. The current carriage house was moved from across
the street when the Laconia Savings Bank could not use
it and wanted it to have a proper home.
Simon Moulton and his wife Lydia had four
children (according to town records), Mary (Polly), Eveline,
Mehitable and Edward S. In 1842 Eveline married James
French, a Tuftonboro merchant; they had four children,
Lydia, George, James E., and John Q.A..
Also in 1842 Dr. William H.H. Mason, recently
graduated from Dartmouth, returned home to Moultonboro
where his parents and brother had farms on what is now
Sheridan road. In 1844 Dr. Mason married Mehitable Moulton.
He built an office and stable next to Simon Moulton's
place on a third of an acre of land that Simon gave him.
That is very likely the land the Dr. Hope building now
sits. In 1849 William and Mehitable had a daughter, Elizabeth.
In early 1851 James French moved his family
to Moultonborough were he bought a "Tavern Stand"
and 2 acres of land on Holland Street. Later in that year
he bought a store and shed and 2 acres on the "highway",
that is currently the Old Country Store. James French
became a prominent citizen in town. The store prospered;
in l861 he was be appointed Postmaster by the Lincoln
administration. The wooden mailboxes that now are in the
Old Country Store Museum lined the walls to the left as
you entered the store. French was also active in local
and state politics. And his son James E. followed in his
In 1855 Simon Moulton was taxed on 52.5
acres of land and buildings, including a blacksmith shop.
He had been selectmen for one term in the 1830s; he didn't
appear on the civil lists in any other capacity. In 1860
Simon's wife Lydia died. In l865 he deeded a third of
an acre and a blacksmith shop to son-in-law James French.
In l867 he died and was buried in the family plot in the
Mason cemetery on Sheridan Road.
Simon left his property to Sarah A. and
William H. Brown the children by his oldest daughter Mary.
In l874 the Browns sold William H.H. Mason (his former
son-in-law), 4 acres and buildings (described thus: "from
the South corner of land of WHH Mason on Highway to Moultonborough
Falls, so called, to Town House lot," then North
Westerly and North Easterly and South and Southeast on
Mason) along with 15 acres adjacent to the Methodist Episcopal
church for "ten hundred and twenty five dollars",
In l875 William H.H. sold 1 acre and buildings,
but retained the barn and right of access to it, to Thomas
Choat for $500. Later that year Choat sold the same property
to James and James E. French for $600 (65, 156), and in
Oct '76, James E. sold his half of the lot to his father
for $300 (68,143). For the remainder of the century the
property was in the hands of James French and heirs.
It appears that in the late 1870s James
French, a prominent and prosperous man, enlarged and renovated
the house in the fashion of the day and lived in it with
his wife Eveline, Simon Moulton's daughter, until his
death in 1887 at which time Eveline moved away. Hamlin
Huntress, manager of the Country Store for James E. French,
is listed as living there in l892.
Eveline French died in 1898. In l901 Elsie
Richardson bought the building from Eveline's heirs, having
already bought the "Mason Barn" for her husband,
and thereby bringing the house and barn back together
Prior to buying the French house, Elsie
and her husband Albion had run a boarding house called
the Red Hill House which they sold to the Grange. For
a while they were housekeepers for Dr. Lovering at the
house on the corner that had been the first Methodist
Episcopal Church. Between 1898 and 1901, based on tax
records, Elsie and husband Albion seem to be making improvements
to the French house. Perhaps it is then that the wrap-around
verandah was added, a crucial amenity for a boarding house
of the period. And so began the history of the house as
Robert and Mary Lamprey bought it in 1924
and changed its name to the Moultonborough Inn. They continued
to run it as an inn for another couple of decades. In
its heyday it attracted visitors on the New Hampshire
tour, as well as local folk hungry for Mary Lamprey's
duck dinners. Robert Lamprey remembers the annual summer
family migration from the second floor to the attic so
the returning summer visitors could have the bedrooms.
He remembers too, going down the street to the Hillcrest
Tavern (currently Maurice's) to count the cars to see
if their competition was doing better business. At that
time Center Harbor was a thriving resort town and Moultonborough
benefited from the overflow.
A 1920s postcard of the inn shows a proud
white building with a wrap around veranda, rocking chairs
at the ready (a copy of postcard is on first page of this
history, courtesy of Dick Wakefield). The rocking chair
brigade at the Red Hill House/Moultonboro Inn looked across
green fields and stone walls to the long line of the Ossipee
Mountains, a popular turn of the century tourist attraction
with its boarding house, park and waterfalls. The inn's
business flourished even into the depression years but
finally died as the country was drawn into World War II
with its attendant rationing. The old inn sat empty until
the Lamprey sons sold it to be used as a residence again.
The house gradually fell into disrepair,
part of the verandah, which had been partially enclosed,
decayed and was removed. Despite the best efforts of interim
owners the old house today is definitely a fixer-upper.
The Moultonborough Historical Society has
already completed many urgent repairs--new roof, rebuilt
floors, the removal of a flight of stairs, and inner walls
on the first floor. The Society is now in the process
of returning the house to its 1920s appearance with new
paint and a rebuilt verandah. Eventually the Society expects
to use the building as its museum and interpretive center.
There could be no better place to study the history of
Moultonborough than in this house on this piece of ground.