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Staff photo by Don Himsel

Evening light falls on Nashua's Millyard smokestack Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Nashua aldermen to consider fate of Millyard chimney

NASHUA – You can see the Millyard chimney from miles away.

Now, at least one alderman wants to put it on record that no matter the demands of the impending Broad Street Parkway, the board wants the chimney to stay intact and continue to be a downtown landmark.

Alderman-at-Large Jim Donchess’ proposal comes as city officials review a future that he prefers – keeping the chimney intact – as well as the less preferred paths of further shortening the structure or even demolishing it for safety concerns.

His proposal seeks an aldermanic resolution that would state the chimney should be kept at its current height of about 165 feet, or, if possible, have 15 feet of bricks that were removed last year put back into place.

Donchess introduced the proposal at an aldermen’s meeting Tuesday night. It was accepted and sent to a subcommittee for review.

“It’s an important symbol with historic value,” Donchess said. “It’s important to preserve the chimney.”

Donchess’ proposal makes official the recent tension between people who want to see the Millyard preserved and those who believe that removing parts of old buildings is a necessary trade-off for the progress that could be seen with the Broad Street Parkway.

Residents, including Donchess, have particularly taken exception with the city’s plan to take part of the Nashua Manufacturing Co. store house building for the path of the parkway. The sections of the building have various inception dates, but they all tie to the 1800s.

After residents complained loudly about the plan in the fall, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau offered for the city to consider taking less of the building than previously planned, as a way to preserve the structure’s history, leaving five of its six sections intact.

The southeast end of the Broad Street Parkway will enter the Millyard, a move that city officials hope will revitalize the dormant area.

City officials, including Lozeau, say they want to keep the chimney – famed for having “Millyard” painted on its sides – intact so that it will serve as a gateway to commuters on the parkway.

But last year, a contractor removed about 15 feet of brick and mortar from the 180-foot chimney because its top was deteriorating. City officials were worried that bricks would fall when work crews started demolishing the adjacent Boiler House building.

Now, engineers tell the city that the chimney might have to be shortened further, to 100-120 feet, Lozeau said. They told the city the chimney doesn’t meet state seismic load or wind requirements. And even if it is shortened, a waiver would be needed for the chimney to meet those requirements, she said.

Lozeau, whose administration is overseeing the design and eventual construction of the Broad Street Parkway, said she also wants to preserve the chimney.

“I would like to keep the chimney,” Lozeau said. “You have to take into account public safety, its historical value and the cost.”

The city has asked the engineers if the chimney can be reinforced to meet wind load requirements and restored to its original height of 180 feet.

But the city also asked for reviews of other options: the cost of further reducing the chimney’s height, the possibility of obtaining a waiver for seismic load requirements and the consideration of demolishing the chimney and constructing a new one to 180 feet so that it meets all safety requirements.

“Two structural engineers have ruled it can’t pass muster,” Lozeau said of the chimney. “We’re working diligently to fix it, or replicate it, or do whatever we can to try to keep it.”

Donchess said because the chimney is city-owned property, the Board of Aldermen have authority over its future, and he’s asking his colleagues to take the step to preserve it.

Lozeau said her administration has the same goal of preservation, but that she doesn’t find it harmful to get the board’s position on the chimney.

Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-6528 or Also check out McKeon (@Telegraph_AMcK) on Twitter.