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Staff file photo by Don Himsel

The Hills Memorial Library in Hudson.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hills Memorial Library in Hudson added to state Register of Historic Places

The 103-year-old Hills Memorial Library in Hudson has been added to the state Register of Historic Places by the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources.

The state register helps to promote the significance of many historic properties across New Hampshire. Being listed on the state register brings “special consideration and relief from some building codes and regulations” and a historical designation is necessary for many grant programs.

Gail St. Cyr, longtime reference librarian, was asked by the board of trustees to get the ball rolling so the Hills Memorial Library could be listed on the state register. She filled out the paper work in January, which included a brief history of the building, details about the physical structure, a chronology and individual inventory form.

The state Historical Resources Council voted on the building April 30.

Charlie Matthews, director of the library, welcomed the news.

“It’s been a long time coming; I mean, this is a very historic building,” he said. “It’s been on the national register for a while, and so we’re just getting on the state register right now.”

The Hills Memorial Library, at 18 Library St., has been recognized nationally as a historic monument for the past 27 years, as it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. It is no longer a traditional library but is used as a cultural center and meeting place, with a variety of programs.

Roughly three years ago, the Hills Memorial Library transferred its staff and collection to the then-newly constructed George H. and Elma M. Rodgers Memorial Library, at 194 Derry Road.

The library was constructed in 1908 and completed the next year. The land was purchased by Kimball Webster, who was also a well-known person in the area, and the architects were Herbert G. Ripley and Russell of Boston. The library was a memorial gift from Alfred K. Hills in honor of his wife, Ida Virginia Hills, who died young.

“She loved books. So he built it with his mother-in-law in memorial for Virginia,” St. Cyr said. “He was a very successful and wealthy physician in New York, and they summered here in Hudson. … They had a home on Derry Road here, which is now the historical society. His ancestors had owned land in Hudson.”

She noted that prior to the erection of the Hills Memorial Library, the public library had been in a warehouse above a store. Before that, the library was housed in residents’ homes, St. Cyr said.

The state division described it as “an excellent example of Tudor Revival architecture.”

St. Cyr pointed out some of the features the library sports that designate it as this architectural style. They include the broad flight of stone steps in the front of the building leading to the entrance and vestibule area, along with the wooden walls and ceilings inside the building. Three-quarters of the inside walls are made out of cypress trees, which were imported from Florida, she said. There are also beams and trusses in the roof, which happens to be one of the building’s unique features.

Matthews and St. Cyr believe the Hills Memorial Library is one of two buildings in the area that features a stone roof. They noted that other one is the bath house in Greeley Park in Nashua.

In keeping with the historic nature of the building, the roof replacement project that was conducted a couple of years ago, featuring unusual red tile, provided some challenges.

“I know when they were trying to fix the roof, it was very difficult to find tiles to replace the red tiles that are currently on the roof,” Matthews said.

“They’re hard to replace, the pieces. There used to be a place in California that manufactured them. I don’t even know if they do that any more,” St. Cyr added. “I know they had a hard time getting them, they bought extra (tiles) in case.”

Since the Hills Memorial Library is a stone structure, the reference librarian noted that the building was also designed in combination with the English half timber architectural style.

It also features big New England field stones, which were gathered from local fields in Hudson, she said.

Matthews noted that the Hills Memorial Library continues to be a pillar of the community, even though it is no longer used as an actual library.

“It is an awesome building … they don’t build buildings like that anymore,” he said. “With the field stone, it just says to you that ‘This is your town library and it’s here to stay.’ It is just a symbol of permanence, I think, as you cross the river from Nashua into Hudson and see the library. It’s just a stunning, stunning building, especially this time of year.”

It is the first property in Hudson to be added to the state register in a decade. In 2002, three town properties on Kimball Hill Road were added: Benson’s office and food service building, Bush Hill Road barn, and Hudson Center Railroad Station.

More than 200 properties are on the state register.

Staff writer Dave Brooks contributed to this story. Erin Place can be reached at 594-6589 or eplace@nashuatelegraph.com.