Wonderwell Mountain Refuge

For over 100 years, this structure has gazed west over meadow and woodland to the peaks of Grantham and Croyden. Though the pastoral landscape of New Hampshire has changed little over the last century, building technology and regulation have undergone a revolution.

The original 1911 building at The Wonderwell Mountain Refuge was constructed as a rural retreat for a wealthy Gilded Age family and, in the intervening decades, had undergone significant changes.

Today, Wonderwell serves as a different kind of home away from home, as a retreat center for the Natural Dharma Fellowship.

To increase its function and capacity, and provide for the long term health of the occupants and their mission, C&H is working to modernize the building for life safety and accessibility, and to improve the cooking facilities and staff accommodations.

The process at Wonderwell has been designed to fit the needs of the organization – to accommodate its programs, its fundraising goals, and the continued operation of the facility. C&H has created a phased approach to the ultimate scope, and is – in 2018 – undertaking the third stage of development with the project team.

Detailed programming at the outset and careful planning throughout have been critical to achieving the goals of the Wonderwell community – for both short term and long.

Project Details

  • New sprinkler, fire safety and life safety upgrades throughout the building.
  • New accessible bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchenette, along with paths of travel & clearances, etc., that will allow Wonderwell to serve a broader constituency in a more egalitarian manner.
  • New commercial kitchen that will bring the dining functions into regulatory compliance, and allow for increased flexibility and capacity, while making use of local produce.


  • New staff accommodations at the lower level as well improvements to the existing staff quarters. Both will take advantage of the sunlight and spectacular views to the west. New office space has been provided on the ground level, and the kitchenette for visiting teachers will be redesigned to meet standards for universal accessibility.
  • There have been substantial improvements to the building envelope that will increase comfort, reduce energy consumption, and lower operating costs. Once heating loads are further reduced, the stage is set for a future transition to a fossil fuel-free heating system in the form of a pellet boiler.

Early conceptual rendering showing the integration of the first floor kitchen and the extrusion of an existing dormer into an new egress stair and porch.

By 2018, Phases I and II are complete, with Phase III underway. The Wonderwell project team will enact upgrades to the commercial kitchen, safety & egress, a new staff apartment, improved common spaces, and an accessible bedroom suite.

Floor Plans

The schematic design for Wonderwell has taken into consideration many diverse aspects of this building’s function and needs. The project scope has been designed to support further phases to accommodate the future needs of the organization. C&H is committed to the evolution of this process.


Project Team


Owner’s Representative

Construction Manager

Structural Engineer

MEP Engineer

Fire Protection Engineer

C&H Architects, Amherst, MA

Bruss Project Management, Concord, NH

Milestone Engineering and Construction, Concord, NH

Structures North, Salem, MA

Petersen Engineering, Portsmouth, NH

Carter Sprinkler, Bow, NH