Rochester, New Hampshire: Wikis


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City of Rochester
—  City  —
City Hall c. 1910

Nickname(s): The Lilac City
Location within Strafford County, New Hampshire
Coordinates: 43°18′7″N 70°58′23″W / 43.30194°N 70.97306°W / 43.30194; -70.97306Coordinates: 43°18′7″N 70°58′23″W / 43.30194°N 70.97306°W / 43.30194; -70.97306
Country United States
State New Hampshire
County Strafford
Settled 1749
Incorporated 1778
 - Mayor John Larochelle
 - Total 45.8 sq mi (118.6 km2)
 - Land 45.2 sq mi (116.9 km2)
 - Water 0.6 sq mi (1.6 km2)
Elevation 225 ft (69 m)
Population (2007)
 - Total 30,527
 Density 675.4/sq mi (261.1/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 03800-03899
Area code(s) 603
FIPS code 33-65140
GNIS feature ID 0869554

Rochester is a city in Strafford County, New Hampshire, United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 28,461, the largest in New Hampshire's Seacoast region. The New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning estimated its 2007 population at 30,823.[1] The city includes the villages of East Rochester and Gonic. Rochester is home to Skyhaven Airport and the annual Rochester Fair.





Rochester was once inhabited by Abenaki Indians of the Pennacook tribe. They fished, hunted and farmed, moving locations when their agriculture exhausted the soil for growing pumpkins, squash, beans and maize. Gonic was called Squamanogonic, meaning "the water of the clay place hill."

The town was one of four granted by Colonial Governor Samuel Shute of Massachusetts during his brief term. Incorporated in 1722, it was named for his close friend, Laurence Hyde, Earl of Rochester and brother-in-law to King James II. As was customary, tall white pine trees were reserved for use as masts by the Royal Navy. But hostility with the Indians delayed settlement until 1728, although attacks would continue until 1748. Early dwellings clustered together for protection, beginning near Haven Hill. Due to warfare or disease, after 1749 the Indians were gone. The community at that time included Farmington, which would be incorporated in 1798, and Milton, in 1802.

Rochester Common

In 1737, the Reverend Amos Main became the first settled pastor of the Congregational Church, located on Rochester Hill. The building would be moved to Rochester Common, which then encompassed 250 acres (1.0 km2) and was called Norway Plain Mille Common after its abundant Norway pines. At the time, the Common extended into what is now downtown Rochester. By 1738, the farming community contained 60 families. A statue of Parson Main, sculpted by Giuseppe Moretti, today presides over the town square.

By 1780 the area surrounding the Common was the most thickly settled part of town, so a meeting house/church was erected on the east end of the Common with the entrance facing what is now South Main Street. A cemetery was also established near the new meeting house, but the ground was found to be too wet, and the bodies were removed to the Old Rochester Cemetery. In 1842 the Meeting House/church was moved to the present-day location at the corner of Liberty and South Main streets. As the years went by the size of the Common would shrink as more of it was sold off for development.

During the Revolutionary War the Common was used as the meeting place for soldiers before going off to war. The common is also the location of the city's Civil War monument which bears the names of the 54 men who died then. The monument was dedicated in the 1870s, and in the 1880s the statue was added to the monument. Four Civil War cannon also decorated the monument, but during World War II the cannon were melted down for use in the war. They were replaced by World War II guns.

The bandstand was built in 1914 by Miles Dustin; before then band concerts were held on the square. The flag pole was donated by J. Frank Place in 1917. He was the former publisher of the Rochester Courier.

Early education

In the early days if a town had more than 50 families, it was required to establish a public school to teach writing and reading. Up to 1750 Rochester was able to ignore this law because of Indian hostilities. In 1750 the Indian was not a threat anymore so Rochester voted at a town meeting to start schooling the children.

In 1751 the first public schooling started in Rochester. The school lasted for 16 weeks and the first teacher (school master) was named John Forst. Forst was paid a salary of 15 pounds and boarded with a different family each month (this family received 30 cents a week from the city). The early school had a fireplace in the front of the classroom. The children in the front of the class got really hot while the children at the back of the classroom were really cold. Discipline of the school children was enforced by the teacher flogging the students. One of the earlier teachers was named Mr. Tanner, and he was known as the best 'flogger' in the area even though he had only one arm.

Growth through the 19th century

When Rochester was first settled there was no mail service at all. In 1768 this changed when a post rider traveled from Portsmouth through Berwick, Dover and Rochester bringing gazettes. In 1792 this improved when Joseph Paine would deliver and pick up mail once a week. When he arrived in town a horn would blow to inform the town of his presence. A regular post office was established on March 26, 1812, in the Barke Tavern. The first postmaster in Rochester was William Barker.

Upper Dam c. 1905

The first large business was lumbering, although it would be overtaken by other industries as Rochester developed into a mill town with the Cochecho River to provide water power. In 1806, 6 tanneries were operating, along with a sawmill, fulling mill, and 2 gristmills. By the 1820s-1830s, the town had a cabinet maker and clockmaker. The Mechanics Company was established in 1834, producing woolen blankets which would win the premium quality award at the 1853 New York World's Fair. The Norway Plains Woolen Company manufactured blankets used by the Union Army in the Civil War, and in 1870 wove 1,600,000 yards (1,500,000 m) of textiles, but by century's end was out of business.

In 1854, the E.G. & E. Wallace Shoe Company was established, eventually becoming the city's biggest employer, with over 700 workers in 1901. Its name changed to the Rochester Shoe Corporation in the 1920s. The Kessel Fire Brick Company was established in 1889, and at one time bricks for new buildings at Harvard University were made in Gonic. Carrying the freight were four railroads which once passed through Rochester, a major junction between Haverhill, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine. Agriculture continued to be important, and in 1875 the Rochester Fair was established. In 1891, Rochester was incorporated as a city.

The first telephone was installed in 1885 in the K.C. Sanborn Drug Store, the phone was connected to the Dover Telephone Exchange. By the early 1900s there were 1200 local calls and 400 toll calls a day made from Rochester.

During the Great Depression, however, several industries left for cheaper operating conditions in the South or went bankrupt. But the affluent mill era left behind some fine architecture, including the Rochester Public Library, designed by the Concord architects Randlett & Griffin.


The Rochester Public Library was started in 1893 and was one of the three earliest public libraries in the state. Back then the library was located on the corner of Portland and Main streets. A little bit later it moved to City Hall.

In the early 1900s, Rochester Postmaster Osman Warren contacted Andrew Carnegie to secure his help in providing financial help in building a new library. The Carnegie Institute responded with a check for $20,000. The brand new library was built on the site of what was the Main Street School. The library was built in the new Georgian revival style using brick and granite, and the inside was finished with golden oak and cypress. The library opened on October 2, 1905, and 150 people registered the first day. Miss Lillian Parshley was the first librarian, serving until her death in 1945. Velma Foss, Miss Parshley's assistant, was the second librarian of the Rochester Library.

City Hall and Opera House

Another notable structure is the 1908 Rochester City Hall and Opera House by George Gilman Adams. Adams designed other city hall/opera house dual-purpose buildings around New England, including for Bellows Falls, Vermont (1887); Amesbury, Massachusetts (1887); Dover, New Hampshire (1891); and Derry, New Hampshire (1901). Only four of his city hall/opera houses survive today (in Waterville, Montpelier, Derry, and Rochester), as many of his buildings were destroyed by fire.

George Adams' opera houses were unique because of their floors, which were movable and could function in an inclined position or level position. With the floor in the inclined position, the opera house would show plays, concerts, etc. When the floor was level, the building could be used for dances or public meetings. The Rochester Opera House opened on Memorial Day in 1908. Almost all of Adams' buildings contained the movable floor, though the buildings in Waterville and Montpelier did not. Because of the destruction of the other opera houses the Rochester Opera House is the only known theatre in the United States to use this type of movable floor.

Today one can still take in a show at the Rochester Opera House. The Opera House looks like it did over ninety years ago when it opened up.

20th century

Rochester passed out of the silent movie era on May 20, 1929 with the arrival of the first talking motion picture in the city, titled The Wild Party, starring Clara Bow. The movie was shown at the Scenic Theater. The evening admission price was 35 cents for adults and 15 cents for children.

A Rochester Courier article from October 1930 described a new indoor golf course:

The Leavitt Theatre Property Transformed Inside Into a Bower of Beauty - Rochester is to have an indoor golf course, which, it is said, will be second to none, in beauty and attractiveness, this side of New York. Fred Couture, proprietor of the Scenic theatre, who a few months since purchased the Leavitt theatre on South Main Street, has been laying out a small fortune in fitting it up on the ground floor for such use. This building was formerly the residence of the Hon. Summer Wallace and was one of the most beautiful mansions in New Hampshire. Despite the way in which the outside was altered to make the theatre, much of the magnificent paneling inside has been preserved. It was a foundation for an unusual setting for indoor golf. A large force of workers has been engaged in recent weeks, working in relays, and this week six scene painters are decorating the walls and ceilings. There are to be an Egyptian room, a Japanese room, an Indian room and a Dutch room. The walls of each are adorned with appropriate paintings to form a picture of any particular land represented. The Dutch room, for example, not only has the paintings of the canals and dikes but an actual windmill revolving. In the Indian room are pictures of forests and streams, with an Indian paddling a canoe. There is a real waterfall too, with the water flowing down over actual rocks into a series of three basins, with a pool for goldfish at the bottom. One room represents the seashore, the entire wall being one huge painting of the ocean, with a real light house perched up on a promontory, with a light shedding forth its rays. There is also a garden room with a profusion of flowers. There are various rest rooms and seats in plenty everywhere for the onlookers or tired players. All the floors will be covered with artificial grass. In a conspicuous place is a great pile of stones, with a fountain at the top, out of which a tiny stream trickles down over the rocks in various small channels and little pools. Ferns grow on its sides. There are also in various places tree trunks, some birch with their white bark and other varieties. There will be eighteen holes to the golf course, with various traps and some mysteries. The whole place is certainly a wonderful representation of the great out-of-doors and a veritable dream of loveliness. The grand opening is set for Saturday evening at 6:00, when Mayor Louis H. McDuffee will press the button and turn on the lights.

Natural disasters

The summer of 1947 was dry. In late October of that year only 1/8 inch of rain had fallen since mid-September, and the temperatures were high. Small ponds and streams were dried up, and local farmers were using water from the Salmon Falls River and Cocheco River to provide water for their livestock. Fire risk was high. On October 21, sparks from a passing train car in Farmington ignited the dry grass on both sides of the track, starting the biggest fire to strike Rochester.

At first firefighters seemed to have the fire in control, but two days later winds up to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) drove the 'small' fire out of control. The wind-driven fire moved to the south and east into Rochester. The fire would engulf an area over 9 miles (14 km) long and over 2 miles (3.2 km) wide with walls of flame 40 feet (12 m) high. Before the fire was under control over 30 homes in Rochester would be lost.

Hurricane Carol struck New Hampshire on September 2, 1954. The winds of the hurricane were in excess of 90 miles per hour (140 km/h). The property damage in New Hampshire was estimated to be 3 million dollars and four inches of rain fell during the storm.

Notable inhabitants


Rochester is located at 43°18′7″N 70°58′23″W / 43.30194°N 70.97306°W / 43.30194; -70.97306 (43.302081, -70.973106).[2]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 45.8 square miles (118.6 km2), of which 45.2 sq mi (117.1 km2) is land and 0.6 sq mi (1.6 km2) is water, comprising 1.38% of the town. Rochester is drained by the Salmon Falls, Isinglass and Cochecho rivers. The highest point in Rochester is a southern extension of Nute Ridge, at 581 feet (177 m) above sea level, occupying the northern corner of the city.


City Hotel c. 1910

As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 28,461 people, 11,434 households, and 7,649 families residing in the city. The population density was 630.3 people per square mile (243.4/km²). There were 11,836 housing units at an average density of 262.1/sq mi (101.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.12% White, 0.52% African American, 0.22% Native American, 0.87% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.26% from other races, and 0.98% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.90% of the population.

There were 11,434 households out of which 32.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.9% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.1% were non-families. 25.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 2.95.

Rochester Fair c. 1910

In the city the population was spread out with 25.3% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 22.1% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 94.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $40,596, and the median income for a family was $47,324. Males had a median income of $34,290 versus $23,319 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,859. About 6.3% of families and 8.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.7% of those under age 18 and 8.8% of those age 65 or over.

Sites of interest

  • Rochester Historical Society Museum
  • Rochester Opera House
  • Rochester Common
  • Spaulding High School
  • Rochester Skate Park


External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ROCHESTER, a city of Strafford county, New Hampshire, U.S.A., on the Cochecho and Salmon Falls rivers, about 30 m. E. by N. of Concord. Pop. (1890) 739 6; (1900) 8466, of whom 1651 were foreign-born; (1910 U.S. census) 8868. Area, about 34 sq. m. Rochester is served by four lines of the Boston & Maine railroad. The rivers furnish excellent water-power for various manufactures. Rochester, named in honour of Lawrence Hyde, earl of Rochester, was incorporated as a town by a royal charter in 1722, but no settlement was made here until 1728. From parts of the original town Farmington and Milton were erected in 1798 and 1802 respectively, and in 1846 part of Rochester was annexed to Barrington. It was the birthplace of John Parker Hale. Rochester was chartered as a city in 1891.

See F. McDuffee, History of the Town of Rochester, New Hampshire (Rochester, 1892).

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