Era 7: Emergence of Modern American – 1890 to 1930
Compiled by Tom Sullivan and Louise Troehler
The population in Keene was 7,446.
The city purchased a steamroller and the first macadam pavement was laid.
Elliot City Hospital, an eighteen-bed facility, was established on Main Street, and is presently Elliot Hall at Keene State College. The hospital was made possible by John Henry Elliot’s donation of his home and property. It later became known as Elliot Community Hospital.
Fire station enlarged.
Charles C. Beedle Began the C.C. Beedle Piano Company in Keene.
Keene celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus coming to America.
The YMCA erected a three story building on West Street. Classes in penmanship, bookkeeping, business, and English were offered.
The Peerless Insurance Company was started, from which the Peerless Casualty Company began in 1901.
Harry Thayer Kingsbury purchased the Wilkins Toy Company, thereby starting the Kingsbury Manufacturing Company. The Kingsbury Machine Company division was established in 1920.
The Keene Gas & Electric Light Company plant on Wilson Street opened.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with Annie Oakley performed in Keene.
Walter and Windsor H. Goodnow opened twelve department stores in New England between 1895 and 1920, with one in Keene.
The first horseless carriage appeared in Keene. It was a maroon seven hundred-pound Duryea. It was part of the Barnum and Bailey Circus exhibit.
The first motion picture was shown in Keene. The community’s first motion picture house, The Nickel Theatre, opened in 1905.
Keene’s Country Club was started, along with the introduction of golf to the community.
The Spanish American War started. Keene men answered the call to serve their country. Although the Keene men were ordered to Cuba twice, their orders were cancelled each time. The only battles the Keene unit fought were those against typhoid, dysentery, fever, and the other ills of the poorly equipped camps of the period. The soldiers returned on the evening of September 13th, and were greeted by 5,000 happy citizens. Bonfires were lit to signal that the train was approaching. Fireworks were set off and the soldiers received a hot supper at the armory.
The city proudly dedicated its first library building. The Henry Colony Victorian mansion was donated by Edward Carrington Thayer.
Two heavy naval cannons arrived in Keene and were placed on each side of the Soldier’s Monument.
The city entered into a contract with the Keene Gas Light Company. One hundred incandescent streetlights were erected.
A bicycle path was started.
Sprague & Carleton founded a local furniture factory. Keene was known as the porch chair capital of the United States. Sprague & Carleton was one of several local chair companies that produced up to one million rocking chairs each year.
The Boston & Maine Railroad assumed management of the Fitchburg Railroad and its Cheshire Division.
The Keene Electric Railway (trolley) opened for regular service with a route that included Keene to Marlborough.
The Trinity Bicycle factory converted to manufacture automobiles as the Steamobile Company of America.
By 1900, electric power was being provided on a 24-hour basis.
The old bandstand at the head of Main Street was so dilapidated it was sold for one cent.
The population in Keene was 9,165 people.
January – April
A severe epidemic of scarlet fever began in late January and continued into April, closing school, churches, library, and city hall. Twenty-two people died of scarlet fever during the epidemic.
Lincoln School was built.
Florence Hall of Keene became one of the first women employed by any New England railroad office.
The Ashuelot chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution unveiled the granite boulder with plaque on the corner of Main and Baker Streets to mark the road taken by patriots on April 21, 1775 in response to the fighting at Lexington and Concord.
A nurse’s school was opened near the Elliot City Hospital.
Denman Thompson’s play “The Old Homestead” was performed at City Hall, with the proceeds of $738.75 donated to Elliot City Hospital.
Keene celebrated its 150th anniversary of its founding.
The first public kindergarten classes were started at Tilden and Elliot Street Schools.
Repairs were completed at City Hall, with new stage and scenery installed and electric lighting.
The Edward Joslin Home for Nurses opened for public inspection.
The Daughters of the American Revolution was responsible for moving 10 gravestones from the old Main Street Cemetery to the Washington Street Cemetery.
The Robertson Motor Company opened, offering the first dump trucks in the state.
History of the Town of Keene by S. G. Griffin published.
Local lodge of the Benevalent and Protective order of Elks was founded.
Keene council of the Knights of Columbus organized.
The Majestic Theater (“Nickel Theatre” ) on Church Street opened.
The first garbage collection was started in the city.
Asteria chapter of Eastern Star formed.
Formation of Local 132 of the United Garment Workers of America at the Brattleboro Overall Company plant in Keene.
Franklin School was built.
Keene’s first auto show, which was also the first in the state, was held at the City Hall auditorium. In addition to featuring cars and trucks, an airplane was also hung from the ceiling.
The Fraternal Order of Eagles in Keene was founded.
Keene Normal School, now Keene State College, was started.
Population in Keene was 10,065.
Central Square was sprinkled frequently with water throughout the week and before church services on Sunday during the hot summer weather.
Central Square was paved.
A huge reception at the Cheshire House for President Taft was held with 8,000 to 10,000 people in attendance.
Daughters of the American Revolution marked the site of the first meetinghouse in Keene.
The first exhibition of talking pictures was held at City Hall. The Dreamland Theater showed these pioneer “talkies” in October.
Browntail and Gypsy moths were first noted in Keene, supposedly brought in by train.
The first public Christmas tree was set up in Central Square. It was a 50-foot spruce that was surrounded by smaller illuminated trees. There was carol singing and distribution of gifts to needy children.
Denman Thompson, author of “The Old Homestead,” died at age 77.
Post Office erected on West Street.
It was reported that “a bystander on a Sunday morning in 1911 counted 208 teams, 188 bicycles, 88 automobiles, and 9 motorcycles in the Square.”
Radio was introduced to Keene.
In the fall, Harry B. Brown is credited with flying the first airplane over Keene.
The first “airship” departed from Keene, but landed in a treetop soon after takeoff.
“Minnie” the elephant came to Keene with a traveling road show, performing for the largest audience ever yet assembled in the city.
Elliot Street School was renamed Wheelock School. The school was first built in 1885.
At Christmas time, funds for Belgian children were collected.
The first Chautauqua held in Keene.
A record 11.9 inches of rain fell.
The New Hampshire League for National Defense was formed with public meetings held at City Hall.
Girl Scouting began in Keene with 12 girls.
The first transcontinental phone call in Keene (and in NH) was made to California.
Young men of Keene registered for the army at the beginning of World War I. Six hundred people from Keene served in World War I. Of these 600, 25 died serving in the war.
A branch of the American Red Cross was organized in Keene.
World War I ended, and 5000 Keene citizens celebrated in Central Square.
An eleven week epidemic of Spanish influenza affected thousands, with 153 deaths in Keene.
Thirty veterans joined in the formation of an American Legion Post, which was named Gordon-Bissell Post No. 11 in honor of the first Keene men to give their lives in conflict, James H. Bissell and Grant H. Gordon.
The first male student was accepted to Keene Normal School.
The city dedicated a flagpole as a war memorial at the head of Main Street.
Women won the right to vote. Five of the 15 city councilors elected were women.
Keene Women’s Club founded. By 1926 it was the largest club in the state federation.
By 1920, Keene had almost 100 miles of streets with 12.08 miles paved, five men in the fire department with 60 on call, 9 men in the police department, 8 church buildings, 10 parks and playgrounds, an 80-bed hospital, and the world’s widest paved main street (172 feet from curb to curb).
The population in Keene was 11,210.
Roosevelt School erected on Washington Street.
Hospital renamed Elliot Community Hospital.
The Keene Rotary Club was organized.
Mary B. Dinsmoor donated a 13-acre parcel on Maple Avenue, known at the Dinsmoor Woods, to the city for public use. Faulkner & Colony Manufacturing Company donated an additional 8 acres to the city adjoining the Dinsmoor Woods.
Cheshire County Fish and Game club was organized.
The Colonial Theater Block was built on Main Street, replacing the Peleg Sprague house that had been on the site since 1795.
The Latchis Theater opened with a seating capacity of 1,070 by Demetrius P. Latchis.
The Country Club purchased the Spaulding Farm for its new location and sold the old grounds on Arch Street to the High School Athletic Association.
Colonial Theatre opened, with Charles Baldwin entertained about 6,000 people free of charge.
Delegates refused to remove the County Farm from Westmoreland to Keene.
The flagpole at the head of the Square was dedicated as a war memorial.
New club house on West Street at the Country Club opened.
Fresh Air program for Children began, sponsored by the Keene Women’s Club.
Basketball became a regular team sport at Keene High School.
Keene High School yearbook, Salmagundi, was established.
Chautauqua continued to be the major summer event.
President Calvin Coolidge passed through Keene.
The city adopted an official flag.
Fuller Park was purchased and developed.
Enrollment at Keene Normal School climbed to 568.
A new street lighting system in Keene was dubbed the “White Way.”
Fire station was rebuilt, having burned.
There were 2,587 meters in service by the water department.
The city appropriated money for construction of a new Symonds school to be built in West Keene. The original Symonds School was located at 38 Park Avenue.
Severe forest fires just north of Keene.
Historical Society of Cheshire County established.
Charles Lindbergh flew over Keene and dropped greetings.
Connecticut River rose 29 ¾ feet, resulting in much flooding.
The armory on upper Washington Street was dedicated.
The first Keene airport in West Keene near the Wyman Road opened.
Keene’s nickname becomes the “Elm City,” because of the many huge elm trees that line its streets.
Keene’s first traffic lights began operating on Central Square.
Sunday baseball was proclaimed unlawful by Mayor Carey.
St. Joseph School first opened on Wilson Street.
Population of Keene was 13,774.
Tom Sullivan teaches elementary school in Keene and Louise Troehler is a HSCC volunteer.