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Monthly Archives: February 2016

Area Surrounding Library and Webster School C 1910

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Area Surrounding Library and Webster School C 1910

From this early post card of Webster School, Hills Memorial Library, and the surrounding area we get an idea of what this section of town looked like about 1910.   Kimball Webster School (right) had been in use since it’s completion in 1896.  The new Hills Memorial Library (left) was  completed in 1908.  The photo  for this post card was taken from an open field across the street from Webster School at the corner of School and Library Streets.  In fact, what is now Library Street was barely a dirt road in this picture.  One can locate the road by following the utility pole.  An 1892 map of Hudson shows an ice house where the Hills Library is located and what is now Library Street was called Sanders Street.
Looking beyond these buildings and along Ferry Street we see very little construction.  On Ferry Street and opposite the library is the home at what is now 42 Ferry Street; known by many as the Cunningham home and now owned by Kurt Smith.  On the knoll behind the library and the school we see another early home;  most likely the home at what is now 55 Ferry Street.
Today this open field is the site of the Leonard Smith Fire Station and the Town Office Building; built in the  the 1950’s and 1960s respectively.  Before these buildings this field was a popular playground; used during pre-school,recess, and after school activities for Webster School.  During the spring and summer months this field was used by the Recreation Department for a ball field, basketball court, and playground for the younger kids.  As a point of memory, Hudson resident Dan O’Brien has fond memories of little league games played here, as early as 1950 or 51,under the direction of Manager Brown.  These may have been some of the earliest little league games in Hudson.  The year construction was underway for the new fire station Dan recalls breaking a window in the station while throwing rocks.  Yes! He was busted by Chief Andy Polak.  In Andy’s  way all he did was report Dan to his parents.  But, that was enough!  Photo from the Historical Society collection.
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Alvirne Summer Home (The Hills House)

Hills House Derry Road 1890

Hills House Derry Road 1890

This week we look at  Alvirne, the summer home built in 1890 by Dr. Alfred and Virginia Hills on a knoll in the field across from the Alvirne farm house.  Their primary residence was in New York City but rail travel to Nashua’s Union Station and a coach drive from Nashua to Hudson facilitated travel to Hudson.  We can only imagine the entertainment and festivities enjoyed on these grounds by the Hills as they mingled with guests from New York as well as locals from Hudson and Nashua.  Our first photo shows the home in 1890.  You will notice that the meeting room and the field stone chimney were not part of the original building.  These were added in 1891.  You will also note that the driveway did not encircle the house.

This summer home, now called the Hills House, was enjoyed by Alfred, Virginia, and also by Virginia’s mother, Mary Creutzborg.  Although they had two daughters neither of them lived beyond infancy.  Virginia passed in 1908, a true loss to Dr Hills and  their friends here in Hudson.  Dr Hills completed his plans for the Alvirne Chapel; Virginia and their infant daughters were laid to rest within this chapel.

A short time later, in 1910, Alfred married Jessie Norwell, a Nashua native.  Alvirne continued to be the summer home of Dr Hills, Mary Creutzborg, and  Jessie.  After Dr. Hills passed in 1920, Jessie, her sister Helen Norwell, and Mary Creutzborg continued the use of this summer home.  Dr Hills left a  provision in his will so that Jessie, his third wife, and Mary, his second mother-in-law, could  co-habitate in the summer home as long as the arrangement satisfied both parties.  Mary passed in, 1928, at the age of 102, spending many years living with Jessie, either in Nashua or Hudson.  Jessie passed in 1963; but not until she saw  her husband’s vision of a school named Alvirne  established in Hudson.

After her passing, furnishings within the house were sold or distributed to friends and family.  In the end, the building was  vacant, windows and doors boarded up, closed to the outside world except for vandals. By his will,  following the death of Jessie, the summer home became the property of the School District and Alvirne Trustees.  Attempts were made to find a useful purpose for this building; but to no avail.  The destiny of this fine Victorian home came down to an article placed in the School District warrant for voting on March 9, 1965:

To see if the district will vote to authorize the School Board to raze the vacant dwelling on the Derry Road known as the Hills House.

A school board member rose to move adoption of the article.  This opened discussion and  Zoula Rowell, a member of the Hudson Fortnightly Club, rose to speak in opposition.  The article was tabled…ultimately forever.   This action provided the incentive for the incorporation of the Hudson Historical Society with a goal of preserving the Hills House and using it as a museum of Hudson History.

 

For about 10 years prior to this time,  the Historical Committee of the Fortnightly Club was actively collecting and cataloging items pertaining to Hudson History.

The Hills house was found to be structurally sound; but in need of repairs, cleaning, and the decorating of individual rooms.  Over the next few years a community effort occurred; individuals, organizations, and families helped with this project; some taking responsibility of an entire room.  A caretaker apartment was established and a caretaker secured.  As rooms became available the historical items collected by the historical committee were moved to the Hills House.  Some of the Hills family furnishings were returned; many other items were donated by Hudson families.  The catalogue system used by the historical committee was continued by the society.  The success of this restoration was climaxed in 1983 when the Hills House was named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Hills House 2010

Hills House 2010

Ironically, the generosity of Dr Hills provided for the building and maintenance the Hills Memorial Library,  Library Park, Alvirne High,  and Alvirne Chapel.   He took no similar precautions for his lovely summer home.  That responsibility is now being met by the Historical Society with support of the School District and various organizations in town.  Our second photo shown the house just a few years ago,  Both photos are from the Historical Society collection.  The year 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of the Hudson Historical Society.

Alvirne Barn

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Alvirne Barn C 1970

The subject of today’s photo is well known to most of our readers; the Alvirne High School barn.  Hudson is fortunate to have a working farm as part of it’s educational program and also to have an  historic farm which dates back for several generations in the Hills Family.

Alfred Kimball Hills, Hudson benefactor, was born on this farm in 1840.  This was his father Alden’s, farm, and his grandfather Elijah before that; going back to James.  James was the youngest of three brothers who established the Hills Garrison about 1710. Their grandfather, Joseph Hills of Malden, MA received a grant of some 500 acres of land within the boundaries of the present town of Hudson from the Commonwealth in 1661.  
 
Alfred married Martha Simmons of Rhode Island, studied medicine at Harvard, and established his medical career in New York City.  Martha passed while he was still a young man.  He married a second time to Ida Virginia Creutzborg of Pennsylvania.  Alfred and Virginia purchased The Hills Family farm and built a summer home on the premises.  He called the farm and his summer home Alvirne.  Today we refer to the High School and farm as Alvirne; the summer home is called The Hills House.  Dr. Hills continued the operation of the farm by a farm manager.  Ida Virginia passed in 1908.  A short time later he married Jessie Norwell, a Nashua native.  Dr. Hill passed in 1920 and by his will he established the funding for an ‘industrial school’  to be called Alvirne.  His will was met with many challenges; but, on June 7, 1948 Alvirne High School opened it’s doors for the first time.  A six week summer session was held for 22 girls and 15 boys.  Classes were held within the Hills House and on the surrounding farm land.  This brief session, taught by Maude French and  KennethGibbs, was sufficient to secure the funds for the town of Hudson.  Through the encouragement Jessie Norwell Hills Alvirne High was built on the site of the Hills family estate and the Alvirne farm became part of the educational program of Hudson.  The first graduation was held in June 1950.  
 
This photo was taken C 1970, before the expansion of Alvirne to include the Palmer Vocational Technical Center.  It was taken from a roadway which led from the north end of the high school to the farm.  We can see the herd, barn, and some of the students.  
 
As most readers recall,  Alvirne suffered a severe fire in 1974 and was rebuilt one year later.  What may have been forgotton or not realized is that the Alvirne barn was also destroyed by fire on the last day of March 1993.
Alvirne Barn 2016 comp

Alvirne Barn 2016

 The new barn, very similar to the original, is shown in the second photo.  One sure way of distinguishing photos of the barn is the weather vane (called by many a ‘Web vane”) on the new barn.  This vane was placed upon the cupola of the barn in honor of Web “Wilbur” Palmer, long time Vot-tec director and agricultural teacher of Alvirne.  Both photos are from the Historical Society collection.

Sidney Gowing Farmhouse C 1917

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Sidney Gowing Farmhouse C 1917 Lowell Rd at Gowing Corners

This 1917 photo of the Sidney Gowing Farmhouse, located at Gowing Corners, was taken by a traveling photographer from Derry, NH just about one year before Sidney passed.  Sidney and Clementine (Fuller) Gowing raised a family of 2 sons (Edwin E, and Percy S.) and 3 daughters (Mabel, Eva, and Josie).  Sidney, with his family and hired laborers, operated a market garden beginning as early as his marriage to Clementine in 1881.  After Sidney passed in 1918, Clementine, his wife, and later Mabel, their oldest daughter continued to operate the farm until about 1950.  In 1939, after Clementine passed, ownership of the property was transferred to Mabel.
In July 1958 Mabel moved to Central Street and sold the property to Gerard and Medora Viens.  Mabel continued to live at Central Street until she passed in 1969.  From 1958 until about 1973 the Gowing farmhouse was used as a residence or for rental units.  In 1973 the building was demolished to make way for an industrial park.
At least a portion of this Gowing Farm was part of the original Thomas Pollard, Jr. farm which was settled about 1731-32.  Between the Gowing and Pollard families the property was owned by James Palmer and Mr. Richardson and by Rodney Fuller.
Over the years this section of Lowell Road had become known as “Gowing Corner”; located at the intersection of Lowell  and Wason Roads.  Flagstone Drive and the industrial park opposite Wason Road did not exist; in fact that was the industrial park which emerged from the Gowing farm.  Based upon discussions with Eleanor (Gowing) Freeman and my own memory, the Gowing farmhouse was located on the right of way for Flagstone Drive and what is now Dunkin Donuts.  To chalenge your memory even further do you remember Bank East;  a commercial bank located where Dunkin Donuts is now!!  Photo from the Historical Society Collection.