Gasholder fans prepare for a final showdown over historic building

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  • John Horangic of Bishop Brady High School joins the Save the Gasholder event on South Main Street in Concord on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Maggie Stier of the New Hampshire Perservation Alliance at the Save the Gasholder event on South Main Street on Tuesday, December 29, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Pat Meyers (center) and Alex Ray (right) stand on South Main Street during the Save the Gasholder event Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Liz Durfree Hengen of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance (left), Pat Meyer (center) and Alex Ray in front of the gasholder building on South Main Street in Concord on Tuesday, December 29, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Alex Ray, the owner and founder of The Common Man Restaurants, at the Save the Gasholder event on Tuesday, December 29, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Liz Durfree Hengen (left) and Pat Meyers hold signs on South Main Street in Concord during the Save the Gasholder event on Tuesday, December 29, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • One of the several drawings of the possible renovations and expansion of the gasholder building drawn by architect Diana Piotrow. It includes development of the area under the building, creating a walkout area, and a wing that would hold more commercial space to help cover the expense. Diana Piotrow / Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 12/29/2020 5:27:53 PM

Considering that it’s unique in the country, sits on a busy road, and has been here since 1888, Concord’s gasholder building has an unexpected problem: A lot of people don’t see it.

“I think some people don’t notice it because it’s kind of overgrown … it kind of falls into the landscape. Many people drive by it, aren’t really focused on it,” said John Horangic, a junior at Bishop Brady High School who participated in a save-the-gasholder protest Tuesday. “I point it out to friends and they say, oh yeah, that would be terrible if it was demolished.”

Keeping the building from being demolished is the goal of the City of Concord Ad-hoc Gasholder Committee, which will hold its final online meeting Jan. 8 to prepare its recommendations for the City Council.

The group argues that preserving the round brick building on South Main Street near Exit 13 could act as a spur to develop the city’s south end, improving business and residences there.

Liberty Utilities owns the 2.4-acre property but has no use for it. The company has said that safety concerns about the gasholder, which has been neglected for years, means it will apply for a demolition permit in January unless funding is found to stabilize and preserve it, which could cost anywhere from half a million to two million dollars, depending on what exactly is done.

The gasholder was built to store and release gas made from coal that had been brought to the site in rail cars. This “coal gas” was used for lighting and heat downtown before natural gas arrived in 1952. The building, 88 feet in diameter and almost 30 feet high in the center, is a single circular room that holds a massive metal cap that floated over as much as 120,000 cubic feet of coal gas.

Gasholder buildings were once around the country and many still remain, sometimes turned into offices or museums. One exists at St. Paul’s School, refurbished into a post office. Concord’s gasholder appears to be unique because it still contains the entire mechanism, including the many-ton cap atop the gas. This increases its historic value but complicates reuse.

Several speakers at Tuesday’s event mentioned Concord’s railroad terminal as an example of a building that wasn’t preserved to the chagrin of future generations. Concord Station was torn down in 1959 after passenger rail service ended and now is the site of the Capitol Shopping Center.

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



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