11 Most Endangered Historic Places
Daniel Webster Farm
Year Listed: 2005
Location: New Hampshire
Threat: Deterioration, Development
Photo: Gail Rousseau
Daniel Webster, one of America's foremost statesmen (U.S. Congressman, Senator, presidential candidate, and Secretary of State) and most dynamic orators, maintained his family's Franklin farm as a retreat, a model stock farm, and a meeting place until his death in 1852. The 141-acre property includes the National Historic Landmark-listed Webster/Tay home, several surviving buildings related to the orphanage and convent, the remains of an early fort, and a historic cemetery.
In 1871, the farm became the site of the New Hampshire legislature-chartered New Hampshire Orphans' Home. This home, school, and working farm for children orphaned in the Civil War was one of the first such institutions to be strategically located to take advantage of the health benefits of a rural environment. Additional buildings were added throughout the rest of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century to accommodate more and more children.
In 1960, the renamed Daniel Webster Home for Children was acquired and operated by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. The Sisters remained on the property until 2000, when, faced with dwindling members and financial resources, they placed the farm on the market.
After several years on the market, a developer entered into a purchase agreement to buy the farm in 2005. The developer's plans for the property included the construction of about 130 homes on the agricultural land, and there was no identified use for the complex of historic buildings.