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Last week as I drove south on Derry Road and passed Library Park I noticed crew from our Highway Department placing the toy soldiers on the north corner of the park. As I continued on my way to my appointment in Nashua I recalled some of the history behind these and other decorations on the park. Perhaps it is no surprise how much these decorations are intermixed with Arthur Provencher and his vision to develop Benson’s Animal Park into a theme park,
Each of these painted wooden soldiers stand 12 feet tall and they delight the holiday spirit in each of us with their red and blue uniforms with yellow diamond-shaped buttons. With their white belts they stand at parade rest with their bayonet-tipped rifles at their side. Each has the same plumed hat and facial expression. They can stand in any order but the soldier holding the flag should be in the center.
So you ask: What does all this have to do with Bensons Park? During the Christmas seasons of 1980 and 1981 Arthur Provencher, then owner of Benson’s Animal Park, decorated his park with hundreds of thousands of lights and decorations for the holiday season. These wooden toy soldiers were a part of that display. Even though some 35,000 came to enjoy these sights and activities, that elusive break even point could not be reached. His “Christmas in New England” lasted for only a few years. The tradition of holiday decorations at Library Park was started by Mr. Provencher as a way of advertising the holiday events at Benson’s Animal Park. Over time this tradition was continued by the town. The five toy soldiers were purchased by the Chamber of Commerce and donated to Hudson with a plaque “Dedicated to people of Hudson by the Hudson Chamber of Commerce December 1995. Our first photo shows a brochure, complete with a coupon of 50 cents, used by Mr. Provencher to advertise his ‘Christmas in New England” tradition during the 1891 season.
As time progressed the soldiers were in need of repairs and paint. In February 2004 the soldiers were delivered to the wood shop at Alvirne High School where, under the direction of John Conrad, the Building Trades class repaired and painted the soldiers. When completed they were stored by the Highway Department for use in many seasons to come. Our second photo shows the five toy soldiers standing guard over the 2018 holiday season at the north end of Library Park.
Another remnant of Benson’s is the traditional nativity scene tucked away behind Plexiglas in the old town trolley stop. This stop once provided a waiting place for travelers using the electric railroad from Nashua, through Hudson, to Hudson Center and on to Pelham. During the holiday season the stop is used to house the creche from Benson’s. The Christmas in New England brochure is a part of the Benson’s documentation at the Historical Society. The 2018 photo was taken by the author.
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.
The plan to address the heavy traffic and congestion which had developed on the Taylor Falls Bridge between Hudson and Nashua by the early 1960’s was to have two bridges with one way traffic on each. A new bridge, The Veterans Memorial Bridge, north of the concrete Taylor Falls Bridge would handle west bound traffic from Hudson to Nashua. The existing concrete bridge would handle the east bound traffic from Nashua to Hudson. By July 1969 the bid process was completed and construction had began. The Veterans Memorial Bridge was dedicated and opened for traffic by September 1970.
During the five plus years before the opening of The Veterans Memorial Bridge, traffic increased further to the point that this became one of the busiest, if not the heaviest traveled bridge in the state. As early as March 1969 the search was on for funding to replace the ailing concrete bridge and in January 1970 the state announced it would be necessary to close the concrete bridge permanently once the new bridge was completed. The new bridge would be used for two-way traffic until plans were completed for a replacement to the Taylor Falls concrete bridge. There was competition for funding as plans were also being made to build the southern bridge connecting route 3A (Lowell Road) with route 3 in Nashua as part of the circumferential highway plans.
Even though the initial plan called for two bridges with one way traffic on each the design of the access roads were adaptable so that the new bridge could handle traffic in both directions should it become necessary; which it did! By March 1970 the state identified additional properties in both Hudson and the Nashua which were required for bridge access. On the Hudson side this included properties on Chase and Central Streets as well as on both sides of Ferry Street; including some frontage and the removal of trees on Library Park. The future of the old trolley stop was even in question!! The traffic pattern included the extension of Chase Street, which previously ended at School Street, through to Ferry Street. This week we will see the impact on the east side of Ferry Street and on the complex known as The White Cross Super Store.
We have two photos of the White Cross Store to share with you; one taken during the early years of the business and the second in 1968 during the last years of the business just prior to the state announcing that the building would be razed in order to accommodate access to and from the bridge(s).
The earliest reference to Roland’s White Cross appears in the 1948 Hudson Directory. According to an earlier directory Roland it is possible that Roland assumed operation of an earlier store on this site, Friendly Market with Raymond L. Jolley as Propietor. The store building was an existing Martin house which was renovated with a store front and signage. Apartments were available on the second floor.
By the early 1960’s Roland Levesque had partnered with Leo Noel and the business complex enlarged to include Hudson Pharmacy, Sherburne’s Restaurant, and Hudson Flower Shop. Leo Noel’s daughter was one of the early pharmacists and later Roland’s son, Richard was the pharmacist. Richard was the pharmacist when the business was closed. He later served as pharmacist at CVS on Derry Road. Robert Lynch, a Hudson resident and florist, opened his shop in the White Cross Super Store.
The state announced plans to purchase this complex in October 1970 and soon thereafter the building was razed. The 1970 Hudson Directory listed no buildings from the bridge to Campbell Avenue. The White Cross Super Store Complex was gone. Residents living in apartments were relocated elsewhere in town or to neighboring communities. The Pharmacy did relocate to Derry Road 20th Century Shopping Center.
The bid process for the Taylor Falls replacement bridge was completed by December 1972; construction began with a target completion date of November 1974. The Taylor Falls bridge replacement was in operation by January 1975. Today, as you travel from Nashua into Hudson you are greeted by the welcome to Hudson signage and plantings. There are few if any reminders of the White Cross Store.
The construction of the Veterans Memorial bridge in the late 1960’s and the Taylor Falls Replacement bridge in the early 1970’s completely altered the landscape of and virtually ‘wiped out’ what many Hudson residents knew of as the business center of Hudson. This week we look at how this construction affected one of Hudson’s landmarks, the 20th Century Store.
The 20th Century Building “at the bridge” on the corner of Ferry and Webster Streets dated to 1877. Mr. Elisha Z. Martin purchased the property (land and building) about 1876. Shortly after that the building was destroyed by fire and he rebuilt it the following year. After he passed in 1879, Mrs Martin married a Mr Sherman from Connecticut. Together they continued to make changes and improvements to the building.This site has a long history of being occupied by a grocery or general store. At the time of the fire in 1876 it was the location of Nathan Webster’s store, and following reconstruction his business returned and continued until about 1892. George Andrews succeeded Mr. Webster and continued the business until his death in 1903. Mr Elijah Reed ran the business for about 1 year after which Mr Charles Daniels in partnership with Charles B. Gilbert took it over and continued until about 1925.
Changes occurred through the years. By 1928 it was owned by Mrs. Jennie Connell and known as the Connell Block. The left side was washed away during the 1936 flood. The livery and barn were removed from the right side and remodeled into a grocery store. As early as 1926 the right side of the Connell Block was home to Sal’s Cash Market; with Harry Salvail as proprietor. By 1940 this was the location of the 20th Century Store and building which was owned by Phil Lamoy of Nashua.
The problem of adequate and safe travel over the Merrimack River between Hudson and Nashua came to a head in 1960. Hudson’s population was approaching 6,000 and expected to be near 11,000 by 1970! A comparable increase in Nashua’s growth was also expected. The State of New Hampshire commissioned the consulting engineering firm of Bruce Campbell of Boston to study the already heavy traffic situation and make recommendations. The resulting report, published at the end of 1960, kicked off a controversy which would span more than 10 years. This report made two recommendations. The first that a new, two lane bridge be built about 350 feet north of the Taylor Falls Bridge. This bridge would be used for traffic traveling westward into Nashua. The concrete Taylor Falls bridge would be retained for eastward bound traffic from Nashua. The second recommendation was that in the 1975-1980 time frame a circumferential belt highway be built be built to further ease the flow of traffic!!
This report stimulated much discussion between the two communities and the state. We could not agree on where to place the new bridge and the corresponding access roads. The initial plan was rejected. Another idea was a new span to the south, crossing the river about where the B+M bridge abutments exist. A third was to place the new bridge just north of the Taylor Falls bridge with traffic ovals on each side of the bridge for access/egress. 1966 became the year of compromise.
In March 1967 voters of Hudson agreed on a plan. This was followed by agreement by the Board of Aldermen in Nashua. By October 1967 the State issued this map showing the proposed bridge and approaches at Taylor’s Falls between Nashua and Hudson as shown. Access to the proposed bridge would go through the 20th Century Building and eliminate part of Webster Street. This plan did include a rotary on the Hudson side; which was later eliminated with plans to extend Chase Street from School Street to Ferry. With all of these discussions taking so long to resolve; traffic flow on the existing concrete bridge was increasing and the bridge was deteriorating.
In September 1968 it became necessary to make repairs to the concrete bridge to shore it up and prolong it’s life. The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic. Foot traffic (and bicycle) were permitted. Vehicle traffic was detoured to the bridge at Tyngsborough or Manchester to the north. Residents on both sides of the river would team up with neighbors and have two cars; one on each side of the bridge.
In the spring of 1969 the state relocation assistant expressed concern over the re-location of some 37 Hudson falmilies resulting from bridge construction. Many of these were families of 1 or 2 people living in apartments in the 20th Century Complex. The average rent paid by these families for a three room apartment was $16 per week. Comparable housing for a comparable amount of money did not exist in Hudson. The closest they could get for decent and safe conditions were going for $25 per week; over a 50% increase. The zoning ordinances of Hudson encouraged the construction of better homes without considering the needs of low cost housing.
By June 1969 the state offered $158,000 for the 20th building including the 20th century market. $38,000 for the purchase of a building on Webster Street, adjacent to the 20th Century which was used as a laundromat.
Construction was awarded to Cianchette Brothers of Maine and work on the new bridge began in July 1969 with forms for the first pier on the Nashua side by the construction The bridge was slated for completion September 1970. Meanwhile the Taylor Falls bridge to the south continues to be the work horse for traffic between the two communities.
In October 1969 we would see the end of the 20th Century store at the bridge in Hudson. On October 8 there was the ‘Sale of the Century”; designed to empty the store of all items as the building was scheduled for demolision within a few days. A new store at the 20th Century Shopping Center (now 102 Plaza) on the Derry Road was being readied. The “Welcome to Hudson, NH” sign which sat atop the building was removed. In less than two weeks the 20th Century building was gone.
September 1970 the Veterans Memorial Bridge opened for two-way traffic. State and local officials were present on September 16 for a ribbon cutting ceremony. Mrs. Georgianna Manter, a 99 year old resident of Londonderry was given the honor of cutting the ribbon. She had outlived all previous bridges. She had driven a horse and buggy over the wooden bridge and driven an auto over each of the later bridges. Finally our traffic needs no long depended on the old, crumbling concrete bridge.
In 1960 as you traveled eastward from Nashua into Hudson on the concrete Taylor Falls Bridge you would have the impression you had entered a blighted and economically depressed area. The bridge itself was sagging and straining the reinforcements. The load limit was reduced to prolong it’s life. You entered the Hudson business district. The businesses included a large chain grocery supermarket, a combined variety and pharmacy, two small restaurants, several small businesses, a multitude of rental apartments buildings, and a number of single family homes. The area was dominated by wooden structures dating back a century or more. As the future of this area had been in limbo due to the prolonged planning for a new bridge, many of these buildings were in need of repair.
Once the bridge plans became clear the “revitalization” of the bridge area began. Demolition of buildings was done by both private (business) and public enterprises. Some properties were purchased by the state for the bridge itself or for access roads to the bridge. Private enterprises purchased older properties with the vision of a commercial opportunity once the bridge project was completed. This “revitalization” began in 1964 and by 1970 all of the old landmarks had fallen to the bulldozer. With new bridges and access routes the area had the appearance of a growing and progressive community.
One such home which disappeared from the landscape was this victorian home on Ferry Street near the intersection with Baker Street. Yes! Baker Street did flow into Ferry Street near the intersection of Derry and Ferry. This fine Victorian home was built in 1887 by George Gilman Andrews on land he had previousiy purchased from Kimball Webster. Our first photo shows the Andrews House from the side. Ferry Street is on the left.
A Hudson native, George Gilman was born tin 1847 to Gilman and Sophia J. (Senter) Andrews . Their family homestead was located at what is now 53 Old Derry Road. George and Anabel Follansbee of Manchester were married in 1870. They had one daughter, Maude, born 1871. George was one of Hudson’s more prominent businessmen; postmaster, merchant, former town clerk, selectman, and representative. He succeeded Nathan Webster in the operation of his store in Post Office Square.
On Sunday afternoon September 7, 1903 George and Anabel were passengers on an electric car (trolley) making a return trip from Canobie Lake to Hudson. Perhaps they had taken a Sunday afternoon excursion to the park. Their westbound car crashed with another car coming from Nashua. As a result of the serious accident George was killed. His wife, Anabel, who was seated adjacent to him in the car, was seriously injured and was transported to the Lowell Hospital. She was in dangerous condition but within 24 hours showed sign of improvement. After a long recovery she ultimately regained health to be comfortable but was never entirely well again. With our second photo Anabel (Mrs George) Andrews is greeting guests in her dining room.
Anabel and her daughter Maude continued to live in this home following the accident. Mrs. Andrews passed in 1930 at the age of 81; a well known and respected resident of Hudson. Her daughter, Maude continued to live at this address until she passed in 1963 at the age of 92. Despite her advanced years Maude took a keen interest in town affairs. She had served as librarian early on when the library was located in the Baker Block on Central Street.
At some point prior to 1948 the Andrews home and attached barn on Ferry Street was converted to a multi-family. In 1948 Maude sold the property to Hudson resident Winthrop Hannaford. This sale took place subject to the following; Maude had the option to lease the ell (her living quarters) for $50 per month for the duration of her natural life. Also, there could be no alterations or additions to the building except to the foundations. Garages could be erected in the read for use by occupants of the building.
In 1955, eight years after Maude’s passing, the property was sold to Oswald H and Adrienne H. Boilard and in 1967 it was transferred to Gerald and Patricia Boilard. By June 1970 the property was sold to the Humble Oil Company. In September of that year the house was demolished to make room for a new three-bay service station to by operated by Carl Roberts and known as Carl’s Esso. A photo of this demolishion appeared in the Hudson News, September 30, 1970.
Many of us remember Carl’s Esso with the tiger mascot perched on the building roof. It is now the site of the Gulf station. Photos are from the collection of the Hudson Historical Society.
The Cumming Brothers began their business in 1882 as a blacksmith and wheelwright shop, later expanding to the manufacture of carriages. With the advent of the auto they transitioned to building truck bodies. This building at what is now 15 Central Street was built about 1930 as a garage and repair shop for their business. In 1950, after the business closed, it was sold to C&R furniture of Nashua and used by them for a warehouse for several years. In 2017, after remaining idle for some time, this 21/2 story wood frame building was purchased by Peter DeSalvo and has been remodeled both inside and out to current building codes. This building will soon be used for the headquarters for the Peter DeSalvo Construction Company. Lets explore the history surrounding this location.
The Cummings Brothers was not the first business on this site nor was it the first blacksmith in Hudson Village near the bridge. About 1842 James Carnes moved to Hudson from Henniker, NH and built his home at the corner of Main Street (now Ferry Street) and Lowell Road (now Central Street) using materials from the old South Meeting house which was located near Blodgett Cemetery on Lowell Road. Using additional materials from the old meeting house he built a store building on the opposite side of Central Street and uphill from his home. He operated a grocery store for some years with little success. About 1851 he closed the grocery and immediately began to manufacture wheelbarrows; later he changed the business to a wheelwright. Unfortunately, by 1859 this building with all contents and tools was destroyed by fire. Mr. Carnes rebuilt re-established the wheelwright business.
In 1882, Willis P. Cummings purchased the shop, tools, and business from James Carnes. He and his younger brother Charles E. became partners in the Cumming Brothers. This was the beginning of a business which expanded and changed with the times until sometime after 1946.
Willis was 32 years of age when he partnered with his 19 year old brother in 1882. He was born 1850 in Lowell, MA the oldest son and child of Hiram and Abby (Clark) Cummings. He came to Hudson at the age of 6 with his parents. He was educated in public schools of Lowell, Hudson, and later at the Nashua Literary Institute.
In 1869, when he was nearly 20 years of age and soon after the completion of the railroad to the Pacific Coast, he went to California to assist his uncle with the supervision of his herd of 10,000 sheep! Willis remained for 2 years and then returned home; after which he established a carpenter and building business at North Chelmsford, MA. In 1873 he married Hattie D. Lawrence, daughter of Hartwell and Sarah (Blood). Their daughter Bertha Ella was born 1875. He moved his family to Hudson in 1876. Meanwhile his uncle in California passed away. At the request of the executor he returned to California in 1877 to assist with settlement of the estate. He returned to Hudson after 3 months.
In 1885 his wife Hattie passed and he married a second time in 1885 to Francis M. Clement. Willis continued with his building business until September 1880 when he established a wheelwright and carriage business near the bridge in Hudson. Then in 1881 he and his younger brother Charles became partners and purchased the wheelwright shop, tools, and lot from James Carnes.
From 1881 until the mid 1940’s the Cumming Brothers operated in Hudson Village; first as a blacksmith and wheelwright and expanding to a carriage manufacturer. When the automobile became of age the business transitioned to the manufacture of truck bodies. Willis P. passed in June 1939 at which time he was the holder of the gold headed Boston Post Cane as the oldest male resident of Hudson. He was particularly proud of this as his father Hiram, some years earlier also held the cane. Following his passing his daughter Bertha (Cummings) Nokes became active along with her uncle, Charles, in the management of the business. Poor health forced Charles to retire from the business in the early 1940’s. By 1948 the Cumming Brothers was no longer in business and in December 1950 the land and buildings of 15 Central was sold to C&R furniture of Nashua. Charles passed in February 1953
C&R Furniture was a three generation, family owned business of the Hebert family with a retail store on Elm Street in Nahsua. They used this building as a warehouse. In 1954 the Hudson Community Church had plans to build a parish house on property they owned between their present building and the driveway to the C&R warehouse. C&R sold a triangular piece of land of about 980 square feet which enabled them to erect the parish house. C&R retained to right to pass over by foot or vehicle, any portion of this piece not used by the church.
Our first photo of the warehouse was taken about 1975.. The building could be entered from the driveway into the first floor. It was also possible to enter the building via a bridge from the high point of the driveway into the second floor.
In March 2017, after a number of years of no-use, the old C&R warehouse was sold by the Herbert family to Peter Desalvo. Since that time the building and driveway have undergone extensive modifications to meet current building codes. Basement walls were restored, original beams were retained but structurally enhanced. The interior has been reconfigured to include a reception area, conference room, office space, and a break room for the employees. The exterior has a new roof, dormers, windows, and siding; all with low maintenance in mind.
In recognition of his this project to retrofit and re-purpose this facility of the past, Peter DeSalvo was the recipient of the Third Annual Hudson Historical Society Community and Cultural Service Award. This award was presented to Peter during the Annual Charity Auction to benefit the Historical Society held at the Hills House grounds this past Sunday June 24. Peter and his workmen can be justly proud of the transformation to this building. Desalvo Construction recently passed their 10th anniversary. Peter and his young family reside in Hudson. Our second photo, complements of Zach Piotrowicz (ZMP Photography) shows the 15 Central Street property soon to be home to Peter Desalvo Construction.