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.
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.