Let’s take a walking tour of downtown Chester using a circa 1873 photograph. Some of the 1873 buildings remain today; others are gone or were built after 1873. Tom Hildreth assigned numbers from 1 through 17 to help guide you around town.
Number 1 is the boundary of Brookside Cemetery and Baptist Church. Number 2 is the Baptist Church. Behind the church you’ll see a long row of sheds. These sheds were used for horses. I remember these sheds being there when I was a kid.
Next you’ll see a house and barn identified as number 3. The 1869 Beers Atlas shows a S. Davis living here. On the 1900 Sanborn Map the house is gone.
Number 4 shows on the 1869 map as being a blacksmith shop. This was a stone structure. If you look close you’ll see a small cellar hole. I wondered what that was.
Number 5 may answer this question. You’ll notice number 5 is a very small wood-frame building. Peter Farrar suggested perhaps number 5 had been moved out to the street sometime before the photographer took the photo. This would explain the cellar hole.
Now we head down Main Street to number 6 the Eagle Hotel. This hotel was built prior to 1800, perhaps as early as 1780. This was a unique building. The front of the building along Main Street was supported by large columns. These were not turned columns but actual trees that been limbed out and painted white. Most will know this location today as Gould’s Market or Bargain Corner.
Next door is number 7 the Henry Office Building. This building was built about 1820.
Number 8 is next and known as the Doctor Griffith place. Several doctors had lived here prior to Griffith. Notice the tidy fields and barns. Today between numbers 8 and 9 is the entrance to Chester Elementary School.
I knew number 9 as the Ernest Duprey place. It was a substantial building torn down in the late 1960s to make room for what is T.D. Bank today.
Number 10 is up Grafton Street just past Mill Street on the right. This building was a large Victorian style home with a widow’s walk on top of the roof. No one knows much about this place. I remember it being a tenement house. I think it burned in the late 1970s.
Next is number 11. This place stands at the intersection of High, Grafton and River Streets. In recent years it was “Second Wind Bed & Breakfast.”
Number 12 is just above Second Wind. This might be the old Ralph Cummings place.
I think number 13 is the old Robert Parker Sr. place at the corner of High Street and Dodge Road. Today this place is owned by Gary Parker. Robert Sr. was Gary’s grandfather.
Number 14 is on High Street where Glen Gustafson now lives. This place was the parsonage for the Episcopalian minister. When I was a kid Mr. Fowler was the minister and lived here. You’ll notice two gable ends facing you. These were connected by a long one and a half story structure. There was a fire once that altered the home. It has been modified today so it’s great to see it as it once was.
If you were to walk across the swinging bridge today and up to High Street, on your right you would see number 15. When I was a kid Harry Glynn lived here. Harry ran a barber shop in the Fullerton Inn and was a noted woodsman.
Number 16 is the old stone firehouse/school at the end of School Street on the right. If you look close you can see the bell tower.
Back at the corner of School and Main Street is number 17. When I was a kid Olive Whitcomb lived here.
Study the photo and you’ll notice Sarah Vail’s Law Office is not there, nor the Charthouse or the Whiting Library. They came much later than the photo.
This photo will be included in the book, “Pictorial History of Chester, Andover, Simonsville, Londonderry and Weston” to be published later this year by Chester Historical Society.
The next meeting of the Chester Historical Society is Thursday, June 28 at the Academy Building at 7 p.m. The monthly slideshow will be photos to be included in our new book. All are welcome. Come see the Adams’ Brothers gravestones.
Instead of an old saying I have a question. Why does Chester promote itself as a Victorian town? That’s nonsense. Chester was settled in the 1770s and thriving by 1810 with a population of 2,370.