A new press for the Monitor is bringing Penacook’s long-shut Rivco factory back to life

  • Gary Tewksbury walks along Merrimack Street in Penacook in front of the old Rivco entrance last week. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Rivco employee Everett Decatur puts together a window at the old plant back in 1980. The site, built in 1880, was used for the manufacturing of doors and windows before closing in 2007. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 12/2/2018 11:00:21 PM

Life is returning to the huge Rivco complex in Penacook as neighbors gear up for the site’s revival after a decade in which it sat mostly silent.

“To me, it’s bringing up the economy, giving people jobs,” said Gary Tewksbury about his new neighbors, the Monitor’s parent company, which is shifting its printing operations there.

Tewksbury was raised one block away on Rolfe Street and now lives on Merrimack Street, directly across the road from the rambling industrial site. “Everybody on this street, we’ve got no problem with it (reopening). It’s better being used than being empty.

“See those two windows?” he said on a recent weekday, pointing across the street from his porch. “A friend of mine worked there, in that part of the building. He kept an eye on my house when I was at work every day, looking to make sure everything was OK. It was a good neighbor,” he said of Rivco.

This location, tucked against the Contoocook River as it meets the Merrimack, has seen industrial operations since as far back as the 1880s, usually involving the construction of doors and windows. It has been largely empty since Rivco abruptly shut down in 2007, abandoning a couple hundred thousand square feet of buildings.

Newspapers Of New England

The new tenant for a portion of the site is Newspapers of New England, which owns the Monitor, Valley News of West Lebanon and biweekly Monadnock Ledger-Transcript in Peterborough as well as several newspapers in Massachusetts.

David Sangiorgio, who oversees the printing business for the firm, said NNE has leased 42,000 square feet in the Penacook plant, including nine docks for handling the loading and unloading of newsprint and newspapers. The firm is installing an offset press and building offices inside the building for its circulation and commercial printing business.

It also has leased storage space for hundreds of tons of newsprint. If that’s not enough room, tens of thousands of square feet of additional floor space is available in adjoining buildings.

Newspapers of New England will in the coming months shift its printing operations there for the Monitor, the Ledger-Transcript and the Valley News as well as for its commercial customers. 

The city is understandably happy to have at least a portion of the Rivco site used again.

“Obviously it’s an underperforming property,” notes Carlos Baia, deputy city manager for development.

The site is assessed at about $1.7 million. New valuation will be set in April.

Baia said the site has been part of the city’s pitch to developers for many years but many firms have balked at its lack of quick access to the highway: “It has its challenges, location-wise, for industrial use.”

“There has been discussion over the years about potentially some mixed use on that site: some commercial and some residential,” Baia said. “There are a lot of view corridors to the river that might make it attractive to residential development.”

Rolfe family

Industrial work began on this location in the 1880s when the Rolfe family, one of the original families to settle in Concord, established what became the Rolfe Sash and Door Co., with “sash” referring to window units.

That company operated through World War II. After it shut, the site was mostly empty for more than a decade until Riverside Millwork Co., commonly known as Rivco, opened in 1963. It also made doors and windows, mostly for contractors and developers in the region.

In its heyday, Rivco employed some 300 people, but it shrank and grew along with changes in the housing market, as is reflected in the hodgepodge of interconnected buildings. City records show that one section was built in 1900, one section in 1974 and one section in 1978.

It struggled in the last couple of decades of existence, changing hands a few times. It closed in 2007 after being bought by a private equity firm, JMC Venture Partners, which quickly shut it down.

“My friend worked four days a week there,” Tewksbury recalled. “One Thursday, the boss came by and gave him his paycheck. He said, ‘Here’s another long weekend,’ and the boss said, ‘You’re going to have more time off than that. The doors close today.’ That’s the first he heard of it.”

Since then, it has been largely unused. WalMart leased a portion as a warehouse for a while, Tewksbury said, and the easternmost building, not attached to the rest, is now used by Natural Playground Co. It builds a variety of wooden structures there, mostly for school and institutional playgrounds.

John Foot, shop foreman for Natural Playground, said the company was happy that Newspapers of New England was moving in next door, because empty buildings can attract vandals.

“It’s better off for surveillance. Now they’ll know it’s being used,” Foot said.

 

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


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