New Hampshire

Keene, New Hampshire | Historic Photographs

Keene, New Hampshire, a town – some call it a city – tucked into the southwest corner of the state, may be most recognized for its annual pumpkin festival, but take a spin along its streets, and you’ll find the Elm City teeming with history. A few weeks ago, I settled in at the Keene […]

By Brenda Darroch

Feb 13 2015

keene-courthouse-sq
Photo Credit : Brenda Darroch
Keene, New Hampshire, a town – some call it a city – tucked into the southwest corner of the state, may be most recognized for its annual pumpkin festival, but take a spin along its streets, and you’ll find the Elm City teeming with history.
Main Street in Keene, New Hampshire, showing Central Square and the Keene Electric Railway.
Main Street in Keene, New Hampshire, showing Central Square and the Keene Electric Railway.
Photo Credit : Courtesy of Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County
A few weeks ago, I settled in at the Keene Public Library with an armful of books chronicling its past, intent on unearthing the secrets that Keene and its neighboring towns may have been harboring. I read about how Keene ended up boasting the widest Main Street in the world (never verified), the identity of the Witch of Gilsum (an old lady named Mrs. Rice, accused of bewitching a neighbor), and the blizzard of 1888 (see photos of the storm).¹ But as I riffled through the pages of the reference tomes, I found myself repeatedly drawn back to the historic photos of Keene. Thumbing through numerous volumes stuffed with old photographs, I mapped out a route I could explore on foot. The snow squall – which wasn’t part of the original plan – curtailed the tour somewhat, so what follows is a very small sampling of Keene’s notable buildings as they appear today, and how they looked in the late 19th to early 20th century. Bank Block: The most noticeable changes in the Bank Block are the roof line and the presence of the bandstand, which was removed in 1913, in the middle of the street. Location: East Side of Central Square
Bank Block, pre 1886.
Bank Block, pre 1886.
Photo Credit : W.P. Allen | Courtesy of Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County
Bank Block between 1910-1920.
Bank Block between 1910-1920.
Photo Credit : Bion Whitehouse | Courtesy of Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County
The Bank Block, 2015
Photo Credit : Brenda Darroch
Central Square Common: After being fenced in during the 1850s, the Central Square Common became a public park.²
Central Square in the 1920s.
Central Square in the 1920s.
Photo Credit : Courtesy of Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County
Central Square, 2015.
Central Square with the addition of a gazebo and fountain, 2015
Photo Credit : Brenda Darroch
United Church of Christ: Keene’s fourth meetinghouse, raised in 1786, now anchors the top of Central Square. The building originally stood within the green, closer to the Civil War Monument. Location: The north side of the square
Top of the square between 1900 and 1920.
Top of the square between 1900 and 1920.
Photo Credit : Bion Whitehouse | Courtesy of Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County
Top of Central Square, 2015.
Top of Central Square, 2015. You’ll notice that many of the buildings on this block no longer have three stories.
Photo Credit : Brenda Darroch
Cheshire County Courthouse: Built in the Italianate style, the appearance of the courthouse has changed marginally since it was built in 1859. Location: Corner of Winter and Court Street
Cheshire County Courthouse between 1900 and 1920.
Cheshire County Courthouse between 1900 and 1920.
Photo Credit : Bion Whitehouse | Courtesy of Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County
The Cheshire County Courthouse in 2015.
The Cheshire County Courthouse in 2015.
Photo Credit : Brenda Darroch
Colonial Theater: The Colonial Theater opened its doors in January 1924 and continues to operate today. Location: 95 Main Street
The west side of Main Street, including The Colonial Theater, during the 1930s.
The west side of Main Street, including The Colonial Theater, during the 1930s.
Photo Credit : American Art Post Card Co. | Courtesy of Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County
The Colonial Theater, 2015.
The Colonial Theater, 2015.
Photo Credit : Brenda Darroch
Wyman Tavern: Built in 1762, the Wyman Tavern was the gathering place for Keene minutemen before they soldiered on to Lexington and Concord. Location: 339 Main Street
The Wyman Tavern before 1906.
The Wyman Tavern before 1906.
Photo Credit : Courtesy of Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County
The Wyman Tavern, 2015
The Wyman Tavern, 2015
Photo Credit : Brenda Darroch
The Ball Mansion: This Italianate home was built in 1870 and now houses the Historical Society of Cheshire County. Location: 246 Main Street
The George W. Ball House, taken sometime in the late 1800s.
The George W. Ball House, taken sometime in the late 1800s.
Photo Credit : J.A. French | Courtesy of Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County
The Historical Society of Cheshire County in the George W. Ball House, 2015.
The Historical Society of Cheshire County in the George W. Ball House, 2015.
Photo Credit : Brenda Darroch
Cheshire House: Built in1837, Cheshire House was recognized as Keene’s most elegant hotel until it was razed in 1934. Approximate location: 8 Main Street
The Cheshire House Hotel, taken between 1900-1920.
The Cheshire House Hotel, taken between 1900-1920.
Photo Credit : Bion Whitehouse | Courtesy of Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County
The former site of the Cheshire House Hotel, 2015.
The former site of the Cheshire House Hotel, 2015.
Photo Credit : Brenda Darroch
The Henry Colony House: Built in 1869, the stately example of French Second Empire architecture now houses the Keene Public Library. Location: 79 West Street
The Henry Colony House, taken between 1900-1920.
The Henry Colony House, taken between 1900-1920.
Photo Credit : Bion Whitehouse | Courtesy of Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County
The Keene Public Library, 2015.
The Keene Public Library, 2015.
Photo Credit : Brenda Darroch
Planning a trip to Keene, New Hampshire? Visit the Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County to learn more about the Elm City’s history. Special thanks to the Keene Public Library and Historical Society of Cheshire County for allowing us to use their historical photos. See more photos on their Flickr page. 1: A “Keene” Sense of History: Historical Sketches of the Monadnock Region by David R. Proper 2: Places I Remember: Keene, NH Celebrates 250 Years of History