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The Old Youth Center aka the “portable”

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The Youth Center C 1976

This building which began as a school house in Peterborough, NH was moved to Hudson in 1929. It was moved a second time in 1941 where it found a permanent use by our town Recreation Department until it was replaced in 1985.

In 1929 Hudson was in the midst of the depression and money was tight. Extensive repairs had been completed to the Webster school building as the result of the recent fire. These repairs placed the facility in a better condition than before the fire. Hudson’s total school enrollment was 457 students: 356 at Webster, 58 at Hudson Center, 23 at No. 1 District school at Musquash, and 20 at No 9 District on Derry Road (now Old Derry Road). Yes!! Two of our local district schools were still operating at that time. Also, there were almost 100 Hudson students who were attending private elementary schools. Despite the depression it was apparent to the school board that an additional classroom was needed at Webster. They were fortunate to locate an available portable school house from the district of Peterborough. This building was secured, moved to Hudson, and placed behind the Webster school house in time for the 1929 school year. This annex to Webster immediately acquired the nickname of the “portable”.

The “portable” served Hudson quite well. It provided a make-shift class room which could be used for any grade(s) until another school building and/or school room became available. One year the “portable” was used for grade 1 and grade 3. Another year, for example, for grade 2 and grade 3. And so it continued. The depression continued into the 1930’s. The school board continuously looked for ways to decrease the cost of the elementary grades. At the same time the number of students attending Nashua Junior and Senior High was increasing. In 1933 the No.1 school house was closed due to cost and enrollment. This saved the district over $800 but added to the congestion at Webster. This situation continued until Hudson obtained a federal grant and made plans for a Junior High school building. Land was purchased and The Hudson Junior High school was built on School Street at the corner of what is now First Street near Oakwood Street. In 1939 the junior high was completed and Hudson students in grades 7,8,9 were schooled there; thus reducing the tuition spent to Nashua. This also relieved the pressure at Webster and made possible the closing of the “portable”. At that time grades 1-6 attended either Webster or Hudson Center’ graded 7-9 attended Hudson Junior High, and grades 10-12 were tuition students at Nashua.

The “portable” was used as a Webster annex until the end of the 1938 school year; almost 10 years. At the School District meeting in March 1939 the “portable” building was made available to the youth of Hudson. A short time after the building was moved from the rear of Webster onto School District land at the corner of First Street and Oakwood Avenue. A Recreation Committee of 5 persons was formed and organized activities for the youth of Hudson during the weeks of school summer vacation began to take root.

By 1953 there were 300 children and teenagers participating in the 9 week schedule of supervised summer activities ranging from playground activities, little league, and crafts. One special event such as doll show, pet show, bicycle parade, father and son baseball, or a trip to Benson’s was scheduled for each week. These events were held at the Youth Center on Oakwood Street and area fields: the ball field behind the Junior High, tennis courts located at the Robinson playground on School Street, and the ball field at the corner of School and Library Streets. This last field is now the site of the Leonard Smith Fire Station. At the School District meeting March 1954 the so called “portable” lot at the intersection of First and Oakwood Streets was deeded by the School District deeded to the town of Hudson for use by the town Recreation Committee.

Our first photo shows the Youth Center aka the old “potable” facing Oakwook Street C 1975. This building remained in use through the summer program of 1984 at which time it was replaced as a project of the Lions Club. The new building was 2,160 square feet and contained a large meeting room, heating facilities, an office, and space for a kitchen. The Lions Club donated the cost of this building with the assistance of many tradesmen, suppliers, and individuals in town who worked on the project at or below cost. The building committee consisted of Alvin Rodgers, Gus Piantidosi, Richard Millard, and Phillip Rodgers as chairman. The keys to the new youth center were turned over to Recreation Commission Chairman Paul Hamilton and Selectman John Bednar who thanked the Lions for their contribution to the community. While making this presentation Lions Club President Roger Latulippe stated that the new recreation building was donated to the town and its citizens as a token of gratitude for the many years of support shown to the club. Credit was specifically given to Paul Dawkins who wired the building at no cost and to the Snowmen snowmobile club who hung sheetrock at no cost.

Rec Center 2019

The Rec Center 2019

Our second photo shows the Rec Center at it appears in 2019. Under the direction of Dave Yates, Recreation Director our recreation department now includes activities at this location plus the facilities at Robinson Pond, the playground and ball field at Hudson Center, activities at the Community Center (previously Lions Hall), senior services at the North Barn, and numerous ball fields and playground distributed through town. The 1975 photo is from the collection at the historical society. The current photo was taken by the author.

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The “Bee Hive” on Central Street

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The “Bee Hive” on Central Street

We’ve heard the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words”. That is the case with this early 1940’s photo of the house, known as “the bee hive” located on what is now 73 Central Street; opposite what many remember as the home of Leon and Gerri Hammond. To the right and slightly behind this house we see two homes; the right most of these is located at 65 Central Street, home to Henry Frenette. The second, smaller home, is at 1 Lowell Road and home to Alfred Bastien.

A few first hand memories have been documented about the “bee hive”. The first is from Maurice “Nick” Connell who grew up in Hudson and later recorded some of his memories via a series of occasional articles in The Hudson News. In one such article (August 24, 1984) “Nick” recalls the “going’ swimmin'” routine of his gang of friends in the 1930’s. They would swim and dive in the Merrimack River near the railroad bridge abutments; then walk the tracks to the Lowell Road underpass and explore the “old haunted house” on Central Street near the overpass. He remembered this two storied, weather beaten structure also known as the “bee hive”. This nickname was applied to the house because of the strange and shady goings on there. This reputation added to the excitement of the barefoot summertime explorations of a group of young boys. They would walk the tracks to Melendy Pond, another popular “swimmin hole”. According to Nick, this house was torched by some unnown arsonist on November 1, 1945 and torn down on November 27, 1945.

Another memory of this house was left by Leo J. Gagnon. He recalled Anton’s restaurant and their parking area on the opposite side of Central Street – where a house called the ‘bee hive” once existed. By his memory this house was a half-way house. Other memories I have heard suggest it was a frequent and convenient “overnight” stop for individuals catching a free ride on the train as it passed through Hudson then on to West Windham, and Rochester, NH.

RR Map 1942

1942 Hudson Zoning Map

Speaking of the railroad, the second photo shows a portion of the Hudson zoning map for 1942 from the Hudson Town Report. This map traces the route of the steam railroad from the river to the overpass at Lowell Road where the tracks crossed over Lowell Road and ran behind the ‘bee hive” house and continued on to Melendy Road, “Long crossing” and Hudson Center.

A few additional details are known about this house. According to the town report for 1947, the Walton land on which was situated the so called “bee hive” was purchased (at least in part) by the Town of Hudson from the State of NH.

By 1870, and possibly before, this house was home to Samuel Walton, (age 49), his wife Fanny (age 48), and their daughter Sarah (age 21) and son James (age 19). Samuel was born about 1817 in England and was employed in a shingle mill. Based upon census records Samuel lived here until his death in February 1892, at which time the home was passed to his daughter, Susan (Walton) Brown, and his son, James Walton. His wife, Fanny had predeceased him by a year. At the time of his death he had an ownership interest in the Melendy Mills. With Central Street in your front yard and the railroad tracks in your back yard, the lot upon which this house existed was likely reduced in size and attraction through the years. By 1897, Susan and James sold the house to William Fitzgerald of Nashua. Samuel Walton purchased the property from Joseph Fuller and Fred Steele in 1868. After being sold by members of the Walton Family this house had a variety of owners, tax issues, and foreclosures.

In February 1999 in an effort to remember those fire fighters who had fought and those who have fallen the Hudson Fire Department announced they were seeking to build a new and larger memorial. A modest memorial for fallen firefighter James Taylor did exist in front of the Library Street Station. Their plan was for a larger memorial which would be dedicated to all men and women of the Hudson Fire Department. A Memorial Committee, chaired by David Moran was organized and they proceeded to design and raise funds for such a memorial. The committee reached out to town and school officials for a suitable location. A number of sites were considered and by April 2000, their plans had cleared the final hurdle. Ground breaking began and by May 21, 2000 the Hudson Fireman’s Memorial was dedicated upon a grassy knoll at the intersection of Central Street and Lowell Road. The location of this memorial has been named Hammond Park in memory of firefighter and neighbor Leon Hammond. Hammond Park and the fireman’s memorial is located upon or near the site of the Samuel Walton home, more recently known as the “bee hive”.

Officer Polak and the Cruiser 1942

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Officer “Andy” Polak and the Cruiser 1942

Andrew “Andy” Polak served 34 years as a member of the Hudson Police Force, 26 of these years as Police Chief.  For the year ending January 31, 1943 the Police Department operated with a budget of $3,200; including $1,826 salary for H.J. Connell as Chief, 13 part time officers earning .50 per hour, and expenses for operating the police cruiser.  Of the police officers “Andy” logged the most hours; earning a salary of $350.50 for 701 hours!  In April 1946 Officer Polak was appointed Chief after Chief Harry Connell resigned due to poor health.  Chief Polak remained in that capacity until his retirement in October 1972.
In this weeks photo we see Officer “Andy” next to the Police Cruiser on the Derry Road in front of Goodwin’s Fried Clam Stand with  Saint Patrick’s Cemetery in the background.  Visible are the front wall of the cemetery, a house adjacent to the cemetery,  and the corner of the roof of Goodwin’s Stand.  Perhaps “Andy” was at “the stand” on town business as Fred T. Goodwin, proprietor, was one of the three Selectmen for the Town of Hudson.
Police activities for Chief Polak in the early years was much different than today.  In addition to being Police Chief he was also the Health Officer, responsible for recording measles, mumps, and other infectious diseases.  The mobile radio installed in the cruiser was receive only.  Calls for service were dispatched to the Chief.  After completing the call or if he needed additional personnel he would have to find a phone nearly to call in his report.
Chief Polak attended the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy in Washington, DC where he learned about all phases of police work and investigations including fingerprinting, photography, and shooting.  The local Lions Club was able to sponsor this schooling for the benefit of the town.
During his time as Chief “Andy” and his department were instrumental in solving many major crimes in Hudson; here are a few.    In 1958 a man reported that his wife was missing to an on duty officer at the Hudson Speedway.  After investigations and questioning the huspand it was disclosed that he and his wife had argued and she had been murdered and was buried out of state.
The following year Hudson was the site of one of the largest robberies in the state up to the time.  Three men entered Benson’s Wild Animal Farm, beat a watchman, bound and gagged an animal trainer, and opened the safe with a blowtorch removing $23,000.  After 8 months and a five state investigation  the crime was solved.  No significant amount of money was recovered’ however a large number of other roberies were solved in connection with this investigation.
In 1968 the first bank robbery in Hudson occurred.  The Indian Hean Bank, then located on Ferry Street near the site of the present Santander Bank, was robbed.  The investigation of this $1,900 robberd was unsuccessful.
In 2000, during a ceremony to recognize retired Chief Polak at the Historical Society, he donated his police uniform to the Society to be retained as part of our town’s history.  Information for this article is from the book Town in Transition, Hudson, NH and from the Hudson, NH Town Report for the year ending January 31, 1943,  Copies of the Town in Transition are available for purchase from the Historical Society.  The photograph is from the Society’s collection and was a donation from Celia Polak, daughter of the Chief.

Town Seal and Flag

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Town Seal 1965

We see the town seal prominently displayed on various town vehicles, in town literature, on the web site, and even used (with permission) by some town organizations.  The seal, as show here, was first displayed on the back cover of The Hudson Annual Report for 1960.  At the town meeting in March 1961 the voters adopted this seal as the official seal.Just prior to this Henry A. Fraser, a Hudson resident designed this seal at the request of Ned Spaulding, long time moderator of Hudson.  He used a sketch of a typical garrison house from Webster’s History of Hudson as a basis for the center.  The letters encircling identifies the incorporation date of 1746; when the town of Nottingham West (now Hudson) was chartered by New Hampshire.  The original charter signed by then governor Benning Wentworth is preserved in the archives of Rodgers Memorial Library.
Mr. Fraser and his wife Gloria built their home and raised a family after he purchased land from the Merrill family on Maple Avenue.  Professionally he was a wood worker and artist; employed by various companies in NH and Mass.
After adoption as the official seal a full color rendition was converted to a decal/print for use by and by permission of the Town of Hudson.
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Town Flag 1975

The official town flag shown here was created as part of Hudson’s celebration of the US Bicentennial which began in 1975.  A contest was held by the art department of Alvirne High School and a number of entries resulted.  This particular design was selected as the winner and later adopted for the official town flag at the Town meeting of March 1975.  The winning entry was by Terry Battey, then a senior at Alvirne.  The design is simple but nice:  the center being the same garrison house used in the town seal, surrounded by 9 stars signifying that New Hampshire was the 9th state to ratify the US Constitution.  These were then placed in the center of a light blue flag.  After the winner was chosen, some number of flags were made and displayed at commemorative events during the US bicentennial  celebration,  one is now on display in the corridor of the main floor in the Hudson Town Building. After graduating from Alvirne Terry attended Keene State College.  She now lives in Auburn,NH and is busy with a full time job,and as a mother, and grandmother.
The rendition of the town seal shown here is from the 1960 Town Report; the photo of the flag is from 1975 Town Report

Town Office Building C 1965

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Breaking Ground for Town Office March 1965

At the Annual Town Meeting in March 1964 we appropriated $50,000 for a Town Office Building.  Soon thereafter Leonard Smith was selected as the designer.  Plans and specifications moved forward and the required public hearing was scheduled for December 8, 1964 at the  H.O. Smith School.   The plans provided about 4,800 square feet of floor space which  would accommodate the Selectmen’s office, Police Department, Town Clerk and Tax collector, Planning Board, Board of Adjustment. the Building Inspector, as well as a meeting hall for officials and civic groups.   The School Street site was selected because the town owned the property and the playground facilities located there could be transferred to the H O Smith playground.   Bids were asked for and all  bids received were above the appropriation.  This resulted in negotiations between the Board of Selectmen and the lowest bidder.   The contract was signed and ground was broken in early spring 1965.  Our first photo shows the first ‘swipe’ of ground taken by the bulldozer to prepare the former playground on School Street for the foundation for this office building. In the background we see the old fire alarm and the rear of the  row houses along Ferry Street.
Adrien Labrie of Nashua was the General Contractor for the project.  This company was also the contractor for the Alvirne High School addition, in process at the same time.    Because of  pressures to have the school addition ready for September, construction of the Office Building received several setbacks. Originally the  schedule hoped for occupancy during summer of 1965; actual occupancy was delayed until late December of that year.At that time the Police Department and town officers mentioned above moved into this new facility.
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Town Office Building C 1970

In 1974 a 30 x 60 foot addition was made; and in 1985 a second addition was approved by the town.  This latter addition included the addition of a porch-style life and ramps for handicap accessibility.  Photos from Historical Society Collection.

Ferry Street Fire Station C 1926

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Ferry Street Station and Crew C 1926

The Hudson Fire Department takes its origin back to 1892 when the Hudson Hose Company was founded by a group of volunteers.  This independent company raised their own funds for equipment and expenses.  Individuals paid dues, were fined for missed meetings, and engaged in fund raisers.  Their first project was the building of the Old Hose House on Central Street just above the Methodist (now Community) Church.  Individuals pledged time in order to supply the necessary labor.  This building was sufficient to house early equipment and provide a place for volunteers to meet.
In 1913 this group purchased the Kelly Springfield truck by public subscription at a cost of $1,030.  Individuals signed a note at The Nashua Trust Company.  This vehicle is said to be the first piece of motorized fire equipment used in New Hampshire.  The next year this truck and the balance of payments was turned over to the town with the understanding that the truck would be housed near the bridge.  Prior to this time the town had not formerly helped the department.  Through this action and payment of a small salary our early firefighters were able to join the State’s Firemen’s Relief Association.  The Kelly was housed in a  garage on Campbell Avenue donated by Charles Norton.  As the department expanded and more equipment purchased, the move was made to to the House Brothers’ Garage on Ferry Street.
In April 20, 1926 The Osgood Construction company of Nashua was awarded the contract for a new fire house for the Hudson Department; built for Raymond House.  Details were finalized and work started .immediately.  The press release in the local paper April 20, 1926 stated that part of the old garage was moved to make room for the new engine house.  The Town of Hudson had signed a five year lease with Mr House for this new station which had two vehicle stalls, an office and lounging room for members of the department as well as a sleeping room.  It was a bungalow style building made of brick and  concrete blocks.  Brick on the front and concrete blocks on the sides.  The new building was expected to be ready for occupancy in a few months. This station was located on Ferry Street, opposite and slightly north of the intersection with Campbell Avenue; about where the Gulf Station is now located.
A vote was recorded to have a photograph of department members in front of the newly completed station in the mid 1920’s.  The photo of the Ferry Street Station C 1926 seen here could be the result of that motion.  The photo shows the two stall station, the Reo firetrucks used at the time, along with drivers and members of the department.  Charles Reynonds and Ray House are in the driver;s seat of the left engine.  Harry Emerson and Fred House are in the right engine.  Standing between the engines from left to right are:  Ornam Campbell, Bill Edgley, Charles Farmer, Edward Robinson, Sidney Baker, Earl Alexander, Chief Harry Connell, John Pearson, Allen Andrews, Joseph Fuller, Walace Baker, Paul Buxton (arrow), and Roland Abbott.
This Ferry Street station served the department and the community until some time after World War II when it was expanded to a four stall station.  Then, as town growth occurred  in the early 1950’s the Central Fire station (now Leonard Smith station) was built on corner of Library and School Streets.  In time the Ferry Street building was razed to make way for the access roads leading to and from the bridges. Photo from the Historical Society collection.

Central Fire Station C 1955

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Central Fire Station C 1955

The year was 1951 and Hudson’s population was rapidly growing.  The Town’s four-stalled rented fire station on Ferry Street was already overcrowded.  The problem was simple:  how could the town build a larger fire station without raising the already high tax rate?  The Selectmen, the then volunteer fire department, and Frank Nutting had a plan.  They would borrow $40,000.  The  yearly cost to repay  this loan would be about the same as what the town was already paying for the rented station.  This money would be used for materials; the labor to build the station would come from volunteers.  At the town meeting in March 1952, the town voted to build a firehouse at a cost not exceeding $40,000.
The planning and architectural work was done by Leonard Smith, a local builder and member of the volunteer fire department.  Ground was broken May 1, 1952 on town owned land at the corner of Library and School Streets, opposite Webster School;  utilizing about one-half of the approximately 1.3 acres of the old ball field. Community spirit was high; volunteers came from within the department, the town, town organizations, and even from surrounding towns.  Engineers, builders, merchants, and laborers came forward to help.  The result was this fire station of typical New England architecture with housing for nine trucks, offices, rest rooms, kitchen, future sleeping area, and an assembly hall.  There was also room for expansion.  By fall of 1952 the building was enclosed for winter work and by summer of 1953 the new station was put into service.  One work session occurred on April 3, 1953 with 24 men and 16 members of the fire department.  Following work they were rewarded by a ham and bean supper prepared by Leon Hammond, Norman Crosby, and Lewis Reynolds.
This facility housed the fire and police departments.  Later the upstairs was used for temporary classrooms, then for meetings and classes for both departments with space for supplies.  The Board of Selectmen moved their office from the basement of the Hills Library into the fire station, remaining here until the town office building was built next door  on the corner of School and what is now Chase Street.  At that time Chase Street ended at School Street and did not extend to Ferry Street.
As town growth  and needs of the fire department continued an addition to this station has occurred as well as the addition of satellite stations on Burns Hill and Robinson Roads.  Shortly after the passing of Leonard Smith in  2002, the Central Fire station was renamed The Leonard  E. Smith Fire Station” in his memory.  Photo from the Historical Society collection.