Take an illustrated tour through the past with Grantham, N.H.’s living history.
By Hayley Durfor
Grantham’s Historical Places — a book by the Grantham Historical Society, Missy Walla and Sue Anne Bottomley — is a significant first step for anyone interested in learning more about the history of Grantham, N.H. Each historical location is portrayed in its own two-page section, with illustrations and old photographs on the left and a description of its history on the right.
While it is not a comprehensive look at the town’s history, each section serves as its own small window into Grantham’s past. For instance, in the section on the building that currently houses the Grantham Historical Society, the reader learns that it was once known as the Grantham Village School and is taught a brief lesson on the history of public education in Grantham. Another section, on Boulderdale Farm, describes the adaptation of a traditional farm to the incursion of the modern highway system after World War II.
Missy Walla, the book designer and editor, is a volunteer with the Grantham Historical Society. She has lived in Grantham for almost 30 years, and she became a volunteer when she realized how little she knew about its history. She wanted to “learn more about the people and historic places.”
When Walla decided to create Grantham’s Historical Places, she was inspired by a previous book, Colorful Journey: An Artist’s Adventure Drawing Every Town in New Hampshire. That book — by New London, N.H., author and illustrator Sue Anne Bottomley — contains illustrations of all 234 towns in New Hampshire. Walla “loved how she depicted each town…in a beautiful and whimsical watercolor image.”
Walla and Bottomley collaborated on Grantham’s Historical Places, and Walla felt that “Sue Anne went above and beyond just illustrating the buildings.” She added in details like “farm equipment, benches and flowerpots, which brought so much more richness to the overall feel of the book.”
Bottomley creates her illustrations in person. “I stand outside in the weather and use pencil and pen on my sketchbook page. It is a kind of freedom to me to forego photography, and use my eyes as an intuitive lens, carefully choosing the focal points,” she describes. “I move things around a little to improve the composition. Watercolor and colored pencils are added in the studio…finding the essence of a subject is my goal. Then I try to make the image tug at your heart with telling details.”
The last page of Grantham’s Historical Places does not highlight man-made structures, but instead describes two much older, geographical features: Eastman Pond and a large boulder, known as a glacial erratic, on Split Rock Road. Both were created by the presence of the Laurentide Glacier 20,000 years ago.
“It was Sue Anne’s idea to include the glacial erratic,” Walla says. Bottomley describes the erratic as “…a big, impressive reminder of the natural history of the land. I call it wonderful, meaning the rock makes me wonder about glaciers and want to learn more.”
There is also a pullout map on the inside of the back cover, which allows inspired readers to locate and visit each of the historical locations that the book describes.
Grantham’s Historical Places is available for sale at the Grantham Historical Society, and the Grantham branch of Bar Harbor Bank. It is available for check out at Dunbar Free Library, which is also one of the locations featured in the book.
Interested individuals can learn more about the history of Grantham by visiting the Grantham Historical Society. It is open on Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m., and Town Archivist Julie Cummings will also meet with people by appointment.
Hayley Durfor is from New Hampshire. When she is not writing, she can usually be found holed up with a book or a sketchpad.