The G.A.L.A. office is headquartered at the old Ossipee Mt. Grange Hall, where it rents a room out of this unique, historical building. Here is a short history of this magical place:
George O’ Bean built the three-story building on #3 Pork Hill Road in 1904 while living in the neighboring house at the corner of Pork Hill and Water Village Rd. Bean used balloon frame construction, an architecture characteristic of the early 20th century designed to accommodate free movement of large social gatherings. This design also gifted the second-floor venue with stunning acoustics.
The first-floor began as general store where locals could buy eggs, a newspaper, milk, and other staples. Elloise Bean, George’s daughter, managed the store during the 1930’s while living in a small nook on the side of the building. Meanwhile, the second two floors where owned and operated separately by the Ossipee Mt. Grange Association No. 131, a local chapter of the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry. The Grange hosted lectures on rural living and agriculture, community suppers, and social gatherings like dances and concerts.
The Grange was described in an August 19th, 1932 article from the Granite State News titled, Water Village in Days of Yore: Self-Sufficient, Self-Reliant, Self-Dependent Manufacturing Community. The article reported, “dances were held there; the old Wolfeboro Band gave concerts there; Indian medicine shows were held there.” The article continues by illustrating what mid 19th century Water Village looked like with three working mills including a Fulling Mill, Grist Mill, and Saw Mill, as well as the Grange Hall, a Free-Baptist Church, a schoolhouse, a blacksmith, a tannery, and a few general stores.
Grange Brothers and Sisters remained active until about 1950 when the second-floor was sold to the new operators of the first-floor store, Gerald and Martha McDuffee. The McDuffees remain rural legends in the Water Village area. On May 20th, 1986 the front-page story of, Northern Light, read, “The McDuffees of Water Village.” The cover picture showed Gerald and Martha in front of their general store with gleaming, gentle smiles. The reporter described Gerald as a “square shouldered, raw-boned man . . . wearing several sweatshirts, oil stained green workpants, wire rimmed glasses and a fishing cap which doesn’t quite cover a thatch of white that appears to have been home-barbered about the ears. His face beams and a nearly perfect set of white teeth slash a tanned, grizzled face.” Although the Grange was inactive at this time, Gerald and Martha continued to open up their home/shop as a community space for Sunday donuts and other gatherings.
When asked today, many Water Village residents reminisce about their Grange experiences including wedding showers, holiday pageants, oyster suppers, and even Christmas mornings when children flocked to the Hall to collect presents at one of Santa’s most predictable stops.