The Smithsonian was worried about Concord’s gasholder clear back in 1976

  • The Gasholder project to shore up the roof has begun. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Work has started on the Gasholder building on South Main Street in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

  • The inside of the Gasholder building on South Main Street showing the roof and the scaffolding that rises from the base. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 7/5/2022 3:27:11 PM

History fans rallying to keep Concord’s gasholder building upright have discovered that the building’s plight has drawn national attention for half a century.

“If you have any influence with the local utility, please do what you can to convince them that the circular gasholder house at the south end of town is a valuable historic resource and attractive visual element in the cityscape. It should not be demolished, as apparently they plan, but preserved and adaptively used.,” wrote Robert M. Vogel, who was then curator of the Smithsonian’s Division of Mechanical and Civil Engineering, in a 1976 letter.

The letter was released Tuesday by the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, one of several groups trying to save the gasholder.

Vogel’s letter was written to William Coyne of Page Belting Co. in Concord to confirm receipt of material the company submitted for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, held in Philadelphia in 1976. The gasholder comment came in a postscript.

The letter was brought to the group’s attention by Concord resident Bill Mitchell. His father, Frank W. Mitchell, was a foreman for Page Belting for many years, replacing leather belts on machinery across the country.

The gasholder has been largely unused since the 1950s, when the arrival of natural gas via pipeline made it no longer necessary to store flammable gas under pressure here. It has deteriorated to the point that Liberty Utilities, its current owner, has threatened to tear it down unless others help in the expensive task of preservation.

Work is ongoing to stabilize it and prevent further damage while fund-raising efforts and long-term planning continue. Most of the stabilization work is happening inside the building, including the construction of scaffolding to help support the roof and fixing a broken compression ring that runs around the base of the roof.

The gasholder is 88 feet in diameter and almost 30 feet high. It was built in 1888 to hold “manufactured gas” made by processing coal brought to the site in rail cars, which was used for lights and heating throughout Concord. It is apparently unique in the country because it still contains all the internal workings.

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 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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