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Concord’s iconic gasholder building makes the National Register of Historic Places

  • This November 2016 photo shows the inside of the gasholder building on South Main Street, including scaffolding that rises from the base, installed as part of repairs after a tree damaged the roof. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

  • The Concord Gasholder building in November 2016, before the entranceway cupola collapsed. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

  • The iconic gasholder building on South Main Street in Concord is seen Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. The gas house, built in 1888, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • The iconic gasholder building on South Main Street in Concord is seen Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. The gas house, built in 1888, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • The iconic gasholder building on South Main Street in Concord is seen Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. The gas house, built in 1888, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • The iconic gasholder building on South Main Street in Concord is seen Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. The gas house, built in 1888, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • The Concord gasholder building, built in 1888, is pictured in Concord in October 2015. The 130-year-old red-brick coal gasholder building is believed to be the last of its type in the country and has been named to the National Register of Historic Places. AP file



Monitor staff
Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Concord gasholder, that iconic round building with the tilted top on South Main Street, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. This may help ongoing attempts to preserve the long-closed facility, although it doesn’t guarantee that it will survive.

Built in 1888 to hold coal gas, then a major source of light and heat, the brick building is probably the last such structure in the country to contain its original equipment, including a huge floating cap that trapped up to 120,000 cubic feet of gas under water. The cap is 88 feet in diameter and weighs several tons. It rose and fell depending on how much gas had been pumped into storage or pumped out to customers.

The building is round to fit the cap, which could rise almost 30 feet to the ceiling and was held in place by wheels on vertical rails along the walls.

The gasholder was used through the 1953, when coal gas was replaced by natural gas. A second gasholder building, made of metal, existed on the site for five decades but was torn down in the 1990s. Other coal-processing buildings were also removed at the same time.

The Concord gasholder is no longer considered safe to enter. An entryway collapsed in March 2016, and a tree damaged the main roof during a storm years earlier.

It is owned by Liberty Utilities, which obtained the building and its 2.4-acre property on South Main Street as part of a 2012 purchase of National Grid’s natural gas business in New Hampshire. Liberty Utilities has not released long-term plans for the site, which is currently unused.

It would cost at least $500,000 to stabilize the building and cost much more to make it usable in any form, according to rough estimates by Liberty Utilities.

Several other gasholder buildings exist in New Hampshire, including the post office at St. Paul’s School, but none have the original storage equipment.

The city of Concord sponsored the nomination of the gasholder amid public concerns for its preservation.

Administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. Listing does not impose any new restrictions or limitations on the use of private properties “up to and including destruction,” and may qualify them for certain federal tax provisions.

In New Hampshire, listing to the National Register makes applicable property owners eligible for grants such as the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program and the Conservation License Plate Program.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The article has been edited to clarify that the listing does not prevent the gasholder from being torn down.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)