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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.
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.
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.
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”.