Map and Walking Tour


This document will provide you with an overview, history, and building-by-building description of this historic farm. Insights into the restoration efforts, both accomplished and anticipated, are included as well. The numbers in this guide are the same as in the bird’seye-view map and can help you finding your way around the farm. Please consult a staff member for access to the interior of any of the buildings. 


Sanborn Mills Farm is a traditional New Hampshire working farm operated as a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustainability, creativity, and preserving folklife and traditional agricultural knowledge so that the best of the past can help shape our future.

Our goal is to advance the knowledge of nineteenth-century American crafts, animal powered agricultural methods, and water-powered technologies through craft workshops, internships, and apprentice programs.

The farm includes timber-framed barns and outbuildings still in use for animals, a water-powered grist mill and sawmill, and a blacksmith shop dating from the 1830s.  The farm buildings are clustered around the two mill dams at the outlet of Sanborn Pond and are surrounded by almost 500 acres of working forest and approximately 2,000 contiguous acres of land held in conservation.

A century or more ago, Sanborn Mills Farm was a bustling, thriving center of agricultural activities that supported an extended family and served the community. Today, we have gathered a group of instructors, farmers, craftspeople, and historians dedicated to teaching the traditional skills that were commonplace then.  We provide opportunities for people to learn old-fashioned ways and explore how they can be integrated into modern life.  We believe that these skills and a vital connection to the land continue to be important and relevant. 

Six generations of Sanborns lived at this farm and their efforts represent a successful agrarian enterprise up to the dawn of the industrial revolution.  Through the mid-19th century people from the neighboring farms relied on Sanborn Mills Farm to saw lumber, to mill their grain, to shoe their draft animals, and to repair their tools and equipment in the blacksmith shop.  Such establishments dotted the landscape throughout New England before the advent of the railroads changed forever how far a farmer could travel in one day.  No longer was travel limited by how far you could get by horse and buggy.

As more modern industrial mills were developed in the surrounding towns, Sanborn Mills Farm became more of a small family business, rather than a community-wide enterprise and social center.  The water dammed in Sanborn Pond was not enough to allow the family to compete with mill owners on larger rivers.  Fortunately, the Sanborn family kept the property intact and its buildings working until the 1990s, when Colin and Paula Cabot became the first owners outside the family since 1770.


The Farm dates to the late 18th century, when John Sanborn, a surveyor by profession and a soldier in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, acquired the water rights to what is now called Sanborn Brook.  But it was John’s son Edmund (1788-1880) who fully developed what eventually became Sanborn Mills Farm.  He commissioned Penacook millwright Theodore Farnham Elliot in 1829 to build the water-powered sawmill and water-powered grist mill, both of which have been restored and are operational.

Edmund’s son James B. Sanborn married Mary Yeaw and, when he inherited the farm, he built the main house in 1875 and converted the Sanborn Barn, Horse Barn, and Carriage Barn to the then fashionable Victorian Greek revival style.  According to family lore, Mary Yeaw made building the new modern Victorian house a condition of her being willing to move to rural Loudon from Providence, R.I.  The ornate newel post in the central hall of the main house is an urban frill very unusual for a northern New England farm house. 

 James Sanborn’s son John B. Sanborn was next in line and was the last of the old-time famers to use centuries old farming and milling techniques, as the industrial revolution changed the country around him.  Although there was a wind-up telephone installed in the house during the 1920s, the house itself was not electrified until 1951.  Waterpower and animal traction were the sole sources of power.

Today, Sanborn Mills Farm is a working farm utilizing traditional implements and equipment as well as animal and waterpower; and it runs a public education program which promotes traditional crafts and skills, including blacksmithing, draft animal farming and logging, and fiber arts.  A natural dye garden provides plant materials for the dyes used in our fiber workshops.

1-Main House

The Main House is the administrative center of Sanborn Mills Farm and home to the Cabots when they are in residence.  Built in the 1870s on the foundation of the original farmhouse from the 1770s, and with its pronounced lintels over the windows and doors, decorative columns at the corners of the building, and gable end returns that encapsulate the entablature, architecturally the Main House is considered Colonial Greek Revival in style. 

Originally, the house connected through a breezeway to a carriage barn, which in turn connected to the large Sanborn Barn. This “big house, little house, back house, barn” is a style of building that allows options for seasonal living, as well as covered access to carriages and animals through the long winter months. The original Carriage Barn is the oldest surviving structure on the farm. It was moved in the spring of 2016 and now sits adjacent to the Barden Barn.

The rooms in the interior of the house are a traditional four-over-four design.  It has a typical center staircase and hall.   The ell currently houses the kitchen and a family room downstairs and a bedroom and bath upstairs and was renovated in 1997. 

A room for wintering plants measuring twelve by twenty was added in 2016.  Known as The Solangerie (a conflation of Orangerie and Solarium) it has a unique hip and valley roof built from 8 x 8 timbers that were sawn on the farm and features a slate roof. 

A Great Room was added in 2016, again using locally harvested and milled lumber.  The timbers were pickled to create a pale gray/white interior and the décor is Swedish influenced, evocative of the distinctive style of artist Carl Larsson (1853 – 1919).  Encircling one of the two main spaces in the Great Room is a series of bas-relief frieze carvings depicting aspects of farm life, designed and carved by Canterbury Furniture Master David Lamb. Sections of the walls are adorned with paintings of plants and symbols of crafts by New York scenic artist Robert Braun. In 2015, the porch of the Main House was extended to wrap around the south end of the house.

2 – New Carriage Barn

The New Carriage Barn replaced the Old Carriage barn in 2020.  It is 28 feet wide and about 66 feet long.  Its full basement houses the inverters for the Sanborn Solar array mounted on the roofs of many of the farm buildings. And an ADA compliant elevator allows for easy access to workshop supplies like tables and chairs and other paraphernalia stored in the basement, while connecting to the dormitory and the Sanborn Barn on the second floor,  The ground floor is a large room called Fifield Hall (in honor of Steve Fifield who has masterminded and built or rebuilt most of the timber frame structures on the farm.)  The multipurpose room serves as meeting space, workshop space, and home to our collection of looms and spinning wheels.

In one corner of the room is a spiral staircase built of materials harvested off the farm included a great amount of local white ash which would have succumbed to the emerald ash borer which has decimated New Hampshire’s ash forests.  The staircase is built entirely of wood (and wood glue) and is entirely self-supporting being attached only to the floor below and the floor above.  Because the staircase is a woodworking achievement and aesthetically appealing, we built a bridge from the second floor, which houses 7 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, as the second fire escape for the structure.  The bridge crosses over a terrace with a large chess set and a wood-fired bread/pizza oven and goes through the second story of the furnace and fire suppression pump house into the upper level of the ornamental garden. 

3 – Sanborn Barn

The barn was first erected in the 1850s.  Currently, it measures 86 by 40 feet, though it was two bays smaller when first built.  Originally, the barn housed animals on the second floor with cows to the west and sheep to the east. Scuttles – openings in the floor – went from where the animals were tied up down to the manure pit in the cellar below. At some point in the barn’s history, bays were added to each end of the building. 

The original roof system was a king post system connecting the rafter peaks to the girts. A cupola was added at some point which interfered with this system and so the roof was replaced by a modified queen post truss similar to the one in the horse barn (now woodworking studio).  It probably was intended to support the second floor without requiring posts in the humid, manure-filled cellar.  However, it didn’t work.

Today, posts in the cellar support the second floor.  In the mid-twentieth century a milking parlor was built in the cellar complete with stanchions, a milk room, and gutter cleaners.

Between 2014 and 2016, the deterioration of the barn was addressed by master timber framer Steve Fifield and his crew. They retained as much of the original fabric as possible, brought the building back into plumb and replaced most of the external posts and joints between the girts and rafters in the east wall which had been cobbed together as they had failed with telephone poles. 

 The barn has been repurposed to serve the needs the expanding educational programs at Sanborn Mills Farm. The cellar has become a well-equipped kitchen and dining room, the tie up floor a place for convenings, workshops, and special events, and the hay mow floor an exhibit space for collections of traditional tools and equipment.

4 – Grange

The Loudon Grange started life as a Methodist meeting house in Loudon Village down on the Soucook River.  For a while in the mid 19th century it served as the home of the Loudon Academy.  For a while it was in private hands and then in 1899 it was taken over by the  Patrons of Husbandry, or the Grange, a group that had been founded in 1867 to advance methods of agriculture, as well as to promote the social and economic needs of farmers in the United States of America.  The Grange served dinners and put on entertainments and functioned splendidly as a community center that didn’t involve religion.  But like most good things the Grange ran afoul of the monopolistic policies of big business, especially the railroads who had control of moving farmers’ crops to market.  Eventually the Grange was turned over to the American Legion who continued to have dances and other events like school graduations and boy scout ceremonies, but most especially (and belovedly) weekly bingo nights. Finally the building, which was hard to heat and bigger than needed for its users, was given to the town.

Steve Fifield heard that the town was planning to demolish the building and asked the Cabots if they would help save it.  So instead of demolition the building was disassembled and stored in a rented trailer for several years until 2021 when it was re-erected on a new foundation which now holds a well- equipped natural dye studio.  The plan is to finish the clock tower and belfry with a cupola and a weathervane during 2024.  Plastering of the interior will happen gradually over several years, which will give visitors to the building the change to see how our forefathers were able to build large structures with impressive spans and heights before the invention of the internal combustion engine and the development of modern hydraulics.

5 – Old Carriage Barn

 The old carriage barn may be the oldest building on the farm.  No date of construction has yet been found.  It connected the ell of the house through a breezeway to the big barn.  The building measures 28 x 60 feet and is entirely built with timber milled on an up-and-down saw.  Originally the barn housed the family’s carriages and assorted farm equipment.  Between the north end of the building and the big barn was a “three holer” for the use of the family.  Up a set of rickety stairs, the attic of the carriage barn was called the Corn Chamber with a passage above the three holer to the tie up floor of the big barn.  Also, the attic held several large wooden bins for grain.   The knee wall in the attic and a change in the pitch of the roof made the space large enough to support the farm animals through the winter.  The building was not sturdy when it was decided to renovate the Sanborn Barn.  So, it was hauled up the hill and placed next to the Barden Barn, where its first use was as the gardeners’ potting shed and for storage of construction equipment and materials.  As of the spring of 2024 the plan is to use the building as a welcome center, a farm stand for the farm’s production, and merchandise store next to the visitor parking. 

6 – Barden Barn

Les Barden was a tree farmer and horse logger from Farmington, NH who brought his pair of Percherons to work at the farm. The design of their barn was inspired by the barn at Les’ home farm:  4 straight stalls, 2 box stalls, a tack room and a sawdust room (for bedding).  There are chutes through the hay mow floor above to toss hay into the mangers in the stalls below.  The barn may someday become additional studio space since the horses now live and work mostly at the Merrill Farm just over a mile away.

 7 – The Woodworking Studio

The Horse Barn was built in the 1850s and measures 30 by 50.  It was originally built to serve as a stable but over the years it has also been used to house sheep and chickens and as a workshop and storage space. A “Queen post” timber framed truss system both supports the roof and holds up both the second and third floors of the building through the use of steel rods.  This system efficiently transfers the loads to the exterior walls of the building and provides a large open space on the first floor without posts. 

Today, the main floor is used as a woodworking teaching space.  The shop is equipped with 6 lathes, 6 work benches, 6 shave horses and a drill press, a table saw, and a radial arm saw.  The second-floor hay mow is currently used to store lumber and tools. The cellar now houses a machine shop and a blacksmith forge that can be used in the winter. The exterior hay mow ramp has been restored twice and features a 40-foot timber framed span that reaches from the nearby bank to the hay wagon door, 10 feet off the ground.

8 – Blacksmith Teaching Studio

The Blacksmith Studio was built in 2005 to accommodate workshops. The timber framed structure measures 18 by 33 feet and houses four student forges plus a teaching forge. Each forge is equipped with an anvil, vice, a quench bucket and hammers and tongs.  Other equipment includes a treadle hammer, a drill press, and layout benches. 

Air for the forges is provided through ducts in the concrete floor from a blower in the converted garage next door which also serves as a grinding room for knife making, and material storage.

With windows along one side and sliding doors along the other, it is a pleasant place to learn the art of blacksmithing, which is often summarized as “Get it to the right heat, hit it with the right force in the right place, and don’t overwork it!”

9 – Old Blacksmith Shop

There is no documentation of when the blacksmith shop was built but the building is recorded as “Shop” on an 1858 map of the area. The structure measures 31 by 29 feet and sits on stone piers. It is constructed in the scribe-rule post and beam style with a purlin roof system.

Its gable roof is covered with modern cedar shingles and its interior forge chimney was rebuilt in the 1980’s.  The exterior of the shop is covered in horizontal wide-board planking.  There are 9 over 6 double-hung windows on the north, west, and south sides and a 12 over 12-pane sliding casement on the east side over a workbench in the forge bay. There are large doors at both ends of the center bay, another large door for access to the ox sling, and a small door in the center of the gable wall next to the forge.

Parts of the original forge remain, as does the old hand-operated leather bellows, which was restored in 2014 using the flexible hide of antelope.  There is a nineteenth-century ox sling in the southeast bay of the building attesting to the use of oxen in the area and the need to shoe them in the winter.

10 – Sawmill

The sawmill was constructed in 1829 by millwright Theodore Farnum Elliot of Penacook, New Hampshire for his future father-in-law Edmund Sanborn. This sawmill replaced one that Edmund’s grandfather Elisha (1710 – 1786) had invested in during the late 1700s and probably was sited where our gristmill sits today.  (The History of Penacook NH, 1902 pp. 329-331).

The 1829 mill you see today was built using scribe rule mortise and tenon construction. It is 21 feet wide by 53 feet long and built out of both hand-hewn and up-and-down sawn timbers.  It may incorporate a few reused timbers from the earlier sawmill as well. Interestingly, the sawmill at Old Sturbridge Village has the same dimensions as it is a recreation of the Colby-Nichols sawmill that was built by Elliot in 1834 in Bow, New Hampshire. The Colby Nichols mill was washed away by the great flood of 1936 after being meticulously documented by the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) during the depression.  We used the same drawings Sturbridge Village did to make our replica of the original sash or up-and-down saw which was installed in the mill after constructing the mechanism involving a pitman arm and a counterweighted cam run by waterpower.

Originally built as a sash (or up-and-down) sawmill, the carriage of our mill was 28 feet long, the maximum length that the original building could have held.  The mill was converted to a circular saw in the 1870s.  The current Lane circular saw was purchased and installed in 1891 after being shipped by rail from Montpelier, Vermont to Pittsfield, New Hampshire.  The conversion of the mill required the addition of a log ramp with a continuous chain to pull the logs out of the pond and onto the saw deck. 

The carriage for the Lane saw is 36 feet long.  Local legend has it that the longest timber ever produced by the mill was 42 feet long.  The 54-inch blade of the saw has 36 teeth, and the saw turns at a maximum of 500 rpm.  The 54 wooden teeth (rock maple) in the crown gear that transfers power from the vertical shaft rising from the turbine to the bevel gear on the horizontal drive shaft required 14 jigs to make. The head for the current turbine is 12 feet, though we would like to have more. 

The dam itself has undergone extensive restoration. The wooden vertical plank core of the sawmill dam failed in 1997 and the building was removed from its foundations to provide access to repair the dam.  Permits were secured from the state to rebuild the dam and the entire dam was removed from the stream so that a modern concrete core could be anchored to the ledge below the stream bed.  The last pour for the dam penstock was made on February 8, 2002.  The drystone wall faces of the dam were then re-laid and the building was rebuilt on the new foundation using new locally sourced hemlock timbers for its understructure. The superstructure above the saw deck is original.  The first use of the restored Lane saw using waterpower was in September of 2006.  The first use of the replica of the sash saw was in the fall of 2022.

11 – Grist Mill

Theodore Farnum Elliot built the grist mill in 1830 after completing the sawmill.  At the same time, the dam on Sanborn Pond was raised 4 feet from its original height.

The grist mill is constructed of up-and-down sawn timbers and measures 30 by 53 feet. It has four levels including the tub wheel floor, the bolter floor, the grind stone floor, and the cleaner floor.  The granite fieldstone foundation is laid in the brook next to the spillway on the upper dam.  At one time the mill had a long storage shed with a single pitch roof and a vertical face next to the road which partially obstructed the door to the grindstone floor, and a gate house covering the penstock with a gable roof on the dam.

The mill and dam were both restored beginning with disassembling it in 2009, the replacement of the hurst frame (the structure that holds the millstones and their gearing) and new pine shingle siding.  When at the peak of its operation in the mid-19th century, the mill’s hurst frame held three sets of stones in a row with separate drives for each set.  Today, the grist mill has a pair of granite stones for grinding corn and a set of French Buhr stones for grinding wheat. A water wheel was added in 2018 to run other equipment in the mill. The original tub wheel floor, bolter, grain cleaner, corn cracker, and various bins and boxes are still in place.

A wooden flume provides water to the sawmill pond on the tub wheel floor through a 32-inch pipe run through the dam next to the pipe that feeds the tub wheel turbines for the grindstones. The penstock was fully rebuilt the summer of 2015 following the rebuilding of the dam in 2014.

12 – Lord & Burnham Greenhouse

Friends of the Cabots from Brookline, MA, when selling their old house, realized that the next owners had absolutely no interest in the 1919 Greenhouse that led from the house to the garden.  In fact they were planning to demolish it.  After Sanborn Mills initially turned it down and our friends triedfor years to find somebody to take it on, we reconsidered and decided to make a place for it at the top of the ornamental garden.  It measures 18 by 32 feet with a 30 inch high side wall made of concrete block faced with red brick on a 4 foot concrete frost wall foundation.  With the help of an expert who has plenty of extra parts for reassembling L&B greenhouses, we have restored it to its original glory.  It will be used during the shoulder season for plants that can handle cool but not frozen conditions and not heated during the winter.

13 – Capron Cobbler Shop

This is a small 12 by16 foot one room shop with a center chimney that was saved from demolition in Troy, NH by the farm on tax day, April, 2021.  The building was built on the edge of a bank with a walk in basement.  There is similar terrain from whence it came to the north of the natural dye studio.  Perhaps it can serve some day as the entrance to a true underground root cellar that can serve the farm by extending the life certain kinds of produce.  Till then the building is in storage.

R1 The Red House

The Red House began its life as a late-eighteenth century cape in the town of Edgewood on the Damariscotta River in Maine.  During the Victorian era it was altered considerably.  Its center chimney was removed to make a central hall and stairs, and two smaller chimneys were built to accommodate stoves in the center of the parlor walls.  Eventually the house was abandoned and slated for destruction as part of a fire department training exercise.  Fortunately, a local antiques dealer succeeded in purchasing the house and was able to disassemble the frame for storage in a trailer in nearby St. Georges. In 1998, the frame was delivered to Sanborn Mills Farm to be rebuilt on the site where Jeremiah Sanborn’s house had once stood. 

Jeremiah’s original house was 15 feet wide and 40 feet long with 6-foot ceilings.  Apparently Jeremiah, a cattle driver, stood only 5 feet tall, had eleven children, and was known as “40 foot Sanborn”…). The ell of that house covered the well in the front yard. His barn, which once housed a clapboard mill, was across the road. The barn and mill were sold to a dealer and removed sometime in the 1990s.  When the Red House was rebuilt on the house site, old hand-hewn timbers and up-and-down sawn lumber were salvaged for reuse and the remains of the old house were buried under the current driveway.

The Red House as it stands today is remarkably high-posted for one of its time period. The new ell is framed of hemlock grown nearby and planed on four sides. The new colonial chimney has 20,000 bricks salvaged by the mason from the Pittsfield cotton mill. Today, the Red House provides housing for interns and workshop participants.

R2 – Grano (Bachelder-Edgerley) Barn

This barn stood from 1806 until 1998 on Route 4 in Northwood, New Hampshire.  Sanborn Mills Farm acquired the barn from the state of New Hampshire, which had condemned it and seized it from its former owner because of a planned road expansion to accommodate a traffic light. Because it was in a historic district it had to be re-used as a farm structure. 

The barn was disassembled during the summer of 1998 and stored in a trailer until the summer of 2003 when Sanborn Mills Farm held a workshop led by Kevin Fife to build the dry-laid stone foundation on top of a 4-foot concrete frost wall. Two weeks later, a timber framing workshop to raise the frame, led by Steve Fifield of Fifield Building Removal and Restoration, was held.  The bents were raised by over 35 people working together over one weekend in an event that became a community celebration.  Later that summer the barn was sheathed and roofed by Steve and his crew.

The barn measures 38 by 53 feet and the plates are single poles. The only replacements in the frame were a rafter, several purlins, and a piece of the girt (chestnut) at the corner furthest from the road.  When the decision was made to use the barn for oxen workshops, it became clear that the old tie up side of the barn would not be big enough for modern animals.  Using traditional timber framing techniques, a series of stalls and mangers with shaved poles and neck chains was installed on the old hay mow side of the barn, with a floor above to hold hay bales.  A tool room and a milk room completed the barn. The structure is used for our oxen workshops and occasional special events.

R4 – Corn Crib

This corn crib stood by Peter Fife’s barn on Borough Road in Canterbury, New Hampshire for forty years.  He got it from somewhere else; we just haven’t been able to get a straight answer as to where.  The frame and walls of the building are made entirely of American chestnut.  A new cedar-shingle roof and trim boards were put on by Sanborn Mills Farm interns Aaron Swiger and Ben Lefebvre during the summer of 2007.  With the improvements, the corn crib is theoretically squirrel-proof.   During a cornhusking celebration, 100 pairs of hands can husk two acres worth of corn in under an hour, which is usually enough to feed our pigs for the next year.

R5 – Turkey Palace

After the Grano Barn was erected nearby there was need for a building to shelter turkeys.  The Cabots owned several businesses that had collectively about 150 employees.  For several years, each employee received a Thanksgiving turkey grown on the farm.  The large picture windows in the building make the place look more inviting than a purpose built shed for meat birds.  After the businesses were sold the building was used for growing piglets, and sheltering oxen.  Today the building is the farm’s utility shop and the attic holds things like storm windows and screens that are rotated every six months.  Who knows what it will become next.


Sanborn Mills Inc. is a 501©3 nonprofit corporation created for the purpose of restoring and endowing the core buildings of Sanborn Mills Farm.  Contributions to Sanborn Mills, Inc. are tax deductible.

Sanborn Mills Farm

7097 Sanborn Road

Loudon, New Hampshire

(603) 435-7314