A driver on Route 113, entering Evans Notch, might be forgiven for supposing the neat-as-a-pin brick Federal set back from the road just east of the New Hampshire border was a cute little post office or inexplicably rural library. In fact, it’s Brickett Place, a 19th-century farmhouse turned interpretive site, the oldest building in the care of the 20-state Eastern Region of the U.S. Forest Service, which has borne witness to some two centuries of change in its mountain surroundings.
Homesteaders John and Catharine Brickett, of New Hampshire, build a wood-framed cabin at the edge of the Maine wilderness, where the road from Chatham dead-ends at the foot of Speckled Mountain.
As other families settle in the surrounding Cold River valley, the Bricketts, apparently prosperous, replace their original home with a one-and-half-story farmhouse made from locally fired bricks.
John and Catharine’s son sells the Brickett family property, which lands in the hands of Major Gideon Alfonso Hastings and his brothers. Hastings is one of several timber barons whose aggressive cutting in the late 19th century begins to dramatically change the character of the Whites, stirring calls for conservation among a growing number of rusticators drawn to the mountains.
Timber interests build a rail line from Gilead, at the north end of Evans Notch, to the Hastings lumber town, some seven miles north of the Brickett Place. One story holds that plans for a line spanning the notch in the 1860s were torpedoed by railroad engineer John Anderson, who exaggerated the grade in order to keep out development.
Amassing acreage to prevent erosion and wildfires from out-of-control private logging, the USFS acquires the Brickett Place in a land deal with the Hastings brothers. In May, President Woodrow Wilson establishes White Mountain National Forest with an executive order.
The Brickett Place becomes the headquarters of the Civilian Conservation Corps as workers extend the road from the old homestead to Gilead, a three-year project resulting in a scenic, meandering byway.
As post-war recreational use takes off in Maine’s corner of the Whites, the USFS sanctions the Appalachian Mountain Club — the first in a series of permittees that later includes the Boy Scouts — to use the Brickett Place as overnight hiker lodging.
The Brickett Place joins the National Register of Historic Places, whose records describe it as “a unique example of vernacular Federal architecture in a very remote geographical context.”
The building reverts to USFS control, three years after the U.S. Congress designates the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness out its back door.
Rehabbed a decade ago by a federal preservation team — damaged bricks replaced, roof and floors repaired, new windows installed, and more — the Brickett Place is now a wilderness info station, where volunteers from the White Mountains Interpretive Association can hold forth on Leave No Trace principles or how Maine’s nubbin of national forest came to be.