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Smithsonian Institution Letter Advocates Saving the Concord, NH Gasholder – in 1976

CONCORD, NH – As the first phase of emergency stabilization of the 1888 Concord, NH Gasholder approaches completion this summer, a 1976 letter from the Smithsonian Institution has surfaced, reminding us that the building’s preservation and repurposing has been in and out of the national spotlight for nearly 50 years.  

“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,” wrote the Smithsonian’s Robert M. Vogel in a postscript. “It should not be demolished, as apparently they plan, but preserved and adaptively used.” 

Vogel, then curator of the Smithsonian’s Division of Mechanical and Civil Engineering, was writing to William Coyne of Page Belting Company in Concord to confirm receipt of materials the company submitted for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1976. 

The letter was brought to the attention of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance by Concord resident Bill Mitchell. Mitchell’s father, Frank W. Mitchell, was a foreman for Page Belting for many years, replacing leather belts on machinery across the country. His uncle Lewis “Chokie” Ianuzzo was a foreman at the gas company in charge of overseeing outside construction work. Ianuzzo passed away in 1975 shortly before the National Park Service published Gaslighting in America: A Guide for Historic Preservation.   

“The Concord Gasholder powered all the diverse industries that propelled Concord’s growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from the Abbot-Downing Company factory in the south where Concord Coaches were made, to Page Belting in the north,” said Mark Coen, current president of Page Belting Company. “Our Gasholder has survived through the years when other historical industrial buildings have been lost. Leaders around the city are more careful now to consider the role historic buildings play in placemaking, telling our stories, and revitalizing neighborhoods.” Readers may know Page Belting Company Mills for the award-winning adaptive reuse of its 1892 Concord headquarters for residential and mixed-use development.  

Emergency stabilization of the Concord Gasholder began this spring, facilitated by the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance in collaboration with property owner Liberty Utilities, the City of Concord, and a team that includes Structures North engineers, Yankee Steeplejack Company, Milestone Engineering & Construction, and Bruss Project Management. 

"We continue to be amazed and energized by the number and variety of people, businesses and organizations who are encouraging and supporting the preservation, planning and community development efforts in different ways,” said Jennifer Goodman, executive director of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance. She noted supporters include the Concord Historical Society, Concord Heritage Commission, and Concord Chamber of Commerce, as well as regional and national groups like the Society for Industrial Archeology, New England Chapter, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance listed the gasholder on its Seven to Save list last fall because of its national significance and redevelopment potential after Liberty announced plans to seek a demolition permit due to the imminent risk of collapse. The Preservation Alliance has hosted public forums, helped support redevelopment analysis and nominated the building for national Most Endangered status and a federal historic preservation grant. Joint efforts by the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, City of Concord, and owner Liberty Utilities are focused on finding a use for the property that would allow for public enjoyment and be a catalyst of future commercial or institutional development along the City’s southern gateway corridor.  

The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance invites comments and questions about the history and future of the Gasholder and the Save Our Gasholder campaign. Learn more  

Media contact: Jennifer Goodman, Executive Director, New Hampshire Preservation Alliance | | 603-224-2281 x12 or 603-470-7207 mobile