History is all around us

Sign Up For Our FREE Daily eNews!


Photo/Brian Chicoine

Reading and Reminiscing 

I was recently reading about New England College’s decision to move its art program out of Manchester and to the main campus in Henniker. As you may recall, the former New Hampshire Institute of Art, (NHIA), merged with New England College back in 2019 and basically became a program of the school. I, for one, saw it coming, maybe because I’ve seen schools absorbed by larger institutions only to be shuttered, or maybe because many smaller schools have closed over the past couple decades. Either way, this particular “merger” ended up leaving a hole in the (finally) growing arts community in our city. 

As I thought about this as well as other institutions and landmarks that have been physically lost and relegated to our memories, I thought about how just having memories doesn’t always serve us well. Unless we step in and save documents, repurpose buildings, or at least share our knowledge with the next generation, the memories will eventually die. I am a firm believer that we need to understand the past to successfully navigate the future so we do not want to lose these things. If we don’t know about the past, we’re likely to repeat the bad. 

I want to share some of these awesome landmarks as well as a few sites where things used to be. Knowing even a bit of our city’s history will benefit all, especially if anyone starts floating the idea of destroying more historic buildings as part of another “urban renewal.” 

Before moving on, I want to point out that a great place to visit and learn about the history of our great city in a fun and interactive way is the Millyard Museum, located in – you guessed it – the Millyard, at 200 Bedford Street, (Mill Number 3), here in Manchester. There is free parking both in the front of the building, (200 Bedford Street), and in the back (Commercial Street side). On-street metered parking is also available on the streets surrounding the building. The museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. The museum phone number is (603) 622-7531.

French Building. Photo/Brian Chicoine

Some local Landmarks

The following is a list of some of the places that I like to visit or drive by. These places help me remember our city’s past and all that was involved in shaping Manchester into the city that it is today. (The list is in no particular order):

  1. Emma B. French Hall building, located at 148 Concord Street, (corner of Pine Street). The building was designed by Boston architect William Rantoul and built in 1916 by Mrs. Emma Blood French. French Hall was the first permanent home of the ‘Manchester Institute of Arts & Sciences’ as it was known before changing its name to ‘The New Hampshire Institute of Art’ back in 1997. 
  2. Located right next door at 405 Pine Street is the Carpenter Memorial Library Building, home of the main branch of the Manchester Public Library. In 1910, upon the death of his wife, Elenora Blood Carpenter, prominent local businessman Frank Carpenter approached the city with an offer to build a new library building on Pine Street in memory of his wife. Since 1854 the city has supported public library services, and having quickly outgrown two buildings were happy to have such an offer. The public is welcome to visit this beautiful architectural gem during library hours which can be found by clicking here
  3. A great place for art lovers – and really anyone – is the Currier Museum of Art. Located at 150 Ash Street, the building itself is a work of art. The museum, then called the ‘Currier Gallery of Art’, opened on the estate of former New Hampshire governor Moody Currier and his wife Hannah Slade. Currier and Slade had originally conceived the idea of founding an art museum in the 1890’s, so it is fitting that the museum is in honor of them. The museum added galleries in 1982 and also underwent extensive renovations and an addition in 2008. The museum also owns the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Zimmerman House and Kalil House.

    Carpenter Library. Photo/Brian Chicoine

Exploring our City

One thing that my family and I like to do is to explore our city to find different buildings and landmarks that are a part of our city’s past. A few examples are:

  1. Riding through the North End. We drive up Elm Street past Webster Street and into the North End. Many of the homes in the North End once belonged to prominent citizens in our city as well as directors and executives for Amoskeag Manufacturing. One area in particular that I personally like is at 2291 Elm Street and the surrounding homes. The current Mount Saint Mary Academy and the Manchester Community Music School occupy the building, but I went there when it was the home of Notre Dame College. Although Holy Cross Hall is not exactly historic (it was built in 1965) the presence of a school at the property since 1950 has brought a lot to the neighborhood as well as to this writer’s life. The abutting building, once known as the Vezeau House (the admissions building for the college) was built back in 1895. Beautiful building. 
  2. Riding down Elm Street. We often enjoy simply riding downtown on Elm Street and picture the buildings as they used to be. Buildings such as the Citizens Bank building and the Pembroke Block have a lot of history. Places like the State Theatre (that brought movies with sound, “talkies,” to our city) Pariseau’s Department Store and Ferretti’s lined the street while streetcars winded their way through traffic. 
  3. Exploring the old “Corporation Buildings.” We love to explore the area bordered by Elm, Canal, Granite, and Stark. The old buildings, many now apartments and offices, were once the homes of mill workers. Taking a walk in this area can give one a sense of the history of the area. 
  4. Walking trails at Stark Park and Livingston Park. We love to go to the park, from our neighborhood park, to Rock Rimmon Park and others. But we especially love Stark and Livingston Parks. We head over to Stark Park for a picnic or to listen to music at the gazebo. We also enjoy the “Walk in the Woods” trail that leads down by the river and back. (And there are recently completed walking bridges to make the walk easier as well as a cool-looking animal-like sculpture along the trail and an owl house). 
Dorrs Pond. Photo/Brian Chicoine

At Livingston Park, the 1.1-mile walking trail loops around Dorrs Pond, allowing visitors to not only see woodland nature, but ducks and other animals that live in or frequent the pond. Its suburban setting allows one to see things that are not always seen in the city.      

A few more things

A few more areas that we like to explore are the Millyard, the remaining piece of the once dominant canals located next to the Eversource parking area off of North Commercial, and Rock Rimmon…the view from the top is pretty cool. 

Elm Street has undergone many changes over the years. Photo/Brian Chicoine

Remembering the Past

Sometimes while driving through our city, I am reminded of what used to be; such as when I drive across the Notre Dame Bridge, I remember the arch bridge; while driving by the WMUR building, I know that the train station used to be there; when going through Granite Square, I remember the Crescent Building; and when driving down by the dog park on Second Street, I am reminded of the zoo that was in the area until the Great Flood.

Enjoy the Present but not at the expense of the Past 

I enjoy living in a growing city, I love my adopted hometown, and I mostly like what Manchester has become and where it is going, but we should always remember – and try to preserve – the past. (For example, think about repurposing instead of automatically looking at destroying). We are blessed to live in an area that started to be developed when it was, and are fortunate to have history all around us. I think in a sense we are spoiled by it and often overlook the history that is all around us. 

So let’s take some time and bring our families to some of these places, or just take a drive through our city and explore, because there are so many things in our city worth exploring! 

I have not listed nearly everything, so if you know of something that I have missed, or just want to make a comment, feel free to email me at bchicoinemht@gmail.com



About this Author

Brian Chicoine

Brian Chicoine is a New Hampshire native who moved to Manchester from Raymond in 1980. While a student at Notre Dame College here in Manchester, Brian transferred to Rhode Island College in Providence, where he met his now wife, Jackie. Brian and Jackie spent the next 20 years living in Providence and Manchester, returning to Manchester with their two sons, (who are proud Manchester natives), in the fall of 2017. He and his family intend on staying in Manchester and are committed to helping make it an even better place to live, work, and play.