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Additions to Alvirne High School

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Original Alvirne High School C 1951

Construction of a 400 pupil high school on Hills estate began in October 1949 with up to $350,000 from the estates of Alfred K. Hills and Mary F. Creutzborg, the mother of Ida Virginia Hills set aside or that purpose. Alvirne was opened September 1950 as a combined Junior and Senior High School. Course of study included college preparatory, commercial, domestic science, shop, and agricultural courses.

The vision of Dr. Hills which began in the 1920’s became a reality in November 1950 when Alvirne High School was dedicated and the keys presented by the chairman of the Building Committee, Eugene Leslie, to Dr. John Quigley, chairman of the Hudson School Board. During an open house over 1,000 people toured the new school. As a part of these ceremonies a scroll of appreciation was presented to Jesse Norwell Hills by members of the School Board for her invaluable service in helping to make possible the wishes of Dr. Hills and Mrs Creutzborg.

On June 14, 1951 the auditorium of Alvirne was filled with friends and family of 25 seniors, the first graduating class of Alvirne High School. They entered to the processional, “Pomp and Circumstance” wearing the traditional maroon cap and gown. The diplomas were presented alphabetically by Henry Hastings, Superintendent of Schools. So the very first diploma issued from Alvirne High School was presented to George W. Abbott. These diplomas were a metal certificate mounted onto a wooden board as shown in the accompanying photo. On behalf of the senior class, John Simo presented a corsage to Jesse Norwell Hills.

First Diploma

First Diploma Presented at Alvirne

During this first year many gifts were made to Alvirne. Among them the framed and lighted picture of Dr. Hills for the school lobby, presented by his widow, Jesse Norwell Hills. The School Board noted in their annual report that the per student cost to the taxpayer to send a student to Alvirne was $200 vs the tuition cost of $253 to Nashua. That year there were 764 students enrolled in Hudson schools; 308 of these attending Junior-Senior high school at Alvirne.

In the next few years continuous improvements were made to the programs and curriculum at Alvirne, particularly in the area of vocational agriculture (Voc-Ag). The Trustees set aside money to help with the farm. To assist the School Board with opportunities arising from operating of a farm, an Advisory Committee consisting of local farmers, Earnest Chalifoux, Robert Jasper, Albert Kashulines, and Henry Smith was put in place. One of their recommendations was to change from a beef herd to a dairy herd. The beef critters were sold and equipment changed to the needs of a dairy herd. A milking parlor and milk room were added. A fine herd of milkers was put in place and a silo added to the barn. By 1957 Alvirne was accepted as an area Vocational Agricultural School.

As the educational opportunities at Alvirne increased so did the enrollment. This increase was due to the population increase in Hudson as well as neighboring towns who did not have their own high school and opted to send their students to Alvirne on a tuition basis. At the school district meeting of 1958 voters agreed to proceed with an 8 room addition to Alvirne. The firm of Irving W. Hersey Associates was again hired as architects. This addition was added to the south end of the building with a new combination cafeteria/auditorium in the basement. Plans also included the construction of a stand alone Voc-Ag building between the north end of the existing building and the farm. The expenditure of $182,850 for the school addition and $33,150 for the Voc-Ag building were approved at the school meeting held in March 1959. Based upon enrollments this addition would be needed by September 1960 and was expected to meet student needs for the next 5 years. Sepalla & Aho Construction Company was contracted for this project. and the new addition available September 1960.

By the school year ending 1963 the student population of Hudson continued to grown as did the population in neighboring towns including Pelham, Windham, Londonderry, and Litchfield. Alvirne was accepting tuition students from each of these towns. It became apparent that additional high school space would again be needed by September 1965.

At the 1964 School District meeting the School Broad was authorized to negotiate a long term contract with Pelham for their tuition students. At the same meeting voters approved the design, construction, and equipment of a 16 room addition to Alvirne. Final approval of this $500,000 addition came at a special meeting in July 1964. The addition would be to the north end of then existing building.

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Alvirne after Second Addition C 1970

In order to alleviate overcrowding at Alvirne a quarterly program was suggested by then Principal Chester Steckeviczl thus using the school facilities year round. This plan was put into place by the school year 1970-71, The community was saddened in June 1972 when just days before the graduation, Cheste Steckevicz passed away of a heart attack after serving as principal of Alvirne for 15 years. Robert Bettencourt, then principal at Memorial School filled the vacancy.

1973 was a banner year for Alvirne. A new greenhouse for the Vo-Ag was completed. Alvirne was evaluated under the quarter plan and granted full re-accreditation. There were 223 seniors graduating and we had a championship soccer team!

However, September 1974 the school year began in tragedy when, just 2 days after the beginning of the school year, Alvirne was 80% destroyed by fire. Upon arrival at the high school Deputy Fire Chief Robert Buxton saw that the gymnasium-auditorium and the center of the school were totally engulfed in flames. Help from other towns under mutual aid arrived within minutes. A mile of hose was used to connect to the nearest hydrant. In addition 6 pieces of apparatus were used to relay and pump water. The farm pond as well as the cistern located on the hill across the street was drained of well over 23,000 gallons of water. Alvirne was destroyed and 1200 students were displaced by the fire. After investigating Fire Chief Frank Nutting disclosed that the blaze had been set.

Within a few days and for the next year what resulted was a huge effort on the part of the School Board and many, many volunteers within town. To continue the class requirements the then empty St. Francis Exavier school building in Nashua was leased for the year and students for Grades 4 and 5 were bused to Nashua where they were taught by their regular teachers. Dual sessions were held at Memorial for grades 7 – 12. This all occurred within a two week period. Volunteers worked to salvage books, desks, etc. Other items were borrowed from neighboring school districts.

At a special school district meeting in November 1974 the school district voted to rebuild Alvirne at a cost of $4.3 million or $28.16 per square foot. Cost was covered by the insurance money, money from Alvirne Trustees, and a 2 million bond issue. By September 9, 1975 one year and one day after the fire, Alvirne was again in session in a new building located at the old historic site.

 

 

 

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The Beginning of Alvirne High School

Alvirne Summer School 1948

Summer 1948 Alvirne High School First Class

The vision for Alvirne High School began with Dr. Alfred K. Hills and was set in motion by his last will and testament written in December 1918, less than two years before his death in May 1920. However, there were two pivotal events in 1948 which, in the final analysis, permitted the Town of Hudson to establish Alvirne High School on the former Hills Estate on Derry Road.

The first of these was the legendary Alvirne Summer School which took place at the Alvirne Summer Home and the surrounding field and forest; the purpose being to show that a high school which satisfied the conditions of Dr. Hills’ will was feasable in Hudson. This school was established by town and school officials upon the suggestion of Attorney Robert B. Hamblett, representing the estate of Dr. Hills.

The second, and less public event, was the role played by Mrs. Alfred Hills (Jesse) in the final negotiations and litigation of the estates of Dr. Hills and his mother-in-law Mary Creutzborg.

First some background. Alfred K. Hills was a Hudson native, born October 1840 on the farm of his Hills ancestors. By the age of 22 Alfred had graduated from Harvard College and by age 25 had married Martha Simmond in Boston. In the years to follow he studied medicine and established his 40 year medical profession in New York City. In 1885 his wife Martha passed away after 20 years of marriage.

In 1887 Alfred married Ida Virginia Creutzborg of Philadelphia and they purchased the old homestead and acreage on Derry Road. In 1890 they built their “Alvirne” summer home in a field across the road from the farmhouse. Alfred and Virginia had two daughters; Gladys born 1891 and Mary born 1895. Both children died in infancy. In May 1908 Ida Virginia passed away suddenly.

The generousity of the Hills/Creutzborg family to our town is well known. Alfred and Ida Virginia donated a bell and belfrey for the Chapel of the Holy Angels on Lowell Road. Soon after Ida Virginia’s death in 1908 he built the Alvirne Memorial Chapel in her memory. Alfred and his mother-in-law Mary Creutzborg provided the funding for the Hills Memorial Library and for Library Park.

In 1910 Alfred Hills and Jessie Norwell of Nashua were married. When Dr. Hills passed in May 1920 he was interred within the Alvirne Chapel along side his wife Virginia and their daughters.

In his will Dr. Hills left lifetime income to a number of beneficiaries with the remainder of his estate to the Town of Hudson for the purpose of establishing an “industrial school” containing the name Alvirne. In May 1928 Mary Creutzborg passed at the age of 102. By her will she also provided funding for the Alvirne school envisioned by her son-in-law Alfred. In the 19 years which followed no funds from either estate were made available to Hudson. During this time the beneficiaries were being paid, the Hills farm continued operation by a farm manager, our country was in a depression, the intent of an “industrial school” was unclear and the wills were being contested in the courts by family members.

In August 1947 the court did rule that the trust money could be used by Hudson. The problems were the appeal of this decision and a continuing battle with some of the heirs to retain a percentage of the money. This brings us up to the spring/summer of 1948.

Local school officials, attorneys for the Town of Hudson and the Hills Estate organized a school to be known as Alvirne High School on June 7, 1948 at 4:00 pm at the Hills summer home. There was a public gathering including parents, school and town officials and some 22 girls and 10 boys who registered classes. Mrs. Harold (Maude) French, a local 4-H leader, was designated to teach sewing to the girls. By the end of the session these girls learned basic sewing techniques and had made 12 playsuits, 15 dresses, 20 shorts and pedal-pushers, 9 blouses, and had remodeled several garments. Kenneth Gibbs who had recently retired as county 4-H agent was designated to teach a session for the boys; including foresty, soil testing, basic dairy and barn maintenance as well poultry raising. Mr. Gibbs served as the first principal of Alvirne. In the end this summer program lasted 6 weeks with diplomas issued at a closing graduation. The first photo was taken June 1948 in the Library of the Alvirne Summer Home during one of Jesse Hills’ visits to the school.

These sessions and activities of the summer school were watched by several individuals including lawyers representing various parties. The lawyers for the heirs were hoping to show that the conditions of the will had not been met. Following the graduation several individuals, including Mrs. French, Jesse Norwell Hills, Principal Gibbs, and members of the school board, were served court summons to give depositions to prove that the legal requirements of the will were met and that the school was established. Testimonies were made before 6 lawyers; 4 representing the heirs and 2 defending Alvirne. Mrs. French was questioned for a period of 2 hours.

Even when word came that the conditions of the will were met the appeal process and litigations continued. As late as January 1949 there were prospects of further costly litigation and appeals. In an effort the ‘buy peace’ with the family and proceed with the design and building of a high school a settlement was negotiated for $25,000. The school board, Mrs. Hills as trustee of the estates, and their councils agreed.

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Architects Drawing Alvirne High School C 1949

Following this decision Architect Irving Hersey and Trustees of the Alvirne School worked on plans and drawings for Alvirne High School. Ground breaking was scheduled for the spring 1949. Our second photo shows the architect’s drawing of Alvirne High School from the cover of the first school yearbook entitled “SATYR” in June 1951.

Revisit …Jasper Poultry Farm Stand C 1962

In reality the Jasper Farm Stand on Derry Road, opposite Connies, was not a restaurant. The stand did offer B B Q chicken, dairy products, and farm fresh eggs! A place which few of us remember!!

296 Derry Road Jasper Farm Stand C 1962

Jasper Farm Stand C 1962

By the late 1950’s the State of New Hampshire had re-routed Route 102 (Derry Road) just north of the Hills House to proceed north through parts of Litchfield, then back into Hudson, then forward to Londonderry and Derry. Before that time Route 102 followed what is now Old Derry Road; past Jasper Farms, Nadeau Farm, the Hudson speedway and on to Londonderry and Derry. This new highway removed much of the traffic from Old Derry Road; at the same time the new highway created business and retail opportunities on previously undeveloped land.

In March 1960 Jasper Farms under the management of Robert Jasper purchased 5 1/4 acres of land on the new highway opposite what is now Connie’s Plaza. Shortly after, in an effort to expand local retail presence and take advantage of the new highway, Jasper Farms open their farm stand at what is now 296 Derry Road. By looking at our first photo we see one could purchase farm fresh eggs, Bar B Q chicken, ready to cook chicken, as well as some Hoods dairy products.

This retail store did not survive for long. By June 1968 the 5 1/4 acre parcel was sold to Bernie and Phyllis McArdle. Bernie established his Home Decorating Center where he sold wallpaper, paint, and provided paint contracting services.

As time went on the property was subdivided and the building expanded to accommodate two businesses. The building has been used for R + S Supply by Bob St Onge, K + M Trailer Sales by The Kierstead Family, and One Stop Auto Parts. By February 1981 it was purchased by Gerald Desrocher for D’s Auto Body; a business which continues to this day under the management of his son, Scott.

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D’s Auto Body at 296 Derry Road 2017

Our first photo is compliments of the Jasper Family and the second was taken by the author. Both photos are part of the Historical Society Collection.

Connie’s Country Store

 

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Connie’s Country Store

Let’s meet at Connie’s!! A widely popular spot for Hudson and Litchfield folks is shown in this 1977 photo. As you enter the building you had Connie’s Country Store and Restaurant on your right and the Garden Center and Green House on the left. By the late 1950’s the State of New Hampshire re-routed Route 102 (Derry Road), just north of the Hills House, to proceed north through parts of Litchfield, then back into Hudson, then forward to Londonderry and Derry. Before this time Route 102 followed the route of what is now Old Derry Road. The construction of this New Derry Highway extended traffic onto much previously undeveloped land in Litchfield and Hudson.

In 1959 Connie and Amadee “Midee” Desmarais purchased property at the corner of Derry and Cutler Roads and went into business. In the early years they had a fruit and vegetable stand and soon expanded to include a variety of products, food, and services. In 1965 fire destroyed the Desmarais home and business. Connie’s was rebuilt as shown in this week’s photo.

The Desmarais family operated Connie’s for over 25 years until 1985 when they considered retirement and sold the business; only to be ‘called’ out of retirement. This occured not just once, but twice!! They finally sold again in 2002.
Still known to some as Connie’s Plaza this site at 297 Derry Road is now home to Rocco’s Pizza, Klemm’s Bakery, Findeisen’s Ice Cream, Second Look Consignment, Rhino Tax preparer, and Moonlight nails. Photo from the Historical Society Collection.

Goodwin’s Fried Clams Derry Road

Good food at a reasonable price and entertainment!! That was the marketing plan Fred and Annimae Goodwin used for their popular restaurant on Derry Road.

By 1931 Fred T. Goodwin and his wife Annimae had moved to Hudson; and by May of that year Fred , a well known amateur actor, opened a place of business on Derry Road. This was located at what was then the Abbott property and directly across from Saint Patrick’ s Cemetery. He specialized in Ipswich fried clams which he obtained fresh from the flats. Fred. and Annimae had the idea that if they served a good meal at a reasonable price, people would come. And they did! After the first week there were reports that business was so great, many were turned away, and more equipment was quickly added. By 1935 free entertainment to the clam emporium was added in order to attract even more people.

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Packed Parking Lot C 1938

Thanks to the Goodwin/Marshall family we have these early photos of the stand. The first, C1938, shows the cars packed into the lot and along Derry Road. You see the band stand for entertainment on the left and the clam stand on the right. The cars to the right, opposite the stand, are backed up against the stone wall of Saint Patrick’s Cemetery in order to enjoy the entertainment. The second photo of about the same time shows a close-up of the front of the stand. Notice the prices!!

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Front of Goodwin’s Stand C 1938

Fred was also very active in local theater and politics; serving as selectman and in the state legislature. His approach to the fried clam business gave him great notoriety as people came from all over to the stand. Over the years the front of the stand did not change except for addition of an ell on the right side which served as a soda and ice cream fountain. Also by the 1950’s traffic on Derry Road was such that parking was not allowed in front of the stand.

Fred, Annimae, and later their family operated the stand for over 20 years. After Fred passed in 1952 Annimae ran the stand with her family. Annimae (Grammy) worked the kitchen, Francis (Bud) worked the grill and fryers, Elsie Marshall was the cashier. Fred, Jr had his own business in Nashua and would come to the stand when he could. He routinely balanced the cash and made nightly deposits.

By the late 1950’s into the early 60’s Fred III (Butch) oversaw much of the operation of the stand. The stand employed about 15 people; some of these were high schoolers working a summer job to save for college expenses. In 1961 the stand had a bank of 11 fryers (perhaps the largest in New England), a long mixing bench where all fried foods were prepared, a chef table for preparing salads, lobster, chicken, coleslaw, and tartar sauce.
By the mid 1960’s business slowed and ownership passed from the Goodwin family and soon after closed. By 1969 this property and adjacent acreage was sold by the Abbott family to Phil Lamoy for the 20th Century Shopping Center.

Elm Avenue Industrial Park

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Industrial Park at Elm Avenue C 1977

Coming into the 1950’s the tax base in our town was primarily rural, farming, and residential.   In an effort to balance this base and provide a venue to attract industry into Hudson, the Hudson Industrial Associates was organized in the early 1950’s.  Their purpose was simple:  attract industry, improve the tax base, and make Hudson a better community.  This association consisted of some 16 public-spirited individuals including selectmen Edwin Steckevicz, George Tetler, and Frank Nutting.  Arthur Kashulines  was the first president, Ned Spaulding the clerk, and Paul Buxton the treasurer.  A brochure advertising the merits of our town was distributed and inquiries were received from various states.  In these and other ads Hudson was pictures as an alert New Hampshire community with a blend of traditional New England qualities with a forward look. We offered to industry level acreage with city facilities, room to grow, central location, and local government.  Write or call for full details.
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This group arranged for the purchase of land in different parts of town including previous farm land between Derry and Litchfield Roads along Elm Avenue. The result was a 26 acre industrial park.  The first industry to build here was The Newton Manufacturing Company in 1959.  Others followed, and by the late 1960’s the park was at full capacity.  Prior to this development the land parcels involved were owned by the family of Elijah Reed and the family of Carl Oliver.  Mr Oliver is remembered by many as a public school bus driver.
This C 1977 aerial photo of the Elm Avenue Park was taken from Webster Street looking north and east towards Derry Road.  At the top of the photo we see Derry Road and the Kopinski Homestead at 147 Derry Road.  The United Pentecostal Church (The Sanctuary) is just off the photo to the right.  At the time of this photo  this park was home to  five  industries:  North American Angenieus, Inc (Optical Laboratories), Contact, Inc. (Soldering Equipment, Wire Strippers), New Era Industries, Daw Tire and Supply Co., RDF Corporation (Temperature Control Systems).  RDF Corporation occupied two buildings.
As you approach this park today from Webster/Litchfield Road you will find the following industries on the left side of Elm Avenue:  A J Mac Contracting Electrician in a building  which did not exist in the photo; RDF Corporation which now occupies four buildings, Able Air (Compression Air Systems).  The final building before the intersection with Derry Road is being demolished.  That part of the Elm Avenue Park including the stretch along Derry Road awaits the next chapter in its industrial/commercial life.  And, we all get to watch as it develops.
The C 1977 photo of the Elm Avenue Park is from the collection of the Historical Society.  Much of the information re: the Hudson Industrial Associates and these industries was found in Town in Transition and Nashua/Hudson City Directories.

The Farm at ALVIRNE High School

Hills’ Farm house and barn in the early 1900’s

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.  

             ALVIRNE Farm house C 1980

 
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.