Blame it on Mabel
In 1980, Mabel Bartlett approached Alison Parodi saying, “you should rent this building; you know a lot of people who make things.” She was right; Alison did (and still does) know a lot of people who make things.
Interestingly, Mabel didn’t even own the building, though records indicate that her father had owned it until 1947. Born in 1891, and having lived out her life in Gossville, Mabel had a long history and more than a few fond memories associated with the building. She just wanted to see it being well-used for the benefit of the local community.
At the time, Alison was part of a local food co-op, to which people had begun bringing handmade crafts to sell –even though no one had solicited them to do so. The practice probably began because they had no other accessible outlet for their wares. This gave Alison the idea to ask if they’d be interested in forming a craft co-op and by the spring of 1981, NH Valley Artisans was open for business with 22 members participating!
We think Mabel would be pleased by the result of her suggestion. Nearly 40 years later, NH Valley Artisans is still going strong with dozens of artisans participating, including four of the original members from 1981; Alison, Joyce Lemay, Deb Libby and Joyce Heck.
The punishing cold and snow of New Hampshire winters made it clear from that start that doing business in this un-insulated building would need to be a seasonal operation. And so, we are open each year from late April through the end of December.
This history of the building
Our story wouldn’t be complete without sharing a little bit about the history of the building we occupy.
This building was originally located in Suncook (a four mile area along the Suncook River in Pembroke and Allenstown) and moved to its present location in this section of Epsom known as Gossville, sometime in the late 19th century. A number of other neighboring buildings came from Suncook around the same time.
Upon arriving in Gossville, it was put to use as a store house for the Silver and Hall general store that was located in the still-standing building across the road. It became known as the Flour House and held surplus items like feed, kegs of nails and, of course, sacks of flour.
In 1914 Silver and Hall was sold, along with the Flour House, and became Silver and Young. The Young in this equation was Burt D. Young, Mabel’s father. After enjoying 30 years of success as Silver and Hall, the store operated successfully for another 30 years as Silver and Young.
A favorite story related to our home stars Clarence the horse. Clarence was used to shuttle arriving goods from the train station, located a few hundred feet behind the general store, to the Flour House. According to Mabel, Clarence became so familiar with the route that he could regularly be seen making the trip all by himself.
The building has served many other purposes over the years. Of note are its use as a wheelwright shop in the late 19th century –which explains the wagon wheel that still hangs from the ceiling today– and it’s first incarnation as a gift shop in the mid 20th century as the Pine Shop, featuring handmade pine furniture and a creative collection of items derived from pine trees.
There were a few additional short-lived ventures housed here before Mable approached Alison in 1980 but it seems NH Valley Artisans will go into the history books as the longest running use for this quaint, rustic space, and we couldn’t be happier about it.