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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Birds to books at The Green Ridge Turkey Farm

Don Himsel

Editor’s Note: Imagine Nashua: Then & Now is a weekly photo column by Don Himsel. Each week, he will feature an old photo within a more recent photo and an explanation of how he got the shot.

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Editor’s Note: Imagine Nashua: Then & Now is a weekly photo column by Don Himsel. Each week, he will feature an old photo within a more recent photo and an explanation of how he got the shot.

I’ve got an old menu right here in front of me. Tell me what it was for you. The turkey pie? Barbequed turkey wings? Drumstick dinner? Ah, the croquettes. That’s what it was, the croquettes, right? “Two Fried Croquettes with Poulette Sauce, $7.95.”

The Green Ridge Turkey Farm graced the corner of Spit Brook Road and the Daniel Webster Highway for a long, long time before its demise in the 1990s. The only birds to be found there now are in picture form, in cookbooks sold at the Barnes & Noble bookstore that’s on that site. It no doubt lives on in memories of people across the country who, in a previous life, went for Sunday dinner, a special occasion or stopped in on the way up north.

The DW, then (and, for some, now) is old Route 3. It began at the border, sliced through downtown Nashua and up into the heart of the state. This was before the F.E. Everett Turnpike was stretched out in the 1960s. Traffic, if you could call it that, streamed right outside the front door.

The landmark went through several versions of itself before it came to its end in the mid-1990s. The often-told story places its beginning with George and Grace Kimball buying 200 acres of land there in 1931. First came their farm stand. Next, ice cream and turkey sandwiches. The restaurant was added in 1940. Thousands of turkeys were raised on-site and became, in a way, temporary – and tasty – employees at the farm. The restaurant and its reputation grew.

Blogger Ryan Owen writes on Forgotten New England, “Just four days after Thanksgiving, disaster struck the Green Ridge. At 6 p.m. on the evening of November 27, 1950, a few hours after the farm had hosted the New England Turkey Growers’ Association, Dr. Frank Flagg knocked on the door of Mr. and Mrs Kimball’s home (they were reportedly home playing cards). The Green Ridge, just 100 yards south from where they were sitting, was on fire.”

“The first caller told the fire department that the Green Ridge farm building was ‘ready to explode.’”

Because of a recent storm, there was no phone. There was no water in the immediate area and in the end, apparently not enough insurance money.

“KIMBALL FARM IS TOTAL LOSS DAMAGE $150,000 was the next day’s Telegraph headline next to the photograph. The tower of flames was huge.

The Green Ridge was put up for sale. Howard and Dorothy Flanders bought, rebuilt and reopened it in 1952. Two years later, it was sold to Luc, Victor and Edmund Charpentier, who ran it until it was torn down for the Barnes & Noble Bookstore that operates there now.

In 1992, a trade journal placed the Green Ridge as the second most profitable restaurant in the state, hauling in about $4 million in annual sales in 1991. That’s a lot of turkey. Well, turkey and beef and lobster and all the rest that filling out the menu.

One online comment remarked on the Green Ridge experience, “It was almost like going to a close relative’s house.” A circa-1960s advertisement reads, “Where good food and good friends get together.”

One thing’s for sure: For me, it wouldn’t have been the fried turkey livers, “En casserole with Mushroom Sauce, $8.95.”

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or dhimsel@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Himsel on Twitter (@Telegraph_DonH).