Lamprey House History & Project

Now a Registered State Historic Site!!!

The Old Moultonboro Inn or The “Lamprey House”

A brief history

of the

Moulton-Mason-French-Richardson-Lamprey House

By Judith A Ryerson

   The large white house next to the Town House in Moultonborough "Corner" is the future center of the Moultonborough Historical Society. And it is appropriate that it be so. The original structure was built in the town's early settler days; it was later home to one of the town's most prominent merchants. It has also been an inn, and a store. Stylistically and structurally it represents a hundred years of growth and change in Moultonborough's development.

   The Moultonborough Historical Society bought the building 9 years ago. Stuart and Robert Lamprey, prominent citizens of Moultonborough and Center Harbor today, grew up in this house which their parents Mary and Robert Lamprey ran as the Moultonboro Inn. They were instrumental in helping the Society acquire the property and are still active in the fund raising effort to allow the building to be resurrected as a museum. To understand why this building would function so well as a museum and interpretive center it is important to know some of its history.

   Simon Moulton owned this land in the early 19th century. Simon was the son of Nathan Smith Moulton a nephew or grandnephew of Col. Jonathan Moulton one of the original proprietors of the town, even before it was a town. Simon either inherited or bought land in the newly emerging center of town, known as Moultonborough Corner, where the roads crossed leading from Center Harbor to Tamworth, and Sandwich to Tuftonboro. By the 1830s it was beginning to resemble a village with a new Town House, a school, a tavern, a couple of stores, an inn, a few houses and several blacksmith shops. Simon Moulton was a blacksmith and a farmer. His land and buildings were next to the Town House and across from the district school. In the 1850s the settled church would build its second meeting house on the other side of the Town House (moved later to its current location and rededicated as the Methodist Church).

   Simon was truly in the center of things. He also owned property north of town east of Berry Pond . In 1843 Simon sold a quarter acre of that land to the Methodist Episcopal Church of the Sandwich circuit which built a meeting house there; it is the nucleus of the large building that for most of the 20th century has been a restaurant under several names--Country Fair, Moultonborough Inn, Maurice's.

   The buildings on Simon Moulton's land next to the Town House probably included a home and sheds, perhaps a smithy, and a barn; architectural historian Allen Charles Hill estimates that the house dates from around 1812. The current house was greatly expanded in the l870s. The current carriage house was moved from across the street when the Laconia Savings Bank could not use it and wanted it to have a proper home.

   Simon Moulton and his wife Lydia had four children (according to town records), Mary (Polly), Eveline, Mehitable and Edward S. In 1842 Eveline married James French, a Tuftonboro merchant; they had four children, Lydia, George, James E., and John Q.A..

   Also in 1842 Dr. William H.H. Mason, recently graduated from Dartmouth, returned home to Moultonboro where his parents and brother had farms on what is now Sheridan road. In 1844 Dr. Mason married Mehitable Moulton. He built an office and stable next to Simon Moulton's place on a third of an acre of land that Simon gave him. That is very likely the land the Dr. Hope building now sits. In 1849 William and Mehitable had a daughter, Elizabeth.

   In early 1851 James French moved his family to Moultonborough were he bought a "Tavern Stand" and 2 acres of land on Holland Street. Later in that year he bought a store and shed and 2 acres on the "highway", that is currently the Old Country Store. James French became a prominent citizen in town. The store prospered; in l861 he was be appointed Postmaster by the Lincoln administration. The wooden mailboxes that now are in the Old Country Store Museum lined the walls to the left as you entered the store. French was also active in local and state politics. And his son James E. followed in his footsteps.

   In 1855 Simon Moulton was taxed on 52.5 acres of land and buildings, including a blacksmith shop. He had been selectmen for one term in the l830s; he didn't appear on the civil lists in any other capacity. In 1860 Simon's wife Lydia died. In l865 he deeded a third of an acre and a blacksmith shop to son-in-law James French. In l867 he died and was buried in the family plot in the Mason cemetery on Sheridan Road.

   Simon left his property to Sarah A. and William H. Brown the children by his oldest daughter Mary. In l874 the Browns sold William H.H. Mason (his former son-in-law), 4 acres and buildings (described thus: "from the South corner of land of WHH Mason on Highway to Moultonborough Falls, so called, to Town House lot," then North Westerly and North Easterly and South and Southeast on Mason) along with 15 acres adjacent to the Methodist Episcopal church for "ten hundred and twenty five dollars", $1,025.

   In l875 William H.H. sold 1 acre and buildings, but retained the barn and right of access to it, to Thomas Choat for $500. Later that year Choat sold the same property to James and James E. French for $600 (65, 156), and in Oct '76, James E. sold his half of the lot to his father for $300 (68,143). For the remainder of the century the property was in the hands of James French and heirs.

   It appears that in the late 1870s James French, a prominent and prosperous man, enlarged and renovated the house in the fashion of the day and lived in it with his wife Eveline, Simon Moulton's daughter, until his death in 1887 at which time Eveline moved away. Hamlin Huntress, manager of the Country Store for James E. French, is listed as living there in l892.

   Eveline French died in 1898. In l901 Elsie Richardson bought the building from Eveline's heirs, having already bought the "Mason Barn" for her husband, and thereby bringing the house and barn back together again.

   Prior to buying the French house, Elsie and her husband Albion had run a boarding house called the Red Hill House which they sold to the Grange. For a while they were housekeepers for Dr. Lovering at the house on the corner that had been the first Methodist Episcopal Church. Between 1898 and 1901, based on tax records, Elsie and husband Albion seem to be making improvements to the French house. Perhaps it is then that the wrap-around verandah was added, a crucial amenity for a boarding house of the period. And so began the history of the house as an inn.

   Robert and Mary Lamprey bought it in 1924 and changed its name to the Moultonborough Inn. They continued to run it as an inn for another couple of decades. In its heyday it attracted visitors on the New Hampshire tour, as well as local folk hungry for Mary Lamprey's duck dinners. Robert Lamprey remembers the annual summer family migration from the second floor to the attic so the returning summer visitors could have the bedrooms. He remembers too, going down the street to the Hillcrest Tavern (currently Maurice's) to count the cars to see if their competition was doing better business. At that time Center Harbor was a thriving resort town and Moultonborough benefited from the overflow.

   A 1920s postcard of the inn shows a proud white building with a wrap around veranda, rocking chairs at the ready (a copy of postcard is on first page of this history, courtesy of Dick Wakefield). The rocking chair brigade at the Red Hill House/Moultonboro Inn looked across green fields and stone walls to the long line of the Ossipee Mountains, a popular turn of the century tourist attraction with its boarding house, park and waterfalls. The inn's business flourished even into the depression years but finally died as the country was drawn into World War II with its attendant rationing. The old inn sat empty until the Lamprey sons sold it to be used as a residence again.

   The house gradually fell into disrepair, part of the verandah, which had been partially enclosed, decayed and was removed. Despite the best efforts of interim owners the old house today is definitely a fixer-upper.

   The Historical Society has already completed many urgent repairs--new roof, rebuilt floors, the removal of a flight of stairs, and inner walls on the first floor. The Society is now in the process of returning the house to its 1920s appearance with new paint and a rebuilt verandah. Eventually the Society expects to use the building as its museum and interpretive center. There could be no better place to study the history of Moultonborough than in this house on this piece of ground.

Anyone wishing to donate towards the Lamprey House Project may send tax deductible donations to: 

                                                       The Moultonborough Historical Society
                                                       P.O. Box 659
                                                       Moultonborough, NH  03254