Owner of Concord’s gashouse assesses weather damage to roof

Last modified: 7/10/2013 10:21:02 AM
The company that owns the historic Concord gasholder is examining the extent of weather damage to the structure before it determines how it will proceed, a company official said.

The gasholder house, located off South Main Street in downtown Concord, was erected by the Concord Gas Light Co. in 1888 and has been inactive since 1952. The structure sustained tree damage to its roof several weeks ago.

Bill Sherry, vice president of customer care for Liberty Utilities, which owns the gasholder, said the company is conducting an assessment to determine the extent of the damage to the building and costs of the repairs.

“We’re still in that assessment phase, so we don’t have a handle yet on what it’s going to take to fix it,” he said. “Once we determine that, we’ll be able to determine our next step.”

Sherry said he did not know if there is a chance the structure could be razed or if the company intends to repair it. Their first intention is to get a better understanding of what they are facing, he said.

Sherry estimated the assessment could take several weeks or a month. The company plans to have roofing contractors and engineering firms look at the damage because of the age and size of the structure.

“The building is not currently in use so we’re taking our time, and we’ll get the information and then go from there,” he said.

Historic preservation consultant Liz Hengen said the damage to the building is significant but repairable.

“Despite being rendered obsolete decades earlier, Concord Gas responsibly maintained it into the 1990s,” she said. “Though it has changed hands several times since with shifting utility company ownership, I would hope that its current owner, Liberty Utilities, recognizes and appreciates the uniqueness of this landmark building and will elect to repair it.”

According to a 2011 inventory form of the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources, the Concord Gas Light Co. was chartered in 1850 to provide the city with gas illumination. In 1888, the company’s existing gasworks could not handle the city’s demand, and it constructed an additional facility.

The gasholder house was put out of service in 1952 when the company switched from manufacturing gas to hooking up to natural gas pipelines. The 1888 building is the only structure of Concord’s gasworks that still stands at its original site.

Hengen said the structure’s historical significance goes beyond that.

“The gasholder that stands today, which was built in the 1880s and was once a common sight in downtown, is now an absolute rarity,” she said. “The gasholder here in Concord is the only surviving such building anywhere in the United States that still has its interior gasholder intact.”

Hengen said the gaslight the structure once held was critical to the downtown area’s commercial, business and residential development.

“It anchors an important entrance into the downtown and speaks to the city’s strong industrial history,” she said.

(Mel Flanagan can be reached at 369-3321 or mflanagan@cmonitor.com.)

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