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Planning for and Constructing Hills Memorial Library

Architects Drawing

Hills Memorial Library at the corner of Library and Ferry Streets was dedicated June 11, 1909 and opened for the first day on June 12. Let’s look at the history behind the planning and construction of the library which served our town for over 100 years.

Prior to June 1909 our town library, The Greeley Public Library, was located on the third floor (Webster Hall) of the Baker Brothers Building on Central Street; named for Dr. Adoniran Judson Greeley a Hudson native. By his will and the generosity of his heirs some 1,878 books from his private collection were selected for the library. This library was organized in 1894 and was located at the home of George A. Merrill on Maple Avenue for about one year. The books were then moved to the third floor of the Baker Building on Central Street where it remained for some 14 years. During these years the ‘bridge section’ of our town was growing! The bridge to Nashua plus three trolley lines were transforming the Bridge Area into the business center of Hudson.

In July 1903, almost 6 years before the opening of the Hills Library, Kimball Webster purchased land at the corner of Ferry and Sanders (now Library) Streets from the Nashua Coal and Ice Company. Yes, an icehouse did exist on the lot at the time. Webster realized the need for a permanent and centrally located building and realized that suitable sites were being taken up for other purposes and prices were increasing. He purchased this lot with the intent of having it for a library building when the time came. He gifted it to the town in September 1904 with well considered stipulations. The lot was for a library building facing Sanders Street with no buildings between it and the street. The town had the obligation to erect a reasonable and respectable building. In no case was the town ever to sell, dispose or convey these premises or any part to any person or corporation. If sold or attempted to sell the land would immediately revert to the donor or his estate.

With this gift the town was assured of a prime location for a library and waited for a proper building!! Hudson did not have long to wait. The right people were Dr. Alfred K. Hills, his wife Ida Virginia, and her mother Mary Creutzborg.

Dr. Hills was born in Hudson, October 1840, to Alden and Nancy (Currier) Kimball Hills. Alden was a direct descendent of James Hills who, with his brothers, were the first settlers of this town. Dr. Hills married Martha P. Simmons, June 1865. She passed in June 1885; they had no children. Soon thereafter in June 1887 he married Ida Virginia Creutzborg of Philadelphia. Dr. Hills purchased his family homestead on Derry Road, where he built their summer residence which he named “Alvirne”. It was here that he and his wife spent the summer seasons for many years, residing in New York during the winter. They had two daughters who passed in infancy. Mrs. Hills passed I May 1908.

Mrs. Hills was an educated and refined lady with a happy and cheerful disposition with a generous, philanthropic nature and prominent in town for more than 20 years. Dr. and Mrs. Hills had a vision to erect a building for a town library. His own library at “Alvirne”, a product of Mrs. Hills’ brain in conjunction with their architect Hubert Ripley, was a working model for such a building.

Soon after her passing Dr. Hills proceeded with her wishes. Working with the architect plans were made for a building of stone which would be ornamental and convenient. A plan was presented to the selectmen with the request they call a special town meeting for its consideration. Here, on September 1, 1908 the town voted to accept the gift from Dr. Hills. In essence he would build the library at his expense which would be essentially like the sketch presented at the meeting. This sketch is a part of the collection of the Historical Society. Named “Hills Memorial Library”, it would be built on the lot previously donated by the Honorable Kimball Webster, house the collection of the Greeley library and be maintained by the town as long as it exists. Construction began in October of 1908.

In a report to the town in early November 1908 Dr. Hills acknowledged the thanks and well wishes of the people. With the passing of his wife that same year, their planned gift would occur earlier than expected. He also announced that he would be joined in the endeavor by Ids Virginia’s mother. With solid progress so early it was his hope that the roof would be on by the end of the fall so that interior work could occur during the winter months. On June 11, 1909, the twenty-second anniversary of Dr. Alfred Hills and Ida Virginia Creutzborg, the Hills Memorial Library was dedicated. It was opened for the first exchange of books on June 12, 1909.

Hill Under Construction Fall 1908

 

The second photo shows the construction crew on the unfinished steps of the library. The roof is complete or nearly completed. I date this photo as late all 1908.

By the early 1980’s the expansion of the library services began to outgrow the capacity of the building. These pressures were eased by a bookmobile in 1977 and later with two satellite buildings in the rear of the main building. Attempts were made to expand the building but the plans did not get the approval of the voters. In 2007 a donation from the Rodgers Brothers was made and graciously accepted for a new library facility in memory of their parents, George and Ella M. Rodgers.

In 1984 the Hills Memorial Library Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 2012 added to the New Hampshire Register of Historic Places.

In preparing this article I have relied upon various sources: History of Hudson, Documentation presented for inclusion on the National Register, Library history prepared by Laurie Jasper, and newspaper articles from the Nashua Telegraph.  Written by Ruth Parker and edited by Steve Kopiski.

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Revisit Lowell Road – 87 Lowell Road – Corner of Birch and Lowell

                                  87 Lowell Road C 1977

 

For years 87 Lowell Road was the home of Etienne J. and Rose Levesque. This couple raised a family of 2 boys (Leo Paul and Robert) and 3 girls (Marie Anne, Eva, and Cecil). He was employed at and later retired from John Mansville in Nashua. Mr. Levesque passed in November 1968 with a family of some 17 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. During these years the family saw many changes along Lowell Road. Prior to 1962 Birch Street did not exist; by 1962 Birch Street connected Lowell Road with Winnhaven Drive.
Soon after his passing this “fine commercial site” at the southern corner of Birch and Lowell was cleared for development. A stately willow tree was sectioned and hauled away. The former Levesque home was raised off its foundation and moved 1/4 mile down Birch Street by local contractor, John Lester. This home remains today at 13 Birch Street as a private residence and the home of Richard and Shirley Nason and their family.
By 1970 a 3-store front building was constructed on this corner and occupied by Cumberland Farms, Anton’s Cleaners, and Russel and Son’s Carpets. Within a few years Anton’s relocated and Cumberland expanded into their space. The carpet place was replaced by Cardinal Reality and later by Hudson House of Pizza. This week’s photo, from the collection of the Historical Society, was taken about 1977 for publication in the history update, Town In Transition. Cumberland Farms and Hudson House of Pizza remained at this location until just a few years ago. This location is now occupied by Veria Pizza and Hudson Mini Mart. Written by Ruth Parker.

Route of the Steam Railroad Part 3

            Tracks Passing By 10 Windham Road

After crossing over the electric car tracks on the trestle behind Burger King in Hudson Center the steam railroad continued its path onward to the rear of the Baptist Church and the street level crossing at Greeley Street and then to the Hudson Depot. The depot was located behind the dwelling at what is now 238 Central Street and Wattannick Hall. From behind the grange hall the railroad passed through Dr. David O. Smith’s garden and close by the porch on the front of his house. The tracks then crossed Windham Road onto wood and farmland on route to West Windham. If you find this difficult to picture remember the home of Donna Boucher at 8 Windham Road was not there at the time as it was in its previous location on Hamblett Avenue. The first photo shows the tracks near the front porch of Dr. Smith’s home now located at 10 Windham Road.

To visualize the remainder of the route to West Windham remember that the current route 111 from Hudson Center to West Windham was not constructed until the early 1960’s and when it was built much of the road bed was placed on or close to the right of way to the railroad. Windham Road was the main road from Hudson Center to West Windham. At the time of the railroad Windham Road included the road of today plus a section which has since been abandoned and a section which today is called Lawrence Road. At that time Windham Road took a sharp left curve near the homestead of Albert Smith; the roadway after this curve has since been renamed Lawrence Road.

                     Crossing Sign at Clement Road

After crossing Windham Road the next crossing was at Clement Road near the site of the present Tip-Top Tree service. The second photo shows the sign at Clement Road giving warning of the railroad crossing. The house in the photo was the old Clement farmhouse which burned in 1935. From here the tracks headed east toward the farm of Albert E. Smith. The tracks departed from Windham Road as they went to the rear of the farmhouse and barn, continued through woods and farmland to return to Windham Road near Lawrence Corner. Lawrence Corner was at the intersection of Windham Road (now Lawrence Road) with Bockes Road, and an extension to Robinson Road (now abandoned).

              Fatal Accicent March 1906

The line through Hudson consisted of a single set of tracks, making the use of proper schedules and signals vitally important. On March 17, 1906 the tracks just east of Lawrence Corner near Beaver Brook was the site of a head on crash which left 3 fatalities and several injuries. On that day at 5:00 am westbound train 341 and eastbound train 372 met in a head-on collision which was so severe that both engines were destroyed and cars were derailed. Each of these were extra freight trains; 341 coming westbound from Rochester and 372 eastbound from Acton. The accident was caused by a mix up in the signals. Newspaper reports indicate that over the next few days over 1,000 people visited the site to view the wreckage.

From this point the rail line continued through rural countryside to the Anderson station at West Windham near the intersection of route 111 with route 128.

These photos are from the collection at the Historical Society or from editions of the Nashua Telegraph.  Written by Ruth Parker.

Revisit Lowell Road … Hudson Super Duper

Grand Opening Super Duper 1970

As early as the mid 1950’s the ‘go-to’ grocery store for many Hudson residents, especially those living on or near Lowell Road, was the Hudson Super Market owned and operated by Robert “Bob” and Doris Provencal. Hudson was a fast growing town and business expanded so that by September 1970 the Provencal family held the grand opening of The Hudson Super Duper as shown in this week’s first photo. This event included onsite broadcasting of a local radio station, door prize of 18 inch portable TV, and special sale prices from all departments within the store.

The story of The Hudson Super Market, The Super Duper, and later The Piggly Wiggly, is also the story of Bob and Doris Provencal and their family. It began as early as 1936. Bob, then 16, lived with his family a short distance from what would later become the Super Duper. Bob needed extra money to buy a car. He had the idea of making bleach water and selling it for .20 a gallon to neighbors and friends. His efforts were profitable enough so he could purchase his first car. At 18 he took over his father’s filling station in Hudson as a mechanic. Again he was successful and needed to hire extra people.

After our country became involved with World War II, Bob wanted to enlist in the Army. His classification made him not eligible. Wanting to do something to help, he closed the gas station and went to work at Fort Devens where he ran a dynamometer and tested White Engines. By 1945 he met and married Doris Ledoux, also of Hudson. Soon thereafter he resigned from Fort Devens and re-opened the gas station, hoping to settle in Hudson; but there was a lack of housing in town so they settled in Nashua while making plans for and building an apartment building in Hudson. The rent they received would help pay the mortgage plus they would have a place to live in Hudson. As things were looking bright for the young couple, they were saddened by the loss of their first born son at the age of 10 days.

For her own health Doris knew she should keep busy. She suggested they put an extension onto their house so she could open a small store. This they did, and Doris ran the store where she met people while Bob ran the business of his own across the street. They added a grill and soda fountain and the endeavor became an immediate success. When not busy in the station he would help Doris in the store. One could say ‘the rest is history’.

The Hudson Super Market was opened in October 1952. Business grew and the store was expanded. A few years later the family realized the existing store could not accommodate the growing demands. On September 2, 1970 the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Hudson Super Duper took place. That same year Bob Provencal was named Grocer of the Year by The NH Grocers Association. Doris and Bob had a family of 2 sons (Greg and Donald) and 1 daughter (Charlene). The family grew up with the grocery business; and by 1970 Charlene was studying floral arrangement in Boston. She would later open her own Charlene’s Flower Shoppe nearby on Lowell Road. Donald was managing the frozen food department in the family store; and Greg was studying business in a local college.

By 1972 the Provencal family aligned their Super Duper Market with the Piggly Wiggly enterprise. This Super Market, along with Shop and Wash, and Richard Coiffures were located on Lowell Road, a major part of The Super Duper Shopping Center in Hudson.

Citizens Plaza 2006

By 1977 The Nashua Trust Company, which held the mortgage, foreclosed on the Piggly Wiggly building. Two business remained there as tenants: Richard Coiffures and the Shop and Wash Laundromat and Dry Cleaners. In 1979 Nashua Trust announced its plans to build a new banking facility on this location and the two remaining tenants had to vacate. By 1980 construction was completed and The Nashua Trust moved from its location at 1 Derry Street to open its Hudson Community Banking Center at 71 Lowell Road. Since that time due to bank mergers and closures the Nashua Trust became The First NH Bank and later Citizens Bank. Our second photo shows this site in 2006 – home to Brooks Pharmacy, Citizens Bank, and Hudson Chamber of Commerce.  Written by Ruth Parker.

 

Route of the Steam Railroad Part 2

“Long Crossing” on Central Street

Crossing Melendy Road near the intersection with Central Street the tracks went almost parallel and south of Central Street on the course toward Hudson Center. They went just north of Melendy Pond and through the back yard of what is now 91 Central Street heading towards Melendy Brook; which is also called Hadley Brook and First Brook. In this part of the route Central Street was north of the tracks.

Shortly after crossing the brook Central Street and the railroad tracks converged and ultimately Central Street crossed the tracks in such a manner that Central Street took a diagonal turn to the south. This placed the street on the south side of the tracks. This crossing was referred to as Central Street Crossing or also as Long Crossing. The switching of the street from the north to the south of the tracks resulted in a situation where oncoming auto traffic seemed to be approaching on the driver’s right which contributed to mishaps, particularly after dark. The name Long Crossing referred to the angle at which Central crossed the tracks. Once the railroad line was abandoned this diagonal turn was eliminated and that section of Central Street was straightened. The land taking to accomplish this resulted in narrow frontage for odd numbered houses near 91 Central Street whereas the opposite side ended up with wide frontage.

After crossing to the north of Central Street the tracks proceeded onto private land; next to emerge at the street level crossing with Burnham Road just below Alpine Avenue. There are two ‘dips’ in the road are apparent to this day. This street level crossing was called `Betsy Cutter Crossing’ and the road was known as Cutter Road. The crossing and the road were named for Betsey Cutter, a Revolutionary War Pensioner whose husband was a veteran. She applied for and received his pension. The road has since been changed to Burnham Road.

Tracks Through Westview Cemetery

The railroad bed is still very pronounced as it goes through the wooded section of Westview Cemetery. This is easily walked and takes one north of properties on Central Street. The track bed crosses Merrill Brook over a stone culvert. Some maps identify the railroad track bed through Westview Cemetery as the right of way for the trolley. These maps are in error. The trolley approached Hudson Center via Ferry Street; proceeding into a wooded area at the beginning of Burnham Road.

A section of the old electric car (trolley) bed may be seen beyond the swamp to the north of the railroad bed. The trolley tracks take a sharp turn towards Central Street and cross under the railroad right of way just east of White Birch and behind Burger King where one can see the remains of the stone trestle which carried the trains to the Hudson Center station; crossing over the trolley tracks which carried the trolleys on to Pelham.

 

Railroad Trestle at Hudson Center

The train tracks continued east where a row of pines marks the railroad bed before it passed close behind the First Baptist Church. Crossing at Greeley Street the trains arrived at the Hudson Center Station. It was here that animals and patrons arrived to go to Benson’s. Animals were shipped here and some were walked along the road to the farm. The Jungle Train from Boston brought people on excursions. There was a freight house and siding for handling goods.
The station was later made into a dwelling, but when it was no longer in use it was moved to Benson Park. It has since been renovated and can be seen at the entrance to the park. Leaving the station trains passed along the north wall of the Grange Hall (formerly the Town Hall) and crossed Windham Road heading towards Windham.

Revisit Lowell Road … 74 and 76 Lowell Road C1977

Looking North at 74 and 76 Lowell Road C 1977

 

 

We revisit 74 and 76 Lowell Road! Since the mid 1960’s we have seen major growth and change occur along Lowell Road. This site at 74 and 76 Lowell is no exception!!

This week we look north from Birch and Lowell onto 74 and 76 Lowell Road. Prior to 1966 74 Lowell Road was home to Xavier and Exillia Gagnon and their family. At that time they moved to a house on B Street in Hudson. Xavier was employed and later retired from Johns Manville Products Corp of Nashua. He passed in 1969 after living in Hudson for 43 years. His family included his wife, Exillia, 2 sons, 2 daughters, and 4 grandchildren. By 1966 the house at 74 Lowell was removed and soon replaced with The Hudson ’66’ Service Station; it is now a Sunoco Station.

By 1970 76 Lowell was under construction and it became the home of Star Dry Cleaners, later Anton’s Cleaners. By 1977, as shown in this weeks photo, it was the location of Halls Market. By 1980 the site expanded to include Halls Market, Prime Graphics, Superior Floor Company, and Suzies Donut and Coffee Shop. Over time Halls Market transitioned to Palmer’s Market and Kay’s Diner along with other business like Shear Paradise and Kay’s Laundry. Today this is the location of the popular Suzie’s Diner.

Contrast this photo with the busy intersection at Birch Street we see today and the filled parking lot across the way. Photo taken for publication in the Town in Transition and is part of the Historical Society Collection.

Route of the Steam Railroad Part 1

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Iron Railroad Bridge C 1912

Written by Ruth Parker

This is the first of three articles which traces the route taken by the steam railroad in it’s four mile stretch through Hudson.

The Nashua and Rochester railroad began operation of a single track route through Hudson in 1874 with a single station which was located in Hudson Center off Greeley Street and behind the Town Hall (now Wattannick Hall the home of Hudson Grange). This line provided passenger and freight services in both directions. After 1910 business on this line was on the decrease and the station closed about 1922 with passenger service continuing until 1934. O the station closed passengers boarding the train at Hudson Center would purchase tickets from the conductor. The line east of Hudson to Fremont, NH was abandoned by 1935; leaving Hudson as a branch line out of Nashua. Hudson remained an important stop because of Benson’s Wild Animal Farm and the Jungle train which brought passengers from Boston’s North Station to the Animal Farm on Sunday’s. The price of the train ride included admission to Benson’s.

Coming east from Nashua trains crossed the Merrimack River about 60 rods south of the Taylor Falls Bridge and proceeded on a north-east direction to Hudson Center and then on to Anderson Station in West Windham, a four plus mile route At first there was a wooden bridge across the river, but it was burned when set afire by sparks from a locomotive traveling on it. It was replaced in 1910 by an iron bridge, the metal later being salvaged for use during World War II to support the war effort. Our first photo shows the iron bridge C 1912 looking north (upriver) to the concrete Taylors Falls bridge. The abutments from the railroad bridge are still visible in the river as you cross from Nashua into Hudson. . These abutments can also be seen on the Hudson side of the river at Merrill Park. This park is located on land which includes the railroad right-of-way. Our second photo shows the entrance to Merrill Park which sits on the former railroad right-of-way. Part of the old railroad bed is also visible opposite the entrance to the Park and near the end at Fulton and Gillis Streets.

Entrance to Merrill Park

Entrance to Merrill Park former right-of-way

The trains climbed a grade from the river’s edge heading toward Hudson Center. The tracks crossed Lowell Road between the residence at 1 Lowell Road and the business at 5 Lowell Road. The train crossed Lowell Road and the street railway (trolley) on a trestle at the junction of Lowell and Central Streets as seen by our third photo. In this photo the home on the right is currently 65 Central and the house in mid picture is 1 Lowell Road.

overpass at Lowell Road

Railroad Overpass at Lowell and Central

The tracks then proceeded in a north of east direction along Central Street to a street level crossing of Melandy Road onto town owned land which was the former town barn, later the skate park, and now the pickleball court.

 

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