WALPOLE, N.H. – In 2004, when Steve bought the potato barn off of Route 12 in Walpole, the building was in bad shape; the roof and walls were collapsing after 50 or 60 years of neglect. “I felt sorry for it,” he recalled.
Built around 1880, the barn also consists of a granary and a piggery – where livestock was kept. Beneath the granary is another 35 feet separated into three levels. The bottom level even has a brick tunnel that leads to the river, which is believed to have been a route of the Underground Railroad. Another tunnel led to an underground bar that may have been in use as a speakeasy during Prohibition.
In 2011, Steve also purchased the Walpole Inn that resides on the hill just above the Potato Barn. He promptly changed the name to Bellows Walpole Inn for Colonel Benjamin Bellows, since the inn and property was his homestead in 1762. Bellows founded Walpole, but his name also inspired Bellows Falls across the river. Steve believed that using that name for the inn would pull in both communities.
The Bellows Walpole Inn houses eight guest rooms and two apartments. The pub is open for dinner and brunch on Sundays. There, guests can also meet Bobby, the restaurant manager who has a wealth of knowledge on the history of both the inn and the potato barn. A screen porch was added onto the back of the inn during the summer of 2017 where many wooden pieces have been reclaimed from the barn. The porch looks out over the potato barn and leads to a path for guests to venture between the two buildings.
Both Steve and Bobby see a lot of potential in the now renovated potato barn. The granary houses a hall, complete with both the original wood and radiant heat flooring, a balcony, and an industrial look that maintains the integrity of the original structure. The hall could host events such as wedding, conferences, parties, etc.
The Potato Barn itself is expansive with three spacious floors fortified by steel. When contractors asked Steve what he planned for the building, his answer to them was to “overbuild everything.” The top floor of the barn is a large event hall with the original beam work and the two cupolas allowing for sunlight. The hall is handicap accessible and can be entered from the bridge connecting the barn to the inn. Bobby visualizes chandeliers and sconces on some of the wooden beams. There are functioning bathrooms, a coatroom, storage space, and a designated kitchen area. There is also a balcony that looks out over the hall and the beams that used to support the hayloft.
The hall can comfortably fit over 200 people, and has good acoustics and a sturdy floor for concerts and dancing. A masquerade fundraiser even took place in the hall recently, and a wedding is booked for September.
“So many people were critical to this project,” Steve said, also calling himself the steward of the building rather than the owner. Many others have been instrumental in the renovations of the barn, and when it is done Steve will have a plaque dedicated to their work.
The community has been integral in the renovations of the building. Whatever it is used for, Steve also wants it to be artistic and bring in lots of people. “I’d like to think that it will be still be here 300 years from now.”