I LIKE OLD BUILDINGS and am happy when city officials vote to save vintage architectural structures instead of seeing them demolished to make way for a new office or chain store, etc.
I think these gems offer a homey feeling, a cultural history of our community and a nice blend of styles. I know it’s not always possible to save every old building in the Gate City, but it’s nice to see these historic structures stand out, live on through the ages and fulfill new uses.
Two of my favorite examples are actually former libraries located at opposite ends of downtown. I drive by both of them often, and each presents a distinct physical appearance.
I remember climbing the ornate staircase inside the Chandler Memorial Library with my brothers. The pinewood steps creaked loudly under our little feet, but it was such a wonderful place to explore. As a child, you could find your own cozy little space among the awkward corners of this beautiful former Victorian home, sit on the floor, and choose a book to take home and read.
It was as old-fashioned as it gets and served as the library’s Children’s Room for a number of years. Mabel Chandler left the grand home of 5,000 square feet to the city to be used as a branch library to the Nashua Public Library in 1960.
The Chandler Memorial Library at 257 Main St. is now home to an elegant shop of antiques and chic home decor called “Glorious Possibilities.” The interior remains a stunning place with handsome crown molding, high ceilings, carved archways, large windows, steam radiators and the like.
The store is family-owned by Gloria and Pete Henry, Jacquie Henry-Hardwick and grandson, Dakota Stubbs. It’s nice to see the 1856 Victorian structure retain both its exterior and interior refinement.
In 1903, Nashua’s public library was built at the top of 6 Main St. on Library Hill. It’s a fine example of Gothic Revival architecture and to a child, looks like a red brick castle with its three-story square tower.
The building was named the Hunt Memorial Library after Mary A. and Mary E. Hunt made a sizable donation to the city for its construction in memory of John M. Hunt.
I used to cover board of education meetings there long ago, and the structure once served as the offices of the city school board.
What initially happens to old buildings like these, however, is their lack of modern upgrading. I recall that the Hunt building was not handicapped accessible at the time, and that poses inconveniences and illegalities of all sorts.
Today, the city of Nashua owns the building, and you can thank former Mayor Rob Wagner for his foresight during his reign at the corner office from 1992-95.
From what I remember reporting, the board of aldermen had decided to to sell the famous building to Grace Fellowship Church for $50,000. The mayor thought a landmark building like the former Hunt Memorial Library was too precious to let go, so he vetoed the sale, and the church took it in stride.
The building underwent extensive renovations and today serves as a performance and event venue available for rental. A number of people have married and had their wedding receptions there.
The Hunt Building is listed at the National Register of Historic Places.
Thank you, Mayor Wagner; a smart move and wise urban planning.