Work to stabilize Concord’s gasholder to begin soon as its long-term future remains unsettled

  • The iconic gasholder building on South Main Street in Concord is seen on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. The structure has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Monitor staff
Published: 9/6/2021 4:00:06 PM

Work should begin soon on keeping Concord’s historic gasholder building from crumbling any further, as supporters continue efforts to find and pay for a long-term solution.

“The Preservation Alliance, working closely with owner Liberty Utilities, is expecting to start the emergency stabilization of the 1888 Concord Gasholder very soon,” wrote Jennifer Goodman, executive director of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, in response to a query from the Monitor.

That work will include securing the broken tension ring around the top of the inside of the circular gasholder, shoring up and securing the roof, and other priority items.

“This project is the first step toward a more comprehensive multi-phase preservation redevelopment effort to save the last-of-its-kind landmark and secure future use of the site that is compatible with the adjoining neighborhoods and serves as a community development catalyst for the city’s southern opportunity corridor,” she wrote.

Updates will be available Thursday, Sept. 9, at 7  p.m. during a Concord Historical Society presentation about the building. The program will include a brief history of the gasholder by historic preservationist Elizabeth Hengen and an overview of the Gasholder’s current status and future plans by Goodman. 

It will take place in the Carriage House of the Kimball-Jenkins Estate, 266 North Main St.

This program will be the first in a new series from the Historical Society on Concord’s history, to be presented the second Thursday of each month. October’s program will be on the Abbot-Downing Company and the Concord Coach.

The gasholder dates to 1888, when it was built to hold “manufactured gas” for lights and heating,  made by processing coal brought to the site in rail cars. That job ended after natural gas arrived via pipeline in 1952 and the building has been empty since.

In recent years its condition has deteriorated, especially after a falling tree punched a hole in the roof in 2014, letting in rain and wildlife.

Liberty Utilities took ownership of it and the surrounding 2.3 acres in 2012 when it bought National Grid’s gas business in the state but has no use for it. The company had threatened to tear it down but in April it signed a memorandum of understanding, saying it would match donations up to about $500,000 to stabilize the building. 

Previous studies estimated that stabilizing the building, which is 88 feet in diameter and almost 30 feet high, would cost around $400,000, while preserving it as a long-term monument would cost a million dollars or more. Turning it into a usable building would cost far more.

Although a number of former gasholders exist in the U.S., Concord’s appears to be unique because it contains all the internal workings that contained as much as 120,000 cubic feet of gas at a time.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)
David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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