A place to learn needs more than ambition, it needs buildings, a place to sleep and eat, a source of power for equipment, and much more. Basically, it requires infrastructure. And, if you have been to Sanborn Mills Farm in the last few years, you’ve probably noticed quite a bit of construction, which is to support our growing vision of what can be experienced right here in central New Hampshire.
Where we started . . .
From the late 1700s and to well into the early 1900s, Sanborn Mills Farm was a center of industry. With its water-powered sawmill, grist mill, and a blacksmith shop, the farm , provided essential services for the township of Loudon. Six generations of Sanborns kept the water powered mills operational right up to 1996 when Colin and Paula Cabot purchased the farm with a goal of restoring what was needed to preserve the “single person technology” that ties people directly to the land and resources of Northern New England.
A place of industry to a place of education . . .
Sanborn Mills Farm’s unique location, surrounded by natural forest and waterways in central New Hampshire, makes it a perfect place to learn, create, and replenish. In xxx Sanborn Mills Farm was established as a nonprofit organization. This special designation – called a 501(c)3 – is shared by organizations that set themselves up with a mission to serve and benefit the public. Of course, nonprofits need to have sound fiscal management but unlike businesses or corporations, the revenues, donations, and “profits” of nonprofits must continue to support the public mission, rather than be distributed to share holders or employees.
Today, Sanborn Mills Farm is dedicated to sustainability, creativity, and preserving folklife and agricultural knowledge so that the best of the past can help shape the future. Our goals include offering educational programs based in the farm’s unique history and location. We are particularly interested in supporting all the skills needed to grow, harvest, and utilize natural resources for the making of traditional crafts and buildings. Currently, we offer workshops in blacksmithing, draft animal skills, and fiber arts. The preservation of the farm’s dams and the water powered mills provide a living demonstration of the importance of these historic technologies.
Preserving, repurposing & building anew . . .
Our vision is to provide a place where people can learn, create, eat, and sleep right here at the farm. Having the right spaces in the right buildings is key to realizing our goals. To this end, we have been steadily preserving and repurposing the farm’s buildings, many of which date to the mid-19th century. And, we have added a few new buildings as well.
Our restoration efforts started with the Sanborn Barn. Measuring 86′ by 48′ and dating from the 1850s, the barn was once used to house a small milking herd of cattle and some sheep. The work to restore the barn included giving it a new roof, repairing the cupola, replacing many of the structural elements of the timber frame, and putting in windows to let in natural light. In its new life, the Sanborn Barn will provide a kitchen and dining area, a space for workshops and gatherings, and exhibits of 19th century equipment and history.
In the spring of 2016 we moved the original Carriage Barn that connected the Main House to the Sanborn Barn up the hill to sit next to the Barden barn. Over the summer of 2016, we worked closely with TMS Architects, Fire Tower Engineered Timber, Fifield Building Restoration & Relocation and our own carpenters, to erect a new carriage barn on the existing foot print.
The new building is configured with a large open space on the ground floor. The second floor will provide “bunk house” style housing for future workshop participants and interns. Fashioned from hemlock trees harvested and sawn right here at the farm, the tapered gunstock posts and unique trusses support the roof and flooring system.
In the winter of 2017, we began some improvements to the Blacksmith Teaching Studio. The shed adjacent to the studio – what we call Bernice’s Garage – was repurposed to house grinders, the drill press, and other equipment. This opened up the teaching studio for greater comfort and usability by our blacksmith students.
Still on our project list is to put up the historic Loudon Grange, which should complete the “upper campus.” The Grange is a historic structure saved from demolition and it will add space for all types of activities.
Here’s a concept of what the “upper campus” is migrating toward . . .
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You can also visit our eNews archive for a look back on some of our history and activities.