The Heart of Nashua with Joan Stylianos: A look at Nashua's past and future, street by street

Most of us have a certain pattern of travel when driving around Nashua or sitting as a passenger on the city bus. Our jobs take us to one destination, and our neighborhoods and daily habits also determine the routes we take.

It would be nearly impossible to visit each street in the city or become familiar with every area and the interesting history that goes with it. I admit I would probably flunk an exam on Nashua’s past, but I am fascinated by my community’s incredible origins and development and keep reading to learn more.

As a child, I remember enjoying the ride as my family’s station wagon headed down the incline of Hudson Street. We rarely took that road, but when we did, it held an air of intrigue. The old road can be approached diagonally from East Hollis Street across from the intersection at Allds Street. It’s a mysterious little road surrounded by massive granite blocks from the stone abutments built long ago. The road also leads to the back of Engine 4 — the Crown Hill Fire Station, where its lower garage bay exits onto the roadway.

Driving down Hudson Street quickly turns into Commercial Street as one’s vehicle passes under an aging iron trestle. That road eventually leads to the industrial section of the Gate City, out to Bridge Street and the former Crown Hill Railroad area, depending on what turn you take.

I learned a bit more about it from City Hall’s online source, NashuaNH.Gov.

Hudson Street received its name for its access across town. Decades ago, “It was the route one would take to get to Hudson. Also, Hudson was once part of Old Dunstable with Nashua. Hudson Street also once had a railway. In 1924, Nashua talked about annexing Hudson, but the talks went nowhere.”

Driving to the town of Hudson via Hudson Street is the old-fashioned, longer route, albeit an interesting one that contains the ghost-like remains of the Gate City’s once prominent railroad system that included six rail lines and three railroad companies.

Whenever I travel to Hudson now (via E. Hollis Street) past the Henry Hangar building and over the ancient railroad tracks, I feel like I’ve been transported to a scene in an old movie. Even though traffic is always busy there, time seems frozen where East Hollis Street meets Temple Street at that large asphalt junction. Not much has changed there in decades, so it seems.

From my untrained eye, that unattractive area of industrial land appears ripe for a major overhaul and beautification. The mayor and board of aldermen are “all aboard” and excited about the possibility of a commuter rail stop there, which would be awesome.

The way I understand it, the route would run from Worcester, Mass. to Lowell, Mass., and then up to Nashua and Bedford. Boston Surface Railroad Company of Rhode Island says its project would be privately funded and could be ready in about three years. Nashua would only have to pay for the construction and maintenance of a new train station.

Until commuter rail arrives, it would be great to see green space added or other creative and compatible uses put into place for this spacious and unique area.

A railroad museum marking the city’s former train depot would be a nice addition. Currently, the nearby Bridge Street Waterfront Development Project is a great one, adding more housing and retail space in a village-type layout.

The Gate City no longer has much land available for development, but this concrete industrial zone presents exciting possibilities for the future.

Ms. Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at jtania512@gmail.com.