EDITOR’S NOTE: Imagine Nashua: Then & Now is a weekly photo column by Don Himsel. Each week, he will feature an old photo within a more recent photo and an explanation of how he got the shot.
It was a hotel, after all, so let’s first take care of a little housekeeping.
It was Franklin D. Roosevelt, not his cousin Teddy, who had ties to the old Tremont House. Let’s cut to the chase right here in a 1936 Telegraph story:
“Howard F. Hammar of this city, president of the Young Men’s Democratic clubs of New Hampshire, discovered during his visit to the convention of National Young Men’s Democratic Clubs in Baltimore, Md., this week that President Franklin D. Roosevelt is no stranger to Nashua.
With presidents of other state clubs the Nashua man met the President just before the convention. As he was shaking hands with President Roosevelt the latter’s eye was attracted by the words ‘Nashua, N.H.’ on the official badge which Hammar wore on his coat.
‘So you’re from Nashua,’ the President said. ‘I know your city well. I used to go to a school nearby.’ (He referred to Groton).
Then with a slight smile he asked ‘Is the Tremont House still standing?’
Maurice Dubuc, president of the Nashua club, also met the president.
The two young men returned from the convention yesterday.”
So there it is. It’s an often-told tale that is sometimes skewed – once even by the same local author, who said it was Teddy and FDR in different instances. Without a doubt, the Tremont, which sprung from the Pearl Street House, was a hangout and centerpiece to the city, when it boomed as a rail hub and manufacturing was on the rise.
The Stone and Webster construction company in Boston contacted the hotel to use it to house crews slated to work on a new mill building in 1919. A contingent of about 750 workers were to be expected to tackle the 8-month-long project. The guys needed a place to hang their hats (and they all wore hats back then), so The Tremont was one of the places they were looking at.
A caption under an old Tremont photograph in The Telegraph around the time of the city’s centennial reads:
“It was a landmark of the city for many years, a meeting place for Nashuans and from its windows traveling salesmen, or drummers as they were called, used to watch our fair young ladies walking by on errands downtown.”
The building went through significant renovation before its demise in the early 1920s. Down it went to make room for the new Second National Bank building.
Lester Thurber, the bank’s third president, was in charge when it bought the structure and took it down. A 1960 Telegraph reads:
“The bank contracted for razing the famous Inn and planned a new building, the limestone and granite structure which still houses the Second National Bank. … Construction of the new building was completed in 1924, and more than 10,000 persons passed through the bank doors to inspect what was considered the most modern banking building in New England.”
Today it’s a TD Bank branch. The stables that once served the hotel are gone and the West Pearl Street neighborhood, at one time a Greek enclave, has changed considerably.
Resurrection is at hand for the grand hotel, however, as mural artist Barbara Andrews plans on beginning “Vivian’s Dream,” a massive depiction of The Tremont on the wall at 83 W. Pearl St.
When it’s finished, and you’re heading to the City Room for a bite, you can envision FDR as a young man hanging around the old place, maybe eyeing the local young ladies and eager to tell cousin Teddy.
Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow Himsel on Twitter (@Telegraph_DonH).