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 came down to rock, paper, scissors – and Andy lost.
Andy Brower, of International Chimney, went up against coworker Jeremiah Berube. It ended up with Berube hauling up the bucket with one of my cameras as Jason McGonigal got ready to continue the nasty job of cleaning the old brick, ash and occasional beer bottle out of the old millyard stack. Brower got his safety gear.
I guess I shouldn’t say he lost. He was pretty willing to go back to his office. It’s just that, well, his office is about 165 feet up and consists of a ring of wooden boards hugging the top of the Millyard stack. There’s not even a coffee maker up there.
And to get there, it’s a several-minute clamber up a series of wooden ladders strung together.
In a moment of bravado, I had asked earlier if I could go up there to make a photo myself. In reality, I would have made it up about halfway – maybe – and most likely would have had to been peeled off of the thing by Nashua Fire Rescue.
I feigned disappointment and stuffed relief away as I figured out how I could make this happen. It’s not every day you get an opportunity to make this kind of photo again, shot here by Frank Ingalls in 1900.
Some may think it’s not much of a photograph, just as some might not think the old smokestack much of a structure worth saving.
Sure, it’s a pricey project – very. But if you asked a handful of Nashuans, new or old timers, to pick a visual representation of the city out from the back of their minds, I’d bet more than one would say, “well, there’s that big smokestack with the white letters smack dab in the middle of the city …”
So who cares about the stack? Who cares about a boring old photo of some buildings?
If you look beyond the obvious and really looked hard, maybe you would yourself. Once you get oriented, you can recognize what’s there. And what’s not.
The Bronstein Apartments, also known as the Myrtle Street Urban Renewal Project, were built in the early 1970s. Many of the homes closest to the mill in the image above would be gone to make room for the project after the usual wrangling that surrounds these kinds of things.
In those neighborhoods lived long-gone Nashuans: Loom fixers and heel cutters. Housekeepers and firemen; all living close enough to walk to work in the mills and related businesses.
There was John Boucher, who lived at 4 Chestnut St. and worked as a blacksmith, and George Casista, a carder who lived at 10 Pine St. Eugene Tardiff was a weaver living at 16 Myrtle St. Leontine Pelletier was a dressmaker. She lived at 2 Myrtle St. All this according to old city directories from around the time Frank made his photo.
All gone and lost forever. Ah, but who cares, right? Real people daring to begin.
So now, whether folks think it’s worth it or not in the long run, the stack seems to be sticking around awhile.
Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow Himsel on Twitter (@Telegraph_DonH).