Historic Harrisville

P.O. Box 79
Harrisville, NH 03450
603-827-3722

Erin Hammerstedt
Executive Director
ehammerstedt@historicharrisville.org

 


 

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Charles Blake and Nubaunsit House

By Jeannie Eastman

In 1881 Charles Asa Blake, of Jaffrey, bought the Union Hotel at the western entrance to Harrisville village, which had been a place of lodging since the late 1860s. Blake reopened it as “Nubaunsit* House.” Because Harrisville Pond was at that time called “Nubaunsit Lake,” the new name given to the hotel seems fair enough, but that didn’t keep John Borden Armstrong from poking a little fun. In Factory Under the Elms, Armstrong’s history of Harrisville, he wrote, “The new name suggests some aspiration for elegance, if not its achievement.”

The Nubaunsit House
Photo from the HHI Archives

Elegant it may not have been, but there were 16 rooms in the hotel, according to a 1900 report in the New Hampshire Sentinel, with “neat white enameled bedsteads and furnishings to match. . .”

Summer or permanent boarders and traveling men made up the clientele, Armstrong reports, but he adds that there were others, too: “Couples of doubtful character and relationship stayed there, the colorful Dr. Byrnes [by reputation a drunkard] lived there for years, and there are reports that prostitutes were sometimes brought into the hotel from cities like Manchester and Lowell. It is local opinion that at the turn of the century Charles Blake was making more money from the sale of illegal (and watered) whiskey than he was from the hotel itself. Whatever the means, Nubaunsit House managed to keep its doors open well into the 20th century.”

The Nubaunsit House
Charles Blake sitting on his porch
Photo from the HHI Archives

A few years ago, a hotel register for Nubaunsit House was found and given to Historic Harrisville’s archives. It makes for interesting reading. Paying guests came from as far away as Kalamazoo, Chicago, Arkansas, and Texas, but most commonly from the Monadnock Region or Massachusetts. The register abounds with regulars, such as M. A. Parker of Hancock, who came almost weekly and also boarded a horse or two. There was the occasional prankster, such as the two who registered as George Washington of Mount Vernon, Virginia, and Grover Cleveland of White House, D.C. Once, a guest was simply listed as “Drunk.” And sometimes whole companies checked in, as did the performers for Whittier’s Consolidated Shows on September 12, 1883. The residents of Harrisville were entertained that night by an illusionist, a vocalist, an organist, a comedian, a clown, a song-and-dance artist, a contortionist, a juggler, an animal trainer, and “also many curiosities.”

After reading annual reports for the Town of Harrisville, one might think that Armstrong was not fair to Charles Blake. Records show that he was a laborer for the highway department, sometimes using a team of horses, probably his own. In 1920 he logged 47.5 days and was paid $323.50. He sometimes hauled loads of gravel for the town at ten cents a load. After winter storms he “broke roads” with a huge, horse-drawn snow roller. He was the town’s road agent at least for the year 1925, managing work crews and overseeing expenditures that totaled $4,595. One could say that he was a hardworking and valuable asset to the town despite the rumors of bootlegging.

The Monadnock Hotel
Photo from the HHI Archives

Recently Greg Blake, a great-grandson of Charles and Eva Blake, provided Historic Harrisville’s archives with a photo of Nubaunsit House that is estimated to have been taken around 1900. It shows the large ell at the rear of the hotel and an attached barn, both of which were eventually removed. In front of the house are Charles Blake and his three children with other locals. Greg also sent a photo of the 1855 house across the street, Harrisville’s first and short-lived hostelry, the Monadnock Hotel, which predates even the Union Hotel. He believes that his great-grandparents purchased it so that they could raise their three children away from the confines of the busy hotel. They did, and it was there that they lived out their final years. Charles Blake died May 15, 1934.

The former Nubaunsit House, located at 10 Main Street, was recently purchased by Andrea Hodson and Les Lamois. The former Monadnock Hotel is owned by Barry and Katie Heiniluoma.