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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Concord Street home’s opulence symbolic of successful Nashuans who lived there

NASHUA – The last time it was on the market, advertisements for the Frank E. Anderson House sought an owner “of consummate good taste,” looking to “revive the grand old tradition when landowners were connoisseurs of art.”

Now, for sale again for the first time in 65 years, the magnificent red brick home needs another owner with an appreciation for the ornate and an appetite for a 20,000-square-foot home complete with an opulent oval dining room and a rose-colored ballroom on its third floor. ...

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NASHUA – The last time it was on the market, advertisements for the Frank E. Anderson House sought an owner “of consummate good taste,” looking to “revive the grand old tradition when landowners were connoisseurs of art.”

Now, for sale again for the first time in 65 years, the magnificent red brick home needs another owner with an appreciation for the ornate and an appetite for a 20,000-square-foot home complete with an opulent oval dining room and a rose-colored ballroom on its third floor.

You’ve probably driven by 90 Concord St. on your way to Greeley Park hundreds of times – it’s a massive, L-shaped home, flanked by two lion statues keeping watch at its marble-pillared front door.

“This is one of the most historic homes in the city,” Re/Max real-estate agent Peter White said Wednesday. “Most people know Nashua for this house.”

Walking into 90 Concord St. from its southern porch is a breathtaking step back through Nashua history; from the shell of an all-girls academy – a modern, 9,000-square-foot addition of classrooms, a cafeteria and dormitories – to the glittering beauty of Beaux Art-style architecture that was originally constructed at the building’s birth.

Over the last hundred years, the property, now on nine-tenths of an acre, was handed down from Frank E. Anderson, the city shoe magnate who built the house at the turn of the 20th century. In 1925, Anderson sold his home to another shoe tycoon, Francis Parnell Murphy, a founder of prominent J.F. McElwain Co. who would go on to serve as the first Republican Catholic governor of New Hampshire.

After the house passed through the hands of two more owners, the Manchester Convent of the Sisters of Mercy bought the estate in 1947 and renovated it to nearly double its size.

In 1949, they opened Mount St. Mary Seminary there – which became Mount St. Mary High School in 1989 – and ran the all-girls school until it merged with Bishop Guertin High School in 1992.

Since then, the Anderson home had served as a residence for a dozen retired sisters until last November. Neighbors say the nuns moved out in old age, dwindling in number until none were left – but served as a vibrant part of the iconic North End neighborhood, attending neighborhood parties and taking the city buses around town nearly every day.

Handled with care

Whether it was their reverence for Nashua history or the simple needs they had, the Sisters of Mercy kept the Anderson home with impeccable care.

“It really didn’t get a lot of use,” White said of the original estate.

Mount St. Mary students lived, studied and ate in the addition – which tacked 20-25 dormitories, classrooms and a tiled cafeteria in the basement onto the building.

Anderson’s original home was used for Mount St. Mary’s administrative purposes while some of the sisters lived on the second floor.

Except for the school’s addition that took a porch off the back of Anderson’s house – and a bedroom that one sister painted a shocking yellow and blue – the original home stands glittering in its glory from the turn of the 20th century.

On the ground floor, a richly decorated foyer with deep red tapestries, mahogany pillars and gold-colored molding is flooded with light by its original globe lanterns, which dances off a hardwood floor that is hard to fathom has survived more than a century of use.

Off the foyer are a handful of rooms in remarkable condition.

To the north is what was once Anderson’s library, with a glass door, wooden bookshelves wrapping around the room and a men’s billiards room that the sisters ultimately – and ironically – used as their chapel.

Across the foyer was the ladies’ living room, White said, paneled in mahogany, white and gold tapestries, and a marble fireplace, under a carved ceiling detailed with pink flowers.

Parallel to that, White’s “highlight” of the house is an oval dining room with mahogany pillars and leaded glass accents, plus a plaster casting painted to look like a cornucopia, encasing a sky blue ceiling.

A painting by an unknown artist was custom-made for the room, White said, and an antique intercom system that could be turned on or off with one’s foot are among the unique features left behind from Anderson’s life.

Up a spiral staircase, holding onto a French-curve railing and a bronze and velvet rope, you’ll find three master bedrooms with adjoining bathrooms on the second floor – one of which has an “extremely valuable” antique stall shower.

Anderson’s old office, and the hardwood desks and fireplace he used, are still intact, as well as a locked safe stamped “F.E. Anderson” with no key to be found.

One can only imagine what it once contained. Anderson, a shrewd late 19th and early 20th century businessman, operated Nashua’s successful Estabrook-Anderson Shoe Co., a sprawling factory swallowing an entire city block between Pine and Palm streets, which later became Batesville Casket Co. and today holds the Estabrook Grill restaurant and senior housing.

By 1885, the business he shared with brother George Anderson – who owned 88 Concord St. next door – had 1,000 employees and produced more than 10,000 pairs of shoes daily, for annual sales of $2 million, considered the largest output of a single factory in the world at the time.

He would have had plenty to dance about in the regal third-floor ballroom of his home, which is painted a sharp pink and includes an orchestral stage, rustic murals, cushioned benches and stained glass windows.

Adjacent to the ballroom is a wing with bedrooms and bathrooms that were used by the family help – just one more reminder of the success Anderson enjoyed.

Bob Sampson, chairman of the Nashua Historic Commission, recalls when his father, an electrical engineer for the Nashua Light, Heat and Power Co., was called to repair Anderson’s electric car.

Anderson was the first Nashuan to own an automobile, historians say.

“There was an old gentleman working at the wheel press,” Sampson said. “My father fixed the battery charger and said, ‘Tell Mr. Anderson that his wife’s battery charger is fixed.’ The man said, ‘Boy, I am Frank Anderson!’ ”

Neighborhood watch

When Anderson had his home built in the early 1900s, it stood on a much larger rural landscape known as Hammond Farms, his property extending all the way to Webster Street.

Today, the home backs up to and shares a driveway with Nashua Catholic Regional Junior High School.

The unusual combination of the school and estate offer a unique mix of opportunities for future owners.

Although the neighborhood would likely turn down commercial use of the property – it rejected a bed-and-breakfast plan for George Anderson’s home in 1993 – it could be restored as a single-family residence or used for nonprofits or another academic facilities.

Since White opened Anderson’s doors to interested buyers four months ago –
it’s listed for $2.3 million –
there has been a variety of visions for the property. Some are looking at condominiums, while others would restore it as a home, he said.

Neighbors and White say they hope to see it reverted to a single-family residence.

“It’s expensive, although it’s a bargain for what it is,” said Norman Kossayada, who lives next door.

Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6940 or mgill@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Gill
on Twitter (@Telegraph_MAG).