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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the early 1930’s Hudson students were educated in Webster (grades 1-8) and Hudson Center (grades 1-6) schools. For grades 9-12 they attended Nashua High school and out town paid the tuition. The per pupil cost for grades 1-8 in 1935 was about $52.00; tuition to Nashua High was about $101.00 per student with about 130 students attending. Hudson’s annual school budget for grades 1-8 was $28,110 of which $15,975 was for salaries; the remainder was text books, supplies, transportation, janitor, and utilities. The cost for tuition to Nashua was $15,150. Nashua was entertaining the concept of a 6-3-3 plan which would require Hudson students to make two adjustments. The first to a Junior High for grade 9 the second to the High School for grades 9-12.
The depression hit Hudson and our schools in full force. Budgets were submitted in light of these economics. The school administration did not feel they could push for a land purchase or a building program for a new school. Then Nashua postponed the implementation of the 9-3-3 plan because of the depression. So our own building program became less of a problem.
Enrollment at Webster School was at a maximum. A portable classroom called ‘The Portable’ was used at Webster for extra students in grades 3 and 4; also a classroom was established at the IOOF building (now the American Legion) for grades and 5 and 6. With these issues in mind and the increasing cost of tuition to Nashua schools, Hudson voters were asked to consider the construction of a high school or a junior high school.
Warrant articles for an additional school began as early as March 1935; including one in 1937 to build using money from the A.K. Hills Estate. None of these early attempts were approved. In 1938 it did became possible to build a long needed junior high school. Federal funds were available under the Public Works Administration (PWA) which could be used for materials and labor. Plans and justifications for a proposed building were put in place and submitted for a grant. Upon approval of the grant a special school district meeting was held on the Odd Fellows building August 1938 to accept a grant of $38,250 from PWA. Newspaper accounts reported it as a lively meeting. The grant was accepted. The junior high would consist of 6 classrooms, an auditorium-gym, manual and domestic arts, an office, and a large study room. Total cost $85,000 including price of a land located on School and First Street for which the school district had an option. The district meeting also approved a bond issue of $46,670 to complete the payment of the school.
The school opened September 1939 and was formerly dedicated November 7, 1939, Members of the building committee were Herbert Canfield, Mrs. Ida Gatz, Robert Hardy, Reuben Groves, Amedee Paul, Louis Spalding, and Mildred Fuller. Dr. H.O. Smith, well known physician and 24 year member of the School Board, spoke at the dedication. His topic was the educational history of Hudson dating into the 1700’s. In June 1940 a group of citizens donated a portrait of Dr. Smith. This portrait hangs in the upper hallway to this day.
With the completion of the junior High overflow classes in the IOOF Building and ‘The Portables’ were no longer needed. These classes returned to Webster. The Portables, along with a piece of land on Oakwood between First and Second Streets were made available to the town recreation department.
The Hudson Junior High remained in use with grades 10-12 attending Nashua High until the completion of Alvirne as a Junior/Senior High School in 1950. At which time Hudson students completed high school in their home town. After the completion of Alvirne High School the junior high building was renamed and re-dedicated as the Dr. H.O. Smith Elementary School in 1950. Grades 1-3 occupied that school with grades 4-6 at Webster.
Expansion was again necessary and in 1956 the H.O.Smith annex on the west side of the building was approved by the voters. Today, with 80 years of service, this building is an integral part of the campus for Hudson’s Early Learning Center. Our photo shows the Dr. H.O. Smith Elementary School c1976 as photographed for the Town In Transition.
This is one of the most popular post cards of Hudson.
From this early post card of Webster School, Hills Memorial Library, and the surrounding area we get an idea of what this section of town looked like about 1910. Kimball Webster School (right) had been in use since it’s completion in 1896. The new Hills Memorial Library (left) was completed in 1908. The photo for this post card was taken from an open field across the street from Webster School at the corner of School and Library Streets. In fact, what is now Library Street was barely a dirt road in this picture. One can locate the road by following the utility pole. An 1892 map of Hudson shows an ice house where the Hills Library is located and what is now Library Street was called Sanders Street.
Looking beyond these buildings and along Ferry Street we see very little construction. On Ferry Street and opposite the library is the home at what is now 42 Ferry Street; known by many as the Cunningham home and now owned by Kurt Smith. On the knoll behind the library and the school we see another early home; most likely the home at what is now 55 Ferry Street.
Today this open field is the site of the Leonard Smith Fire Station and the Town Office Building; built in the the 1950’s and 1960s respectively. Before these buildings this field was a popular playground; used during pre-school,recess, and after school activities for Webster School. During the spring and summer months this field was used by the Recreation Department for a ball field, basketball court, and playground for the younger kids. As a point of memory, Hudson resident Dan O’Brien has fond memories of little league games played here, as early as 1950 or 51,under the direction of Manager Brown. These may have been some of the earliest little league games in Hudson. The year construction was underway for the new fire station Dan recalls breaking a window in the station while throwing rocks. Yes! He was busted by Chief Andy Polak. In Andy’s way all he did was report Dan to his parents. But, that was enough! Photo from the Historical Society collection.
Also known as the school on Kimball Hill Road. I attended this two-room school house for five years. Grades 1-3 with Mrs. Marguarite Gilman and grades 4 and 5 with Miss Florence Parker. After that the 6th grade at Webster then off to Alvirne!!
After the D.O. Smith School on Windham Road was destroyed by fire, the school district voted to build a new school of similar size. The sum of $900 plus the amount received from insurance was allocated for this purpose. A conscious decision was made to not re-build on the Windham Road location. The Hudson Center School, a two room house, was built on the east side of Pelham Road (now Kimball Hill Road) just a short distance from Hudson Center. This school remained in use until 1956 when it was closed. The students were combined with the classes at Webster School. Of the two teachers: Florence Parker became a reading supervisor and Mrs. Marguerite Gilman taught a second grade. This building remains today and is privately owned. Photo from Historical Society Collection.
In 1896 Hudson residents voted to erect two new school houses. This vote began the movement to a centralized school system; departing from the the district school system. The Smith School shown here was erected for the convenience of families in/near Hudson Center.
The Smith School house was erected in Hudson Center on what is now Windham Road. The building committee was authorized to spend up to $3,000 to build and equip this school; which was named in honor of Dr. David O. Smith. In his younger years David O. was a successful teacher, he then studied medicine and became a very skillful physician. After becoming a doctor he retained his interest in the schools of this town, doing more for our schools than any other person during his long lifetime. This school house was completely destroyed by fire and was replaced by the Hudson Center School on Kimball Hill Road in 1909. The Smith School was located on the north side of the road at or near the present address of 42 to 44 Windham Road. This picture is from an old sepia photograph from the Historical Society collection.
Of the ten district schools number 9 is the only house remaining. Each of the others have been demolished and replaced with a dwelling or converted into a dwelling. Number 9 is privately owned by the Jasper Family and was restored by Shawn Jasper in the late 1970’s.
Before 1886 the No 9 house (Kidder District) house was located on what is now Robinson Road. The approximate location was on the left side of Robinson (as you turn up the hill from Old Derry Road) towards the top of the hill. The No 10 house (Hills Row District) was located on what is now Old Derry Road (earlier Derry Road) just north of the intersection with Greeley Street. These two districts were merged into a single district and this No 9 School House was built by the town of Hudson in 1886. It operated as a one-room school house until 1932. In the mid-1930’s Grant Jasper purchased the property from the town. The No 9 Schoolhouse is the only one which survives intact as a school house. In the late 1970’s it was renovated by Mr. Jasper’s grandson, Shawn. The school house is owned by Jasper Corporation.