Small change in Concord road may bring attention to N.H. history

  • One of the two Lafayette Posts at the entrance of Industrial Drive where it meets South Fruit Street. The plaque notes that the Marquis de Lafayette, a Revolutionary War hero, passed between the two pillars during a visit to Concord in 1825. David Brooks—Monitor Staff

  • One of the two Lafayette Posts sits at the front of Industrial Drive off South Fruit Street in Concord. A bill is asking for Industrial Drive to be renamed Ratification Way after it is moved, as well as for the Lafayette Posts to be revamped and placed along a walkway nearby. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Monday, December 25, 2017

One of the most important historical documents in Concord – the copy of the U.S. Constitution given to the state after the document was ratified – may get a little more attention next year as part of an expansion of the state archives building.

“The roadway is going to be moved away from the front of the building ... and this office felt we should rename it with something that’s a little bit more historic,” said Dave Scanlan, deputy secretary of state.

The building officially known as the Division of Archives and Records Management, at the corner of South Fruit Street and Industrial Drive in the Hugh Gallen state office park, is scheduled to get a two-story, 42,000-square-foot addition next year. As part of the project, its parking lot along Industrial Drive will double in size, which will require shifting part of that road about 50 feet to the south.

A bill before the Legislature would rename the road Ratification Way, in honor of the New Hampshire being the ninth state to ratify the Constitution.

“Because the U.S. constitution resides in the building, we thought it was appropriate name,” said state Rep. Dennis Fields, R-Sanbornton, the prime sponsor of the legislation.

The move will also be a change for a less well-known bit of Concord history: the Lafayette Posts.

The two 6-foot granite pillars stand on each side of Industrial Drive at its intersection with South Fruit Street.

As a plaque on one pillar notes, they have been moved from the State House, where they stood in 1825 when the Marquis de Lafayette, still revered for his role helping win the Revolutionary War, passed between them during a visit to the United States.

Lafayette’s tour of 24 states was a triumphant procession that in some ways started preparations for the country’s 50th birthday. It led to monuments throughout the country, including these two pillars.

Time has not been kind to the Lafayette Posts, however. One is missing a plaque and both are, at best, nondescript; it’s likely that few of the hundreds of cars that pass between each day even notice they are there.

Under the proposed project, the posts would be spruced up and shifted to a walkway that leads into the new parking lot, so people would walk between them.

Because the project will happen on state property, the city of Concord doesn’t have a direct say. A hearing about the project before the city Planning Board on Thursday mostly drew a thumbs-up.

“The biggest thing we were concerned with is the landscaping – they’re not adding any in the plans,” said Assistant City Planner Beth Fenstermacher.

Fenstermacher said the project has been put out to bid, with construction slated to start in early spring.

“Once they get the bids in, if they have extra money they’re going to do landscaping,” she said.

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