To Develop & Advance Passion for History, Nature, and the Arts.
A visit to the Woodman Museum offers an intimate and personal opportunity for visitors to explore and experience history, natural sciences, and the arts.
The Woodman, founded in 1916, is a traditional early 20th-century style natural science, history, and art museum with exhibits for all ages. The museum’s collection includes hundreds of colonial artifacts; comprehensive mineral, shell and fossil gallery; mounted animal specimens; fine art and furniture; an extensive collection of militaria; local history objects; and much more.
Built by Captain William Palmer, for his private residence, in 1818. Palmer lived here until 1822 when he swapped houses with Charles Woodman, a wealthy Dover merchant; a member of the Legislature from 1820-1822, and in 1822 was Speaker of the House. His tenure in the house was short, however. In 1822 he died, aged 32, leaving his wife Dorothy (Wheeler) Woodman and three month old son Charles. The elder Charles’ widow remarried three years later to Daniel M. Christie, a successful attorney, head of the N.H. bar for many years, and the father of three N.H. chief justices. He lived there until 1849 with his wife and as a widower after that until his death in 1876.
Built by Captain William Palmer for Dover Industrialist John Williams in 1813. Williams was the founder of the Dover Cotton Factory in 1812. He also built another cotton mill (Dover, later Cocheco Manufacturing Company), the Cocheco Printworks and a nail factory. This stately brick home on Central Ave was Williams’ residence until November, 1840, when he sold it to John Parker Hale. Williams, one the wealthiest and influential men in the state, managed to lose his fortune and died a poor man in Boston just three years later, although his efforts brought great prosperity to Dover.
Built by Deacon John Damm and his son William around 1675 as one of fourteen fortified homes known to have existed in the colonial period of Dover’s history. Lived in for nearly 200 years by The Damm, Drew, Nute, and Hayes families of Dover, it remains the only example of Dover’s garrison houses and one of just a few to remain anywhere. To Mrs. Ellen (Peavey) Rounds belongs the credit of restoring and preserving this very interesting, historic house – the oldest house in Dover. Mrs. Rounds not only kept the house from going to ruin but, as the years went by, she collected valuable historic artifacts and has arranged them in the garrison for exhibition.
Built in 1825 for Asa Tufts, owner of Tufts Apothecary. In 1847, his son Charles took over the shop as Asa became involved in banking and insurance until his death in 1884. The house was purchased in 1917 by F. Clyde Keefe, a local attorney and twice mayor of Dover from 1934-35 and again from 1942-47. The home remained in the Keefe family for three generations. The Museum acquired the Keefe House in 2004 through a fundraising campaign and used half of the over $500,000 raised for major restorations to the home throughout several years.
Absolutely THE best experience with my grandsons. Mark, our tour guide was fantastic. He tuned into my 10 and 12-Year-old grandsons and connected with them in a way his mother or I could not.
I’ve been here many times over the years, my latest excursion was for the middle school art show. My daughter had some pieces in it. This is a great spot to see the oldest house in New Hampshire, some unique ephemera and pieces from the area, as well as learning about the great local history.
Excellent collection of artifacts covering many centuries of Colonial history. Loved the garrison home… a real snapshot in time. A must-see for any avid historian.
Never heard of this museum until I got the NH museum passport. What a sight to see! They have so many different exhibits and things about Dover and America from years ago. I would highly recommend this museum! By far one of the best I’ve been to over the years and the tour guide they had was excellent.
Born in nearby Rochester NH, John Parker Hale is best known as the first avowed Abolitionist Senator in the United States. It is an odd irony that, in the two decades Hale was in the Senate, Dover profited from the manufacture of cotton products that were produced by Southern slave labor. Living in William’s own house, Hale took a solid stand against slavery - a position that earned him enmity from Southern leaders, even a death threat on the Senate floor from a colleague. It also earned Hale a statue in 1892 on the lawn of the state capitol in Concord, NH, where his figure now stands with Daniel Webster, President Franklin Pierce and John Stark.
Today, the collections throughout two of the three floors of the Hale House are arranged into galleries displaying Hale Family artifacts, local and regional history, New England period furniture, fine and decorative arts and more.
The younger Charles Woodman inherited the estate from his mother. A successful financier and manager of the Strafford Savings Bank, he resided here throughout his life. He married twice: his first wife, Hannah (Coffin) Woodman, died in 1854 and in 1856 he married Annie (Allen) Woodman. When she died in January 1915, Annie Woodman left the sum of $100,000 “for the establishment …of an institution for the promotion of education in science and art and the increase and dissemination of general and especially historical knowledge.” The trustees of the estate acquired the Woodman house and the adjoining Hale House, which by chance came on the market that same year. The renovation of the interior was directed by local architect J. Edward Richardson, and the Institute opened in July, 1916.
Today, the collections throughout the three floors of the Woodman House are arranged into galleries displaying natural science (mounted specimens, rocks and minerals, fossils, seashells), Native American culture, military history, “childhood” history (schools, Scouting, toys, games and dolls), seasonal themed exhibits and more.
In 1915, Col. Daniel Hall (the founding Head Trustee of the Woodman Museum) had an interview with Mrs. Rounds and broached the matter of having the garrison and its contents removed to the grounds of the Woodman Museum. The proposition proved to be acceptable to her; in due time she made a formal gift of the Damm garrison to the Museum. Daniel Chesley was entrusted with the task of removing the house to its new home; it took him one week, using wooden rollers and a horse, to move the garrison to the grounds. Local architect J. Edward Richardson directed the construction of the protective outer “colonnade” building that surronds and protects the garrison currently.
Today, the collections throughout the two floors of the William Damm Garrison House are arranged into galleries displaying local Colonial and Early American history.
Today, the first floor of the Keefe House (the Thom Hindle Gallery) features rotating artist and artisan exhibitions throughout the year. The second floor of the Keefe House (the Robert Whitehouse Library) serves as administrative offices and a climate controlled archive. The attached two story Carriage Barn houses local and regional transportation, trades, farm, and household collections.