Nashville Historic District
The Nashville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The Nashville Historic District is located near the center of Nashua, New Hampshire, immediately north of the Nashua River, approximately 3/4 miles west of the Merrimack River and slightly more than one mile east of the Edward Everett Turnpike (Route 3). Land in the Nashville Historic District is mostly level with the exception of areas in the vicinity of Main Street and Railroad Square which slope southward to the north bank of the Nashua River. Its boundaries are the Nashua River and the back lot lines of Railroad Square, (south); back lot lines of Railroad Square, Clinton, Lock, Orange, and Concord Streets, (east); side and back lots of Concord and Mt. Pleasant Streets, (north); and rear lot lines on Concord, Abbott, Amherst and Main Streets (west).
Street Pattern & General Patterns of Land Use
The street pattern of the Nashville Historic District is the product of several periods. Early streets include Main, Amherst and Concord, all of which were in use as transportation routes by the mid-eighteenth century when the first bridge was built across the Nashua River at Main Street (1746). During the Federal period, these streets became the site of a small village with several commercial buildings situated near the junction of Amherst Street and Main Street.
The extensive development of side streets and subdivided house lots did not occur until the 1820s and 1830s when the success of the Nashua Manufacturing Company's textile mills on the south side of the Nashua River brought about the rapid growth of local population. During the period of the 1820s and 1830s, Orange Street and Lock Street were laid out. Additional house lots were laid out by the Nashua Manufacturing Company along Concord Street at least as far out as Laton Street; however, most of these were sold to individuals who did not build houses here until the late 1830s and 1840s.
Rapid development of the street pattern occurred in the 1840s and 1850s when Abbott, Manchester and Mt. Pleasant Streets came into existence. Residential construction on these streets was characterized by houses built by individuals for their own use rather than by the wholesale development of the area by real estate speculators. Construction in these areas continued until the late 1870s when most lots had been occupied. At the same time, the extension of the Boston & Lowell Railroad to Railroad Square (ca.1835-1838) strengthened the importance of Railroad Square as the community's major business and hotel district, a position which it retained until the late-nineteenth century when the commercial district moved south of the Nashua River along Main Street. During the 1870s and continuing into the early-twentieth century, residential development in the Nashville Historic District focused on the north end of Concord Street where the city's largest concentration of high-style Victorian houses was built for local industrialists and entrepreneurs.
The architecture of the Nashville Historic District is dominated by two-story free-standing, houses of wood-frame construction built on lots of varying sizes that reflect the unplanned growth of the area through the nineteenth century. Representing nearly a full range of Victorian styles, the Nashville Historic District's buildings are mostly well-preserved, high-style (often architect-designed) examples of their periods. While no eighteenth century houses remain on their original sites within the Nashville Historic District, one central-chimney timber-frame house (the "Haunt" ca.1740) exists in well-preserved condition at 4 Davis Court where it was moved from another section of Nashua in the 1896 to house the antique collection of William Spalding.
Federal style architecture, although rare, is represented by two good examples, of which the Abbot-Spalding House of 1803 (1 Nashville Street) is the more distinguished example with its low hip roof, balustrades, arched entry and ornamental window caps; many of the details of this house are restorations, installed after the removal of extensive Victorian alterations. Similar in plan to the Abbot-Spalding House with its brick end walls and symmetrical center-entry facade, the Ezekial Greeley House of ca.1825-1833 (7 Amherst Street) is a slightly less ambitious example of its style but one that retains architecturally significant alterations in both the Greek Revival and Italianate styles.
Contemporary with the major growth of textile manufacturing in Nashua, the Greek Revival is the earliest style of which numerous examples remain. In general, houses of this style within the Nashville Historic District were built as the homes of merchants, skilled workmen and mill overseers rather than as workers' housing. Side-hall plan, two-story houses with pedimented facade gables are the most common house type of the period; characteristic examples are the William Boardman House (2 Davis Court) and the Albert McKean House (35 Orange Street). Several more ambitious examples of the style, such as the Alfred Beard House (7 Crescent Street) possess facades of four bays' width with a pedimented gable, end wall chimneys and the main entry set asymmetrically on a side elevation; presumably this plan was designed to accommodate double parlors at the first story behind the facade. The decorative details of Greek Revival style houses in the Nashville Historic District consist mostly of window and door frames with corner blocks, lunettes in gables, Doric porches and Ionic porches.
Beginning in the early 1850s and continuing at least as late as 1878, the Italianate style is represented by a varied set of houses, the most lavish example of which is the General George Stark House of the early 1850s (22 Concord Street), a two-story "Villa" style house with low-pitched roofs, arcaded porches, flush-board siding and a flat-topped tower. Probably designed by an architect or taken from a pattern book, the General George Stark House is the only local building of its style to attempt the asymmetrical "picturesque" massing that characterized the most ambitious level of Italianate design. Simpler buildings that share some of the same architectural elements as the Gen. George Stark House but which have less complex "T" shaped floorplans are the J. Thornton Greeley House of ca.1860-1870 (41 Orange Street) and the Lovejoy-Ramsdell House of 1856 (30 Concord Street). The Nashville Historic District also contains several rectangular plan "Villas" of which the Clark Boutwell House (ca.1850) with its bay windows, papyrus columns, balustrades, ornate entry and flush-board siding remains the best example despite the later addition of a mansard roof (10 Abbott Street). Other Italianate style houses in the Nashville Historic District, especially those built in the 1870s, tend to be side-hall plan structures with bay windows and decorative brackets such as the Alfred Norton House of 1877-1878 (55 Concord Street).
The Nashville Historic District possesses a relatively small number of Second Empire style houses; of those that exist, most are nearly square in plan with symmetrical center-entry facades and decoration that consists of machine-cut brackets. The James Wallace House of 1872 (19 Abbott Street) with its octagonal cupola, decorated window caps, porches and nineteenth-century fence is the Nashville Historic District's most ambitious example of the style. Similarly ornate, but possessing a more conservative plan, the Charles Edwards House of 1876-1877 (3-5 Concord Street) also preserves important details of the period.
Victorian Gothic style architecture is represented by an important group of buildings clustered along Concord Street with one major example on Manchester Street. Although wood-frame construction is predominant, the most fully developed example of the period (the Dana King House of 1879 — 47 Concord Street) is constructed of red brick and trimmed with cast-stone made to resemble brownstone. In addition to its early use of cast-stone ornament, the Dana King House preserves an exceptional slate roof and octagonal corner tower/cupola. Other important examples of the period include the Charles Cotton House of 1875 (72-72A Concord Street) with its corner tower, iron cresting and ornamental balcony and the Henry Davis House of 1875 (15 Manchester Street) with its ornate bandings of Gothic decorative details. Common to all three of these house and to other houses of the style are asymmetrical plans, steeply pitched hip roofs with gabled projections and a variety of bay windows/corner towers.
The Nashville Historic District is especially rich in high-style examples of the Queen Anne style. In plan (asymmetrical massing with varied roof lines), decoration (terra-cotta, composition ornament, stained glass, etc.) and materials (brick, brownstone, slate, wood-shingling, etc.) local buildings in this style possess greater variety and individuality than examples of any other style in the Nashville Historic District. Major examples include the James Tolles House of 1890 (65 Concord Street) with its first story of random sandstone ashlar, terra-cotta decorative panels, tower with a domed copper roof, porte-cochere and elaborate porch turnings. Similarly outstanding, but less ornamented is the Frank Cook House of 1889 (66 Concord Street). Designed by James Perkins of Haverhill, Massachusetts, the Frank Cook House with its shingled exterior, gambrel gables and recessed porches at the upper stories is one of the Nashville Historic District's few houses that could be identified as an example of the "Shingle Style."
Other outstanding Queen Anne style houses are the Samuel Dearborn House of 1886 (5 Concord Street) with its brick first story and terra-cotta ornament; the Eugene McQuesten House of 1887 (51 Concord Street) with its all-brick construction, angled corner bays, second-story porches and varied sash; and the John F. Stark House of 1886 (13 Manchester Street) with its varied gables, stained glass and decorative shingling, all designed by F. W. Stickney of Lowell. Less ambitious examples of the style are relatively rare and consist of less a small number of side-hall plan houses with simpler details such as entry porches with turned posts, hip roof with low gables and bay windows. Characteristic of these simpler houses are the Stephen Barker House of 1887 (71 Concord Street and the Stephen Mansfield House of 1888-1889 (70 Concord Street).
Because of the lack of available sites, examples of later Victorian styles are less numerous than those of early and mid-Victorian styles. The largest number of later houses are built in the Colonial Revival style. Of these, the Lester Thurber House of 1895 (4 Manchester Street) is an extremely ornate example which preserves elements of the Queen Anne style in its asymmetry and high gables. Later examples tend to possess symmetrical center-entry facades and, by the 1910s and 1920s, they tend to be more similar in proportion and detail to the Colonial buildings from which they are derived. Major examples include the George Anderson House of 1901-1902 (88 Concord Street) and the Elbert Wheeler House of 1902-1903 (94 Concord Street); both possess Colonial details and symmetrical facades, built at a scale that is unmistakably Victorian. Later, more archaeologically correct examples of the style are the Ella Gregg House of 1928 (10 French Street) a central chimney "Cape Cod" cottage, and the William Beasom House of 1912 (77 Concord Street) a two-story house with an ornate fanlighted entry.
Later styles are represented by the Frank Anderson House of 1907-1908 (90 Concord Street) which is a brick and marble, Beaux Arts style house; and by the William Niles House of 1907-1908 (8 Abbott Street) a simple example of the Arts & Crafts and "Prairie Style" as adapted to a New England setting.
Commercial and public buildings within the Nashville Historic District preserve examples of several major styles that were popular during the city's major periods of development. Commercial architecture is represented by the late Federalist and Colonial Revival style Greeley Block of 1833 and 1900 (13C-13D Clinton Street) which retains the city's finest trabeated granite storefront. Later commercial structure included the Italianate style Nashua & Lowell Freight House of ca.1853 (14-16 Railroad Square), the Second Empire style Laton House Hotel of 1878-1881 (28 Railroad Square) and the Stearns' Block of 1898-1899 (17-19 Railroad Square) all of which were built to serve the commercial district that grew around the Railroad Depot at Railroad Square during the nineteenth century. Built after Railroad Square had been eclipsed by the southern sections of Main Street, the Whiting Block of 1892-1893 (29-37 Main Street) is one of the city's largest and most distinguished Victorian commercial buildings with its ornate Renaissance Revival style design and its terra-cotta trimmings.
Public buildings in the Nashville Historic District include the former First Baptist Church of 1849 (43-49 Main Street) a Greek Revival style building that is characteristic of churches and public halls built in Nashua during its initial industrial development (1820s-1850s). Much later, and contemporary with the Nashville Historic District's many fine Queen Anne style houses is the Romanesque Revival style First Church of Nashua of 1893-1894 (1 Concord Street). Designed by Amos Cutting of Worcester, Massachusetts, the First Church with its rock-faced granite exterior, arched entries, bell tower, slate-covered hip roof and many fine details is a regionally outstanding example of its style. Similarly outstanding, although slightly later, is the Hunt Memorial Building (2 Main Street). Designed by Ralph Adams Cram of Boston in 1900, this brick-and-limestone "English Gothic" style building is an early and sophisticated example of its style.
The Nashville Historic District possesses integrity of design, materials and setting from its three major periods of development between 1803 and 1930. In addition, the area possesses historical associations with many individuals who were important to the commercial and industrial development of Nashua in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.
The Nashville Historic District possesses greatest significance for its broad representation of nineteenth and early-twentieth century buildings. In addition to representing virtually every major architectural style from the Federal to the Colonial Revival, these buildings illustrate Nashville's historical development from a small commercial village occupied by merchants to an increasingly industrial town in a more urban setting, leading the Nashville Historic District to take on a more suburban character. The Nashville Historic District possesses historical associations with many individuals central to Nashua's industrial and commercial development, having served as the home of the builders and engineers who erected Nashua's early mills, and particularly of the affluent leaders of Nashua's industrial growth and the city's professional community.
The commercial center of the Nashville Historic District at Railroad Square, while no longer the community center it once was, possesses commercial and public buildings illustrating a succession of architectural styles in a well-preserved state and illustrating the mid-to-late nineteenth century growth of the community.
The Nashville Historic District is unique in Nashua both for the well-preserved state of its many large-scale Victorian buildings and for the area's continuous development over one hundred years as the city's most affluent residential neighborhood. While high-style Victorian houses exist in scattered locations along Main Street south of the central business district, this residential area was never as extensive as the Nashville Historic District; in addition, extensive commercial intrusions have eliminated the residential character of areas along Main Street. Residential areas immediately abutting the Nashville Historic District (especially east and west of Concord Street) are slightly later and less architecturally ambitious than areas included within the Nashville Historic District.
Commercial Village — ca.1803-1830
Although the arterial street pattern of the Nashville Historic District (Concord, Main & Amherst Streets) probably pre-dates the mid-eighteenth century when the first bridge was built across the Nashua River at Main Street (1746), no development in the area took place until the turn of the eighteenth century when the opening of the Pawtucket and Middlesex Canals at Lowell, Massachusetts created commercial opportunities for merchants to ship lumber and agricultural supplies directly to Boston without the obstacles of poor overland routes and rapids in the Merrimack River. Acting on this opportunity, Robert Fletcher (of Amherst, New Hampshire) launched the city's first canal boat in the Nashua River near Main Street in 1803.
In the fourteen years that followed the launching of the "Nashua," the area near the junction of Amherst and Concord Streets (Indian Head village) grew to become a small community twenty houses and several stores that served surrounding rural areas. Gradually the village's merchants and tradesmen were able to draw business away from Amherst, which had until then enjoyed commercial dominance as the county seat. The mercantile success of the village was dependent upon several families, of whom the Greeleys (Ezekiel, Joseph and Alfred) were the most numerous and prominent. Natives of Nashua and active as dry goods merchants by the 1820s, the Greeleys built Nashua's most ambitious commercial/public building of the period in 1833 (the Greeley Block, 13C-13D Clinton Street), in addition to building substantial Federalist and Greek Revival style houses for themselves during the 1820s and 1830s (7 Amherst Street; 9-9 1/2 Abbott Street; 45 Orange Street). Other merchants who were active in the early commerce of the village were Solomon Spalding and John Reed who sold "West India Goods, Groceries and Hardware" from a shop in the basement of the Greeley Block; both built houses on Orange Street in the 1830s (37 Orange Street; 39 Orange Street). The dry goods firm of Stephen Kendrick and George Tuttle may have occupied the Moses Worcester during the 1830s (1-3 Main Street)
Also prominent during this period were two lawyers of whom Daniel Abbot was Nashua's first attorney. Having delivered the oration at the launching of the "Nashua" in 1803, Abbot was involved from the beginning of the nineteenth century in town government, real estate development and local industries; Abbot's position in the community is represented by his Federalist style house at 1 Nashville Street. Having moved to Nashua in 1816 to practice law with Daniel Abbot, Benjamin French achieved local prominence as a lawyer, real estate developer and as a founder of local industry; the building most directly associated with French is his own home at 6 Manchester Street.
Early Industrial Development — 1822-1860
Stimulated by the example of the Proprietors of Locks and Canals in Lowell, Massachusetts, an association of local merchants and lawyers was formed in 1822 to purchase land along the Nashua River in order to construct a power canal from Mine Falls to sites near the village, thereby making using of vertical drop of 33' to provide motive power for textile mills. By 1823, land had been purchased and in June of 1823 a charter was issued to the Nashua Manufacturing Company. Although nearly all of the land involved in this industrial development was located outside of the boundaries of the Nashville Historic District, the development of the Nashua Manufacturing Company and the later Indian Head Company was dominated by residents of the District. Especially prominent were the Greeleys, Daniel Abbot and Benjamin French who jointly provided $90,000 of the initial $300,000 capital of the Nashua Manufacturing Company. Other investors in the venture were John Kendrick and Moses Tyler both of whom were local merchants, and Augustus Peabody of Salem and Boston.
With the beginning of construction of the power canal in 1824, the population of the Nashua village (both north and south of the Nashua River) began to increase, rising to 1,500 by 1830; 5,000 by 1837 and 7,000 by 1846. While much of the population increase was clue to mill operatives who lived in boarding houses outside of the Nashville Historic District, a significant portion of the increase consisted of mechanics, engineers and builders who came to design and construct the mills and their machinery. Among these the most important were Col. James Baldwin, engineer; Asher Benjamin, architect; Ira [sic.] Gay, machinist (probably Ziba Gay, 25-27B Main Street) and Col. William Boardman, a millwright (2 Davis Court).
In addition to those directly employed by the mills, there emerged a new group of merchants whose businesses were oriented toward serving Nashua rather than the surrounding rural areas; also, many new service businesses were established such as hotels, banks and stables. Many of those associated with these new businesses occupied stores in the vicinity of Railroad Square and built substantial suburban homes along Abbott and Concord Streets. Characteristic of this group are the Clark Boutwell House (10 Abbott Street), the George McQuesten House (12 Amherst Street) and the Lovejoy Ramsdell House (30 Concord Street).
Late Industrial Development — 1860-1930
Corresponding to changes in industrial development that occurred after the Civil War and also due to the complete utilization of available water power, textile manufacturing became relatively less important to Nashua in the 1870s and 1880s as other industries grew along railroad beds outside of the Nashville Historic District. As in the preceding period, many of the inventors and managers of these new industries built their homes within the District. Characteristic of these new industrialist were people such as Egbert Wood, owner of the Nashua Till Company (59 Concord Street); Leonard Burbank, an overall manufacturer (61 Concord Street); James Tolles, a lumber dealer and owner of a planing mill & box factory (65 Concord Street); and William Beasom, treasurer of the Underhill Edge Tool Company and the Nashua Brass Foundry (77 Concord Street). While many industrialists of the period operated modest-sized businesses, several developed their firms into major local industries; of this group Frank & George Anderson were the most prominent (88 & 90 Concord Street). Having lived in Nashua since the early 1870s, the Andersons founded the Estabrook & Anderson Brothers shoe manufacturing company in 1879; by 1885, the business produced more than 10,000 pairs of shoes daily with annual sales of $2,000,000 and employment of nearly 1,000 operatives.
As in the preceding period, the Nashville Historic District continued to be a popular residential district for the city's doctors, attorneys and merchants. Among the more prominent residents of the area were Eugene McQuesten, M.D., founder of the Nashua Emergency Hospital (51 Concord Street); George Ramsdell, Governor of New Hampshire in 1897 (30 Concord Street); and Charles Cotton, grocer (72-72A Concord Street).
Consistent with its earlier importance as a commercial and community center, the Railroad Square section of the Nashville Historic District was selected as the site for two major public buildings during this period, namely the First Church of Nashua (1 Concord Street) and the Hunt Memorial Building (2 Main Street) both of which are of major architectural significance. In addition, earlier commercial functions, especially hotels, continued at Railroad Square with the construction of the Laton House Hotel in 1878-1881 (26-30 Railroad Square) and the conversion of the Greeley Block to a hotel around 1900 (13C-13D Clinton Street). However, the commercial value of Railroad Square was seriously damaged both by the growth of a commercial district along Main Street south of the Nashua River (post-1860s) and by the removal of the main railroad depot from Railroad Square in the 1930s.
Nashua Cultural Resource Survey. Nashua Historic District Commission, 1982.
Fox, Charles. History of the old Township of Dunstable, Including Nashua, Nashville, Gill, 1846.
Parker, E.E., ed. History of the City of Nashua, NH, From the Earliest Settlement of Old Dunstable to the Year 1895 with Biographical Sketches..Illustrated.... Nashua Telegraph, 1897.
† B. R. Pfeiffer, Architectural Conservation Trust, Boston, Nashville Historic District, Nashua, NH, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.