The story of the ALVIRNE High School farm is linked to the birth of the high school and before that time to the Hills family of Hudson. The 180 acres +/- which make up our high school and school farm were a part of a 900 acre parcel purchased by Nathaniel Hills from Jonathan Tyng prior to 1733. In 1733 this land was a part of Nottingham, MA and according to the tax list the only resident was Nathaniel Hills. He had left the garrison and settled on the northern portion of his land near the river where the Hills’ Ferry was later established.
The parcel where the high school and farm reside was transferred from Nathaniel to Elijah Hills, a descendant of James, the youngest brother of Nathaniel. From there it passed to Elijah’s son Elijah, Alden, and Alfred Kimball. Today the farm is known as the ALVIRNE High School farm; but previously it was known as the Alfred K. Hills Estate, the Alden Hills Farm, or the Old Hills Farm.
This farm was the birthplace and childhood home of Alfred K. Hills. He was born October 1840, a 7th generation descendant of the immigrant Joseph Hills. After local education he attended and graduated Harvard College about 1862. In 1865 he married Martha Simmons in Boston. Within a few years they moved to New York City and he had graduated medical school and he began his medical profession of 40 years. In June 1885 Martha (Simmons) Hills passed away.
A few years later in June 1887 Alfred and Ida Virginia Creutzborg of Philadelphia were married. Soon after they purchased the old homestead from his family. To keep the farm working, Dr Hills hired a resident farm manager. Alfred and Virginia built a spectacular summer home (called ALVIRNE) upon a knoll and across the street from the farmhouse.
They had two daughters (Gladys and Mary) who died as infants. Virginia herself passed suddenly in 1907. As a memorial to his wife Dr. Hills built ALVIRNE Memorial Chapel by 1908. When the chapel was completed and consecrated the remains of his wife, Virginia, and their two daughters were laid to rest within the chapel.
By 1911 Alfred married a third time to Jessie Norwell of Nashua. Dr Hills, his third wife Jesse, and second mother-in-law Mary Creutzborg continued to frequent the summer home. He passed in 1920 and his will was filed for probate in 1928. By his will he left funds to the town of Hudson for the construction of a high school to be named ALVIRNE. In order to secure these funds for the town, a school must have been established within 20 years. To meet this requirement a six week summer session was held on the grounds of the Alfred K. Hills Estate. Classes in agriculture and forestry for the boys using the farm and classes in sewing for the girls were held in the meeting room of the summer home. By August 1947 the courts ruled that the remaining assets of his estate be released to the town for the construction of ALVIRNE High School. Thus, his farm and summer home became property of the Hudson School District. Design and construction were begun soon thereafter.
The current farm house was built C1875 after the previous, and perhaps the original, set of farm buildings were destroyed by fire in 1874. The earlier buildings were typical to New England; a large square two story home with an ell from which a shed was connected. The large barn was connected to the other end of the shed. This barn was the first to burn as flames broke out in the hay at the end of the barn furthest from the house. It was impossible to check these flames and save the cattle. With the buildings so connected, and without adequate water supply and fire fighting equipment, little could be done to save any of the buildings. Many priceless heirlooms, handed down from generation to generation in the Hills family were lost. Damage was estimated at $5,000 including 10 head of cattle, 2 horses,and farm equipment, The loss was partially covered by insurance.
We have two photos of the ALVIRNE farm house to share with you. The first dates to the early 1900’s. We see the two story farm house and an early view of the barn. The identity of the people in front of the farmhouse are not known. The farm house received extensive renovations in the 1960’s under the supervision of the school board. Our second photo shows the farm house C 1980.
The ALVIRNE barn has also been victim to fire. After the 1874 fire the farm buildings were rebuilt; but, the barn and out buildings were not connected to the residence. A second fire in 1911 destroyed the barn and all out buildings except for one shed. Again, the fire began in the barn and quickly sent up flames which could be seen from Nashua. Two pieces of Fire fighting equipment were quickly dispatched from Nashua. One of these arrived at the scene in time to help the local bucket brigade to save the residence and farm animals; but, not in time to save the buildings.
A third fire which destroyed the barn of the Wilbur H. Palmer Vocational Center occured in 1993. The barn we see there today was built following that fire. The photos are from the collection of the Historical Society. Description of the ancient farm buildings and of the 1874 and 1911 fires were found in September 11 and 15, 1911 editions of the Nashua Telegraph.