Building Back-story

Through the years with the Concord Feminist Health Center’s home
Concord’s South Main Street has seen considerable development, as 19th century structures have been replaced by modern structures. In early May 2013, an employee of the Concord Feminist Health Center sought information about the history of the center’s building at 38 South Main Street.

The Concord Historical Society’s Dick Osborne put the center in touch with Elizabeth Durfee Hengen, the Concord historic preservation consultant who co-authored the chapter on Concord’s 20th century structures in Crosscurrents of Change: Concord, N.H. in the 20th Century. The building is located in the city’s Main Street area that’s being redesigned, and by fortunate coincidence, Hengen had recently inventoried the structure for New Hampshire’s Division of Historical Resources.

Constructed in 1842, the home’s original owner and occupant was Captain Theodore French, who sailed a freight boat up the Merrimack River to Concord. When the Concord Railroad’s tracks reached the city in 1842, French gave up the freight boat business and became the railroad’s first freight agent in Concord. The Concord Railroad was absorbed by the Boston & Maine later in the century.

The Center had found evidence in the building that a hair salon might have been located there, and the inventory revealed that Aglea St. Onge, who owned and lived in the house with her barber husband, Gustave, had once operated a beauty salon there.

In the 1920s, the building was acquired by St. Mary’s School, the only Episcopal Church school for girls in Northern New England. It’s unclear what role 38 South Main Street played, the school occupied adjacent South Main Street properties (all of which have since been destroyed).  An old photo “of a graduating class of Gibson Girl-like young women has hung in our back office for nearly forty years, and the mystery of what it represented is now presumably solved,” the center reported.

The Concord Feminist Health Center acquired the building in 1974.  The inventory was researched and compiled by historic preservation consultant Lisa Mausolf.  Hengen reports that almost every building along Concord’s South Main Street has now been inventoried; copies of the forms can be found in the Concord Public Library’s Concord Room as well as on the City of Concord Web site.