The revitalization of the business center at the bridge which occurred during the decade of the 1960’s impacted Central Street as well as Ferry and Webster Streets. Demolition of buildings occurred by both private and public enterprises; this week we look at the significant changes along Central Street near Post Office Square.
Our early 1900’s photo of P.O. Square at Central Street shows two landmark buildings which were still present in 1960; the old Baker Block (originally Carnes Block) on the right and the Martin House opposite and on the left at the corner with Ferry Street.
James Carnes came to Hudson about 1840 from his native Vermont. In 1844 he bought the old south meeting house near Blodgett Cemetery for $100. He took it down and proceeded to build a house from the resulting lumber and material in 1845. This house he built on a small triangular lot of land which was conveyed to him by the proprietors of Taylors Falls Bridge. The date 1798 was plainly seen carved upon the stone underpinning of the front of the house indicating the date of the building of the meeting house. This is the same house later owned by Elisha A. and Susan (Steele) Martin. After the death of Elisha his widow Susan and daughter Etta continued to reside here. It was later the home of Etta’s sister Anna Woodbury. Etta sold notions, newspapers, ice cream, etc. Nearby children were delighted by her glass candy case and penny ice cream cones.
At the time of his arrival to Hudson James Carnes wasl a wheelwright and blacksmith by trade. He gave up smithing and turned to the more lucrative business of manufacturing “Paddy” wheelbarrows for the growing railroad business during the pre-civil war days; a business he operated successfully for several years. He then converted to the general wheelwright business which he was operating when he constructed his combined store and assembly hall. He ran his business and rented his hall to various town organizations until his death in 1883. From 1874 to 1876 the newly organize Hudson Grange No 11 held meetings here. In 1879 after the Methodist Church was destroyed by fire the congregation held services in “Carnes Hall” until the new brick church was built in 1890.
After Carnes death in 1883 the store was occupied for short intervals by Francis Marden, Waldo Waldon, and Willard Webster. in 1890 Nathan Webster, a brother to Willard, enlarged and remodeled the building and the Baker brothers, John J.and William, took over the building and operated the store for many years until three sons of William, John E, Sidney, and Wallace took over the store and continued the business until just before World War II. From the Bakers Store one could purchase meats, groceries, feed, hay, and hard goods. Upon occasion, depending who was appointed postmaster, this served as the town post office. When the building was enlarged a third floor auditorium was added. A number of interesting events occurred in this auditorium including silent movies, magicians and strong men of traveling medicine shows. This third floor even served as the town library before the Hills Memorial library was built in 1909.
The revitalization of the area began with the destruction of the Baker Block in 1964. Originally known as the Carnes Block built in the early 1860’s. Some of the principal owners of this building were James Carnes, Nathan Webster, the Baker Brothers for two generations, and finally at the time of demolition the Rodgers Family. By 1964 when this building was demolished it was considered by many as a firetrap and an eyesore as one entered the town.
By 1969 the State of NH identified those properties needed for access roads. This included the Martin House, then owned by the Rodgers Family, and land frontage up to and including the Community Church. Our second photo shows the Martin Home in the late 1960’s shortly before it was demolished. Both photos are from the collection of the Hudson Historical Society.
One additional landmark building which disappeared in this time frame was the old transfer station for the three electric railway lines which met at Post Office Square. It was later the site of Joe Temple’s drug stone and, according to the memory of some residents, used as a residential dwelling before leaving our landscape alongside the concrete Taylor Falls Bridge. It is not clear to me when and how this building disappeared.