Main Street, Plymouth, NH (2)

Looking south on Main Street in Plymouth, toward the town common, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company.

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Main Street in 2015:

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These photos show the town common and some of the buildings on the west side of Main Street, which today comprise part of the Plymouth Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.  Despite the historic district designation, however, not much in this scene dates back to the 1908 photo.  The only building in both photos is the 1885 Pemigewasset National Bank Building, which can barely be seen behind some of the trees on the right-hand side of the photos.  It is still there, but it hasn’t been used as a bank since 1955, when the bank moved to a new building on Highland Street; it is barely visible south of the common, beyond the “Do Not Enter” sign in the left center.  The new bank building opened with much fanfare, with President Eisenhower cutting the ribbon at a ceremony that also included the governor, one of New Hampshire’s U.S. representatives, and both of their senators.  The 2015 photo in this post provides a better view of the building, which today is home to Northway Bank.

The town common is also part of the historic district, and although all of the original elm trees are gone, the original 1861 fence is still there.  It’s hard to see, but there is a bandstand on the common that was designed and built in 1903 by Francis V. Bulfinch, the grandson of noted architect Charles Bulfinch.  It is still standing, but it’s almost impossible to see from this angle because of the trees.  Across the street from the common, in the right center of the photo, is the post office.  It was built in 1936, replacing an earlier brick commercial block seen in the 1908 photo, and it is one of the contributing properties in the historic district.

Main Street, Plymouth, NH (1)

The east side of Main Street in Plymouth, seen from the corner of Court Street around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Main Street in 2015:

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The first photo shows a town center in transition. On the far left is an old house, which probably dates to the early 1800s.  This was likely one of many that once lined Main Street, but over time they were replaced with brick commercial blocks, like the 1898 Rollins Building that appears in the center of both photos.  Eventually, the house would be demolished and replaced by more commercial storefronts, which today make up the bulk of the east side of Main Street in the downtown area.  The days were also numbered for the Pemigewasset House, the hotel seen in the distance on the right side of the photo.  It was built in 1863 and burned down in early 1909, probably less than a year after the photo was taken.

Aside from the transition from residential to commercial buildings on Main Street, we also see changes in transportation.  The wood-framed commercial block just to the right of the Rollins Building has a sign out front that reads “Automobiles Stop Here for Gasolene,” and there is at least one car in the scene, on the far right.  However, the photo also includes several horse-drawn carriages that would have had no use for the “gasolene,” and would have instead used the watering trough in the middle of the street in the center of the photo.

Today, all of the buildings are gone except for the Rollins Building.  When the first photo was taken, the left storefront was the Fred W. Brown drugstore, which according to the sign on the left side of the building offered “Lowney’s Chocolate Bonbons.”  The storefront to the right was a market, and tables of produce can be seen under the awning.  More than a century later, the building is still used as a grocery store, the Chase Street Market.

Church and Courthouse, Plymouth NH

The Congregational Church and Courthouse in Plymouth, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The buildings in 2015:

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The banner on the lamppost in the 2015 photo commemorates the town of Plymouth’s 250th anniversary, which came in 2013. The town was founded in 1763, and just a year later the first church was established.  The church building in the first photo was the congregation’s third building, and was completed in 1837.  It was built right next to the courthouse, which at the time was a brick Greek Revival style building with pillars at the front entrance and a cupola on the roof.  This building had been built in 1823 to replace the original county courthouse, but was demolished by 1890, when the courthouse in the first photo was built.  The original 1774 courthouse can actually be seen in the first photo – it is the one story wooden building directly behind and to the right of the courthouse.  It had been moved there in the 1870s to use as a public library, and it remains there today.

Today, the buildings are partially obscured by trees, so it is hard to tell that the present-day church isn’t the same one. The 1837 church burned in 1983, and was rebuilt on the same foundation.  The 1890 courthouse is still there, but its use has changed.  Other than the tower now being enclosed, the exterior does not appear to have changed much over the past century, but the historic building is now the Plymouth town hall, and the grounds now include monuments to veterans of wars that had not yet been fought when the first photo was taken.

Railroad Depot, Plymouth NH

The Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroad station at the Pemigewasset House in Plymouth, around 1900-1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company.

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The same location in 2015:

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This railroad station in Plymouth would have been a busy place at the turn of the last century.  Aside from local residents, passengers would have included students at the Plymouth Normal School, as well as travelers to the White Mountains.  Located at the southern end of the White Mountains, any visitor from the south would have passed through here, and many stayed at the Pemigewasset House, the large building in the center of the photo.  The hotel was owned by the Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroad, with the depot conveniently built into the basement.  The daily northbound and southbound trains that passed through here around noon would stop for a half hour so passengers could enjoy a lunch at the restaurant in the hotel, which was also owned by the railroad.

The Pemigewasset House burned in 1909, taking the old railroad depot with it.  The hotel was rebuilt, but further up the hill and away from the tracks.  The depot was rebuilt here as a stand-alone building, and it survives to this day, in the center of the photo partially hidden by trees.  In the first photo, the railroad was owned by the Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroad, but was operated by the Boston & Maine Railroad, who leased the BC & M in 1895 until merging with it in 1919.  Two Boston & Maine passenger cars can be seen to the left, with a number of other rail cars in the distance beyond the station.

Passenger rail service to Plymouth was eliminated in the mid 20th century, and today the old railroad station is a senior center.  The only passenger trains that run now are scenic trains, including a fall foliage train that, like its predecessors, stops in Plymouth for lunch.  The Boston & Maine Railroad hasn’t existed as an independent railroad since 1983, but in the 2015 photo an old B&M boxcar sits on a side track, contrasting with the B&M coaches in the first photo.  Most of it has been repainted, but the old railroad’s light blue colors can still be seen amid the rust on the back of the boxcar.

Pemigewasset House, Plymouth, NH (3)

The west side of the Pemigewasset House, seen from across Main Street at the corner of Highland Street around 1900-1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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These photos were taken facing the opposite direction from the ones in this post, which were taken from about the spot of the telephone pole. The present-day pole isn’t the same one from over a century ago, but its location is just about the only thing in the scene that hasn’t changed over the years.  The Pemigewasset House, which is explained in more detail in this post, was built in 1863 to replace an earlier building on the same site.  Like its predecessor, the second Pemigewasset House burned in 1909, and today several commercial buildings occupy the site of the hotel, between Main Street and the railroad tracks.

Pemigewasset House, Plymouth, NH (2)

The Pemigewasset House in Plymouth, looking south from near the corner of Main and Highland Streets around 1900-1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The approximate location in 2015:

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It’s difficult to determine the exact location of the first photo, because the Pemigewasset House hasn’t existed in over a century and the area has been completely redeveloped.  The popular hotel stood here from 1863 until it was destroyed in a fire in 1909, and as explained in this post it is the place where Nathaniel Hawthorne died during a visit to the White Mountains with former president Franklin Pierce.  The brick building in the 2015 photo was probably built soon after the hotel burned down, and today it has several storefronts on the Main Street side of the building, along with this section along Green Street, which is used by Pemi Glass, a local glass and mirror company.