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Webster Farm Calling All Angels



Merrimack River at Webster Farm in Franklin, NH / Gail Rousseau photo

Colin Cabot says there are 70,000 re-usable square feet of space in the old orphanage complex plus the 1780 farmhouse that can be "a sink hole for money". Plans to stabilize and renovate the buildings and find a tenant or open an historic outdoor museum and recreation area cannot begin until the debt to TPL is paid.

Everyone is optimistic. Major funds have been earmarked, including a large L-CHIP grant and others for a total of $1.68 million currently committed to the project. But the group now needs to raise a total of $2.5 million quickly – as early as this summer -- to accomplish its many goals. Much of the funding is based on a cascading timetable of payments and grant deadlines that is coming due, so the need for private and corporate "angels" has arrived. These critical contributions may determine whether the historic farm survives intact.

TPL, meanwhile, is left "spinning its wheels" according to Cabot.

"The hard cold fact is that the money that we have not raised costs money," he says, and there is a growing fear that the historic buildings, if not quickly cared for, may have to be torn down.

Like Daniel Webster debating the Devil, there is a quiet battle going on here. An important victory is at hand, an irreplaceable piece of New Hampshire may be saved, but the jury is still out.

Iffland recalls the tense zoning board meetings with cinematic clarity. This was not just about saving some old buildings, she says, but a blood fight to keep a classic way of life in New Hampshire from disappearing.

"Old farmers were getting up in overalls and plaid shirts," she says. "It’s the stuff movies are made of. People spoke very passionately from their hearts about the preservation of land."

Iffland, Cabot and Garvin all point out that, from his pastoral farmhouse, Daniel Webster could look out and see the graves of his family. Standing there today, a visitor still sees the same view. Like Daniel, the modern visitor can stroll beside the undulating green rows rising from the black fertile soil and take the old dirt road down a gentle slope to fish in the blue river -- possibly forever.

Copyright © 2006 by J. Dennis Robinson. All rights reserved.



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Wednesday, January 24, 2018 
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