Smith Merrill Painting
The Old Town House is an example of a colonial meetinghouse. These simple,
unembellished structures were originally used for both religious worship and town
business, and were the central focus of most New England towns. As sites of the first town
meetings, meetinghouses are considered the birthplace of small town democracy. The
Thornton meetinghouse was erected in 1789, just eight years after the town was
incorporated, which may make it the oldest standing structure in town. The first town
meeting was held there in 1790 when just a few hundred people lived in town. The
Congregational Church held services at the meetinghouse until 1820 and then built its own
building following the passage of the 1819 NH Toleration Act, which established the
separation of church and state by prohibiting taxation for church purposes. The last town
meeting held at the Thornton Town House was in 1954.

The Thornton Historical Society is working toward restoring the Old Town House. Once it
has been restored, the Society plans to use the building as a town museum. Stay tuned!

Read a full report on the town house here.

In 2009, the Thornton Historical Society was successful in getting the Old Town House
listed on the NH State Register of Historic Places.
Old Town House
Copyright 2012 Thornton Historical Society
16 Merrill Access Road
Thornton, NH 03285
Thornton Historical Society
Old Town House Building Study

The following work was identified by Bedard
Preservation and Restoration for the preservation
and future use of the Old Town House. It is expected
that the work will be completed in phases as grants
and other funding become available.

-Create a new parking area and footpath to improve
parking and safety for both the town house and ball

-Remove existing bathrooms at back of town house;

-Raise the elevation of the building approximately
2.5 feet and pour a new foundation;

-Build a new ADA compliant covered ramp and
bathroom at the back of the town house;

-Install a well and septic system.

The Thornton Historical Society will provide
updates as this plan is put into action. Donations to
the Building Fund are always gratefully accepted
and will be used in the implementation of the plan.

Eighth-grader Smith Merrill, whose family has lived in
Thornton for generations, donated a painting of his own
creation depicting the Old Town House. In this photo, Smith
presents his painting to the Thornton Historical Society.
From L to R: Sally Kriebel, Thornton Historical Society
member; Smith Merrill; Pauline Hicks, Thornton Central
School Social Studies Teacher; and Margaret Kingston, Art