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Bicycle enthusiasts to gather on Main Street to re-create historic Concord photo

A group of cyclists pose for a photo on Main Street about 1890. Cyclists will gather at the same spot tomorrow morning in an attempt to recreate the picture.

A group of cyclists pose for a photo on Main Street about 1890. Cyclists will gather at the same spot tomorrow morning in an attempt to recreate the picture.

While flipping through books at the Museum of New Hampshire History, Lorraine Courtney stumbled across a photo dating to about 1890 that shows a line of bicyclists posing on Main Street in Concord. They had gathered to commemorate the “bicycle boom” caused by the invention of safety bicycles with two small wheels to replace the penny farthing bikes with massive front wheels, which were named after two types of British coins that were proportional to the two unequally-sized wheels.

With the popularity of bicycling in Concord and current trend of photo-sharing on social media, Courtney was inspired to organize an attempt to re-create the photo featuring residents of today’s city. And at 7 a.m. tomorrow, anyone with a bike is invited to come to Main Street to be a part of it.

“Seeing the picture got me thinking about bicycles and events like the ride your bike to work day at the State House,” Courtney said. “I looked at the picture and thought, ‘Wow, that would be cool to redo and see what it would look like on Main Street today.’ ”

With the help of Concord 250, the nonprofit organization coordinating the city’s 250th anniversary celebration, organizers scheduled the event for early tomorrow morning while Main Street would still be blocked off for Market Days. They hope to entice residents to wake up early with the promise of coffee donated by The Works Bakery and Cafe, homemade baked goods and fruit, Courtney said. The street will be closed until 9 a.m. to regular traffic.

Preregistration isn’t required, and the first 82 attendees will receive a gift from S&W Sports and a free copy of the image from Concord Photo Services, said Kim Murdoch, director of Murdoch Social Capital and marketing coordinator for the event.

“The original photo has been blown up and closely examined, and we counted 82 people in the 1890 version,” Murdoch said. “So we’re hoping for at least 82 on Sunday, and so far our numbers are looking good. . . . We guarantee that everyone who comes will be in the photo, even if the numbers exceed that.”

Participants can wear anything for the photo, from 1800s-style dress to state-of-the-art cycling gear and everything in between, she said. A red tent will be set up in front of Lotions ’n Potions at 25 N. Main St., where cyclists can sign up tomorrow morning; they must bring their own bikes. The new photo will be placed in the time capsule that will be buried as part of the city’s 250th anniversary celebration, and it will also be featured in Courtney’s forthcoming book Legendary Locals of Concord.

Following the 7 a.m. event, bikers and bike enthusiasts are invited to the Merrimack River Greenway Trail at 6 Loudon Road to cheer on participants for the 9 a.m. Northeast Delta Dental Merrimack River Trail Triathlon that will be held there, Lemieux said.

He predicts the new photo will “far surpass” the 82 participant benchmark set by last century’s version.

“I’ve been at the Merrimack River Greenway Trail’s Market Days table this week, and we’ve had a lot of people stopping by and saying they plan to be there for the pose,” he said. “Between that and the RSVPs on the Facebook page for the event, we’re in good shape.”

Positions in yesterday’s photo will be arranged on a first come, first served basis, so those hoping to be shown in the foreground should arrive early, Murdoch said.

(Ann Marie Jakubowski can be reached at 369-3302 or ajakubowski@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @AMJakubowski.)

Legacy Comments4

If progressives and the city council had their way, this would be recreated permanently on Main Street. No need for bike lanes in those days. Can you imagine the smell with all of that heat, heavy clothes and no deodorant in those days? PHEW!

Also, this photo likely dates later than 1890. The old Phenix Hall burned in 1893, and the one depicted here appears to be the current version (Lincoln spoke at old hall; Teddy Roosevelt at new hall). I'd place this shot at circa 1900, but a local historian might be able to nail it down. In any case, can't be 1890 if that is the 'modern' edition of Phenix Hall.

It's your good twin here, saying...sorry DL, but the CM may have gotten this one right (which would make you wrong, evil twin). Unless the New Phenix Hall has undergone a facelift, the PH in this pic is the pre-1894, or original version. Same one Lincoln spoke at on March 01, 1860. A little online research of "W.A. Thompson - Boot and Shoe Store", as I believe the sign reads, revealed that in 1885 he moved to Bailey's Block (see Bailey Hall sign to right) from Statesman's Block (south corner of N Main & Depot; same side & across from Speer's, today). All that means is the photo dates no earlier than 1885, of course. Btw, William A Thompson died in May/1913 at just 60 years of age, but his business survived him. All write-ups I have read on this man are glowing in every regard. In any case, it's a great old photo, with a taste of bittersweet, since it depicts a Main Street rich in character & charm. Best we savor its remains now, as Dupreyland is clearly on the horizon.

The bicycles are very cool, but what stands out for me in this shot is the best pic I've seen to date of the old Phenix Hotel (at center, with five dormered windows on top, and next to 'Phenix Block' hall). CVS occupies this space today, but many a soldier stayed at the Phenix Hotel on their way to the Washington DC, and the Civil War. One was private John W Haley, of the 17th Maine Volunteer Infantry. He complained in his diary that he didn't get much sleep for all the boys who came stumbling in throughout the night, "full of Concord firewater.".

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