Open Saturdays, Noon -4pm
A Doric temple sits atop a sweep of lawn on the east side of Main Street in Walpole, NH. This architecturally distinguished and highly visible building has evolved with the town, serving several purposes since it was constructed in 1831.
A group of Walpole citizens established a private school, named the Walpole Academy, in 1825 and commissioned this building as the schoolhouse in 1831. The probable designer of the building was Aaron Prentiss Howland (1801 – 1867), a Walpole resident and master builder. Howland was also the designer and builder of a number of other buildings in Walpole. The architectural harmony which prevails in the village of Walpole is due, in part, to Howland's repetition of common features in nearby buildings.
Howland designed and built the Academy entirely of wood in the Greek Revival style characteristic of New England in the 1830s. The building's most notable architectural features are the four Doric columns across the front porch, the triangular pediment above, the semi-circular louvered fan centered above the columns, and the domed cupola.
The student population at the Walpole Academy, of boys and girls from New Hampshire and Vermont, reached 193 by 1837. The 1837 Walpole Academy catalog declares the village of Walpole to be desirable for its “neatness . . . salubrious atmosphere . . . and the beauty of its scenery.” The schoolhouse itself is described as “commodious and elegant.”
In 1853, the school was purchased by the town for use as Walpole's public school until a new Walpole public school building was built in 1950. The Walpole Historical Society, which had been established in 1930 but had outgrow its original quarters, purchased the former school building in 1950.
The Walpole Historical Society uses the former school building as a museum, the Walpole Heritage Museum, to serve its mission of collecting, preserving, and displaying objects relevant to the history of Walpole to promote understanding of the town's past and its place in history. The museum exhibits feature furniture, garments, artistic and practical artifacts, as well as paper records of many descriptions. The Walpole Historical Society Museum is open to the public on Saturdays from noon to 4 pm from late May until early October. Times have changed and the purpose this structure serves has changed, but the building continues to serve a vital function and to offer a dignified and graceful presence to the village of Walpole.
In a 2001 Conservation Assessment Survey Report by the Institute of Museum Services, the building was termed "an architectural monument of real significance to the community and to the state."
The building was nominated and added to the list of the National Register of Historic Places as the "Walpole Academy" in 1975.