Looking Back with Aurore Eaton: Evolution of Manchester's Pulaski ParkBy AURORE EATON
October 08. 2017 10:48PM
Tremont Square in Manchester, bordered by Bridge, Union, High and Pine streets, was established in 1848. It was one of the four original parks included as part of the city plan developed by the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company. Unlike the three other early parks — Merrimack Square (now Veterans Memorial Park), Concord Square (now Victory Park) and Hanover Square (now Bronstein Park) — Tremont Square did not contain a fire pond. Its sole purpose was to provide a tree-shaded public space for the enjoyment of the people in the neighborhood.
Tremont Square (which became known as Tremont Common) played an important role in Manchester’s Semi-Centennial celebration of 1896. This four-day event celebrated the 50-year anniversary of Manchester receiving its city charter. On the celebration’s second day, Monday, Sept. 7, a tremendous parade wound its way through the center of the city, featuring 6,000 musicians and other marchers, as well as colorful floats. Tremont Common was the site of the official viewing stand for this impressive procession.
As the neighborhood near Tremont Common grew, it attracted immigrants from many countries, including people fleeing conflict and poverty in Poland. The Great Depression began in October 1929, and the strain of the financial crisis deeply affected the people of Manchester. The Depression would last a decade, and each year brought new challenges. In 1933, there was much discord in the city, including a violent strike in May at the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company that required Gov. John G. Winant to call out the New Hampshire National Guard. That was the year a group of local Polish-Americans decided to do something positive.
In the summer of 1933, Polish-American volunteers gathered more than 460 signatures on a petition to change the name of Tremont Common to Pulaski Park “in honor of the famous and noble Count Casimir Pulaski, who not only strove unsuccessfully for the freedom of Poland but also gave his life on the field of battle for the American independence.”
When the Manchester Historic Association learned about this effort, its trustees complained to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. In a written statement, the trustees expressed “that it does not seem advisable to change the names of old localities and landmarks in our city which they have borne for unnumbered years.” The trustees officially registered their “most solemn and emphatic protest” against such action, but it doesn’t appear their sentiments swayed anyone.
On Sept. 21, 1933, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen held a special meeting, which was called to order at 7:30 p.m. by the mayor, Dr. Damase Caron. The board dispensed with a few items, but the major matter for consideration was the request to rename Tremont Common. The aldermen waived the normal rules so that they could act on the request immediately and not have to send the proposed ordinance to committee for review.
The reason for the rush was that the Polish community wished for the park to be renamed so that a special event could be held there on Pulaski Day, Oct. 11. Pulaski Day was a federal holiday established by presidential decree in 1929 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of Brig. Gen. Casimir Pulaski. He had been wounded at the Battle of Savannah on Oct. 9, 1779 and had died two days later. Pulaski Day became an annual holiday and it gained popularity in many American cities, as it honored not only Pulaski, but also the culture and contributions of all Polish-Americans.
Three leaders of the local Polish community spoke at the Sept. 21 meeting — Walter Duda, Walter Mozek and Dr. John Wlodkoski. They explained that a large number of people favored the park’s name change, and they noted that only about 25 percent of the petition’s signers were Polish. Indeed, the document, which can be seen today in the city’s archives, indicates support from a wide segment of Manchester’s population, including people of French-Canadian, Irish, Greek, Swedish and British heritage. There are even two Chinese names listed.
The ordinance was approved, with only Alderman Albert L. Clough dissenting. The next day he was quoted in The Union newspaper as saying, “I don’t believe in railroading through any measure no matter how good it is.”
Next week: Manchester’s first Pulaski Day event.
Aurore Eaton is a historian and writer in Manchester, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.facebook.com/AuroreEatonWriter.