1914 Rochester Today with Glimpses of its Past


July 30, 2014 by rochesterhistoricalnh


Written by Adeline Estes Wright, 1914


Rochester, a city of about 9,000 inhabitants is situated in the southeastern part of the state, some twenty miles from the coast.  It was incorporated a town, May 10th, 1722, the tenth town in the State to receive a charter, and became a city in 1891.  The main part of the town was at first called Norway Plains, probably from the fact that the land, which is very level, was covered with Norway pines.  The outlying districts are North, East, and West Rochester, or Squamanagonic, commonly called Gonic, and the hamlet of Meaderboro.  Rochester has very few natural lakes and ponds, but is crossed diagonally by the Cocheco River and bounded on the east by the Salmon Falls River, forming the division between East Rochester and Lebanon, Maine.  These two rivers furnish rare water privileges, providing the power to run the three woolen mills of Rochester, East Rochester, and Gonic, the immense leather-board plant of Spaulding Brothers at North Rochester and various other mills.  Besides these mentioned, the principal places of industry are the E. G. & E. Wallace, the Linscott, Tyler, Wilson Co; the N. B. Thayer & Co. Shoe factories, several leather-board mills, and large lumber plants, iron foundries, machine shops, etc.  Brick is manufactured extensively at Gonic.

The first railroad ran into Rochester in 1849; and this city, at the present time, is the largest railroad center in eastern New Hampshire.  Here four railroads meet, connecting the city with the large cities of Nashua, Worchester, Portland, Boston, New York, and Montreal, Canada.  As the traveler enters the station, he can but be impressed with the busy scene that greets his eye.  Passing from the station up Hanson Street of which nearly all of the land and some of the buildings are owned by Charles A. C. Hanson, the first building to attract attention is The Rochester, one of the three large hotels; the other two are The City, formerly Mansion House on Main Street, and The Hayes on Portland Street.

The Rochester occupies the site of the first Baptist church building dedicated in 1874, Rev. Ezekiel True preaching the sermon.  The present church of this denomination, on the corner of Liberty and Charles streets, was erected in 1884.

Hanson Street was paved [with cobblestones] and is kept in perfect repair by Mr. Hanson at his own expense. Although only about five hundred feet in length, almost every kind of business and profession is to be found on this street; livery stable, blacksmith shop, restaurants, provision market, florist, undertaking rooms, bakeries, barber, tailor, harness shops, hardware, furniture, clothing, dry goods, millinery, music and stationery, grocery and fruit stores, pool and billiard rooms, dye house, boot and shoe blacking rooms, photographer’s studio, real estate, dentist, doctor and lawyer’s offices, and the rooms occupied by the Hanson’s American Band.  On this street also is the handsome three story brick and granite structure, the Masonic Temple, completed in 1911.  Beside it is the post office with its genial postmaster, John S. Kimball, and his six or seven assistants.

On the corner of Hanson and Main Streets are the offices of the Courier Publishing Company.  The Courier recently issued its fiftieth anniversary number, which was edited principally by its founder, J. Frank Place, now an active businessman of New York City.  Mr. Place has had four successors: George C. Foster, Hon. Charles W. Folsom, Dr. I. W. Lougee, and Willis McDuffee who has been the editor since 1891, [with] Charles G. Jenness, business manager.  The other publications of the city are the Strafford County Record, originally the Anti- Monopolist, founded and edited by Gilman Berry, and the Daily Times.  The first edition of the last mentioned was printed three months ago and already has a large circulation.

Near the Courier building on Main Street was erected in 1810 or 1812 by Joseph Hanson, grandfather of Charles A.C. Hanson, the first brick building in Strafford County, the roof, doors and shutters of which were of tin.

Just around the corner, on Wakefield Street, he erected a fine residence, which is now occupied by his grandson, Charles.  He, Joseph, kept a variety store, his first stock being tea, tobacco, pins, needles, and a barrel of rum of which he sold enough to his first customer to buy another barrel.  His son Dominicus, who kept what was termed an apothecary shop in the next store, which is now R. Dewitt Burnham’s Drug Store, was born in 1813 and always lived in the house which his father built.  He died at the advanced age of 94.

At the head of Hanson Street is Central Square, where in a triangular park stands the statue of Parson Main, Rochester’s first congregational minister.  In the summer this park is made very attractive with flowers and shrubs.  On one side of the square is the modern Dodge Block, occupying the site of the old hostelry, known throughout New England as Dodge’s Hotel.  In this block are the commodious and splendidly appointed rooms of the Rochester Loan and Banking company, The New England Telephone Exchange, and other stores and offices.  Directly in the front is the Fair Store, which with its imposing white brick front four stories high, adds greatly to the beauty of the square.  In the next block, erected by Captain A. W. Hayes who for years was the manager of the famous Rochester Fair Association, is Salinger Bros.  These with Moore’s on Hanson St. are the leading dry goods firms in the city.  Feineman Bros, one of the oldest and largest clothing houses in New Hampshire occupies several stores in the next block (McDuffee Block).  From this point looking up Wakefield Street and down South Main St. one is impressed with the beauty of these two streets, bordered as they are on both sides with gigantic elms whose branches meet forming an arch overhead.

On Wakefield St. are some of the city’s finest residences, – the first to attract attention being that of the late Dr. James Farrington, one of Rochester’s leading physicians.  This is now the home of his eldest daughter and her husband, George McDuffee, son of John McDuffee.  It was through John McDuffee’s efforts that the first bank in this city, The Rochester National Bank, now doing business on South Main Street, was organized.  This in 1834 was the only bank existing between Rochester and Canada, and he was its cashier for twenty years when he resigned his position to his son Franklin and became its president.  John McDuffee’s daughter, Abbie McDuffee Chase, lives near her brother on Wakefield Street.  Her late husband, Charles K. Chase, was a leading dry goods merchant.  His father, Simon Chase, also a wealthy merchant, was instrumental in building the First Methodist Church, the cornerstone of which was laid in 1825.  The present church edifice was built in 1867.

On Wakefield Street, also, are the new city building and opera house combined, erected at a cost of eighty five thousand dollars, and beside it a splendidly equipped fire station.  In passing, let us remark that Rochester very rarely has a fire of any magnitude due largely to the efficiency of its firemen.  Just beyond is the High School building. This is a large three story brick structure set well back from the street with wide green lawns and concrete walks in front and playgrounds in the rear.  The High School at present enrolls about three hundred pupils with a corps of nine teachers.  There are four large school buildings in the city proper, all of brick.  The district schools were abolished a number of years ago and since then the country children not living on the electric line have been transported in barges to the city.

Farther up the street and on the opposite side is the Gaffney Home for the Aged, an elegant brick house and stable built at the cost of about fifty thousand dollars for a residence by the late Judge Charles B. Gaffney of the law firm of Worchester, Gaffney and Snow.  He with his invalid wife, lived here but a short time when he died; and his wife passing away soon after, this handsome estate according to his will, was left in the hands of trustees for public use.  Ten years ago, this home was opened with an endowment fund of only ten thousand dollars; during this time, twenty-five different members have been taken care of with an average of nine at a time; and today the home has an endowment of twenty-one thousand seven hundred dollars.  A word of praise should be given Mrs. Norma C. Snow, as well as others, for her efforts to secure funds and in other ways aiding to make this institution a success.  It appears now as though Rochester would soon boast of a hospital, as the late Dr. Frisbee, a native of this city, recently bequeathed enough to build the same and others have left legacies for its support.

At the upper end of this street, are the homes of His Excellency, Governor Samuel D. Felker, ex-Mayor W. G.  Bradley who has served the city in that capacity for seven terms, and ex-Mayor Col. H. L. Worchester also city clerk for a number of years.  Col. Worchester is the founder of the city’s present park system, he laying out the first park during his administration as mayor.  Millie A., the deceased wife of Col. Worchester, who with her husband was prominent in G.A. R. circles, was matron of The Eastern Star, first president of The Rochester Women’s Club, and founder and first regent of Mary Torr Chapter, D. A. R., the chapter being named for one of her ancestors.  In speaking of this Chapter, we would also mention Mrs. Martha A. Safford, its regent at the time of her death, a resident of this street. She was recognized as an artist of much ability and prominent in club and Eastern Star circles.

Farther down the street is the beautiful home of Maj. Albert H. Linscott, a member of the governor’s staff.  He is the senior member of the Linscott, Tyler, Wilson Shoe Factory situated a little off this street.

Rochester proper has nine church edifices, two of which, the Methodist and Congregational are on South Main Street, the French Catholic church is on Bridge Street; and nearly all of the others are in such close proximity that this section is sometimes termed Church Square. This square, which is at the head of Charles St., contains an attractive little park with an artistic fountain in its center, which in the evening, with its many colored electric lights glowing through the spray, presents a beautiful picture.  Harry F. Howard was instrumental in gaining this park for the city.

Charles Street is a long residential street where live many of Rochester’s prominent business and professional men.  Among the most noticeable of the dwellings are those of ex-mayor R.V. Sweet, Col. Frank L. Kendall and John L. Copp, who for a quarter of a century has been cashier of the Loan and Banking Company.  At the lower end is the large bakery and candy factory of C. A. Davis.  This street leads directly to Gonic, one and a half miles distant, the birthplace of New Hampshire’s governor, Samuel D. Felker.  Gonic was also the home of Rochester’s first mayor, Col. Charles S. Whitehouse.  Here too, is located the Gonic Manufacturing Company’s plant employing about two hundred men and women in the charge of Stephen C. Meader, who has been agent for the last thirty-two years.   His brother, the late John Meader, having been superintendent is succeeded by his son, J. Levi Meader.

Opposite the birthplace of Governor Felker is the Jewett place, the former home of the grandparents of Sarah Orne Jewett.  This place is said to be the scene of her story “Deep Haven”.  Parallel with Charles Street is The Intervale, one of the most beautiful bits of natural scenery that one can imagine: a deep wooded valley through which winds the Cocheco River.

On South Main Street are the National Bank, City Hotel, the Odd Fellows Block, and the Carnegie Library.  A social library was organized in 1792, the public library a hundred years later in1893.  Miss Lillian E. Parshley has very ably served as librarian of the public library ever since its organization.  On this street also are the homes of the late I. W. Springfield, the first president of the Rochester Fair Association, and his son Charles, who manufactures the celebrated Springfield blankets at Wolfboro.  Nearby is the home of Miss Abbie Dennett, whose father Charles Dennett, more than one hundred years ago built this fine old house in which she now lives; and across the street is the new home of Dr. Louis L. Gilman.  Close by are the elegant homes of Hons. Sumner and Albert Wallace and of their sisters, Miss Annie and Mrs. Charles E. Hussey, the sisters occupying the house owned by their father, the late Ebenezer G. Wallace, who with his brother Edwin, founded, in 1850, the extensive shoe business of E. G. & E. Wallace, now owned and operated by his two sons.

The house built by Edwin Wallace, near The Common, where stands the Soldier’s Monument, was at the time of building, the largest and most pretentious dwelling in the town.  It was recently sold and converted into an orphanage known as the St. Charles Orphanage.  Beside this is the residence of the present mayor, Frank B. Preston.

North Main Street for some distance is lined with business blocks containing stores and offices of all kinds.  One of these, formerly Grange Block, has been handsomely remodeled and is now owned and occupied by the large clothing firm of Lothrops Farnum Co. On this street nearly opposite the old colonial residence of ex-Mayor Bickford, is in process of construction a costly government building of rubble brick and sandstone trimmings.

Just back of this is the large woolen mills of Charles E. Clark and the leather-board mills of the Spauldings; these three mills were formerly the plant of the Norway Plains Manufacturing Company formed in1846 which company manufactured blankets and other woolen goods.

This street crosses the Cocheco River; and as one stands upon the Stone Bridge, which was designed and built by the late Silas Hussey for years the judge of the Town Police Court, and looks up the river; one marvels at the beauties of nature.

About five minutes’ walk from this bridge and a short distance from the attractive home of Leslie P. Snow, Esq., is Strafford Square where last summer, thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Snow, another park with a granite fountain was constructed.


A little further on up Walnut Street are the extensive grounds of the Country Club with its picturesque clubhouse and natural pond, its golf links, tennis courts, etc.

Rochester has its District Nurse, obtained through the medium of the Women’s Club, its Board of Trade, Dr. R. V. Sweet, president, and numerous other helpful organizations.

[Rochester] has an efficient water system and its own gas plant, which also furnishes gas for Somersworth.  The streets are lighted by electricity.  The electric cars connect East Rochester, Rochester, and Gonic, running on through Dover and to the Atlantic coast.  The Eastern State Trunk Line extending from Massachusetts to Lake Winnepesaukee passes over Haven Hill, where stood the first church (Congregational) and early settlements of Rochester, and from which a fine view of Mt. Washington can be obtained.  Altogether it would be hard to find in New Hampshire a city with more natural attractions, easier of access, or with better facilities for nearly all kinds of business than wide-awake Rochester.




Adeline Estes Wright was born in Rochester April 23, 1867, the daughter of Mr. And Mrs. Estes.  She graduated from Rochester High School and Plymouth Normal School.  She was the wife of Attorney William Wright who was a mayor of Rochester.  She lived on Jackson Street for many years.  She was the Chairperson of the Board of Managers at the Gaffney Home, a president of the Rochester Women’s Club, an active member of the Mary Torr Chapter of the DAR, and active in the Haven Hill Garden Club.  She belonged to the First Church Congregational where she was a member of the Ladies’ Aid. She was involved in women’s Republican work.  Her son, Dr. Wallace Wright, was a professor at Iowa State and her daughter, Marjorie Harriman, resided in Laconia in 1955.  Mrs. Wright died while residing at the Gaffney home on Wakefield Street at the age of 87 on March 7, 1955.

Information taken from her obituary in The Rochester Courier March 10,1955, p. 3




4 thoughts on “1914 Rochester Today with Glimpses of its Past

  1. Todd Caswell says:

    I live in Rochester I have my whole life and imma historical buff as I was reading your writing I was walking a side you and can picture everything just as you explained with these buildings I see now I felt the nostalgic Breeze flow over me thank you for that

  2. Kelly Dougherty says:

    Hi! My husband found a picture of his dad from 1939. There are 2 children running around either a wayer fountain or just a statue. The statue is of two children on a rock with an umbrella. On the back it says Gonic NH 1939. I was wondering if anyone knows if this statue is still there and if so, where exactly it is?

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