Call me nostalgic, but old Elm Street Middle School remains one of my favorite architectural beauties, and I truly wish it could be saved, but it will probably eventually be torn down.
Expert studies were done, and the conclusion was that the 85-year-old building at 117 Elm St. in downtown Nashua, N.H., is not worth the costly renovations needed to keep it standing in our progressive city. Instead, residents will have a new middle school in a couple of years located in the southwest quadrant of Nashua. Fairgrounds and Pennichuck are the two other middle schools.
How do Nashuans feel about this historic gem that still currently serves as a middle school and the performance home to Symphony New Hampshire and the Actorsingers in the building’s stately Keefe Hall Auditorium?
You have a chance to speak up and share your vision of the future for the school and its 9-acre property. The public is invited to attend a meeting at City Hall Auditorium on Wednesday evening (March 30), from 6 to 7:30 p.m. People can also participate via Zoom. Please note, the consultants involved will present and participate remotely.
I’ll certainly miss the old school if it’s bulldozed over, and I’m not alone. It has impressive roots and served the city well for decades as thousands of students walked through those hallowed halls on their way to classes.
Before Elm Street was a middle school, it was also a junior high, and prior to that, Elm Street was Nashua Senior High until 1975. Double sessions were held there while the new high school (now Nashua South) was being constructed.
Elm Street was erected under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, Public Works Administration. It was called “Federal Works Project No. 1034,” according to research I discovered. Construction began in 1935 and was completed in March 1937. It’s quite a legacy.
In those days, building a large school such as Elm Street came with a much lower price tag. In this case, a grant in the amount of $270,000 was awarded to the city of Nashua toward construction. Then-Mayor Alvin A. Lucier included this in the Town Report:
“The school was located on city-owned land at a point nearly in the center of population and in the section of the City in which we may fully expect most of the future building will be done as the City grows larger.”
Even back then, Mayor Lucier’s foresight was spot-on. The school sits in an ideal location at 117 Elm St. (downtown south), right off of Main Street. It’s close to a shopping center, banks and dining establishments.
I recall hanging out with my friends on the expansive, green lawn before classes began and dining in the large, sunny cafeteria with its big windows. It was a special place, a special school and a special time in my life.
Some folks have commented online that they’d enjoy seeing perhaps, a hotel on the property, an aquarium, children’s museum or even a small zoo. Others have suggested that it be repurposed into mixed-use housing with a community garden. A few residents think that affordable senior housing is a good concept, and several believe that Nashua’s performing arts center, now under construction about a mile away, should have been chosen at this location, instead.
I don’t have a clue what should replace this proud, historic building of stunning Classical Revival architecture.
What would you like to see there, fellow Nashuans?