Leadership Greater Nashua

LGN Class of 2023-24: Nashua History, Arts & Culture by Johanna Beachy and Melissa Francoeur

By October 6, 2023No Comments

We live in a fast-paced society, where going as quickly as you can is often expected and rushing through our day is normal. We live our lives as though faster is better and slowing down is the worst thing that can happen to us. For example, how did you feel the last time you got caught in traffic and had to slow down your car? Most of us do not regularly view slowing down as the opportunity to learn, rest, or enjoy the world around us that it can be.

On Wednesday, October 4, our Leadership Greater Nashua class slowed down together to discover the history, art, and culture of Nashua in a different, slower way. We experienced how uniquely you can see and know a place when you take the time to walk around it instead of driving through it as fast as you can to get to the next place you’re trying to go.

Early on Wednesday morning, we parked our cars at Nashua Historical Society and walked across Concord St to First Church. After topping up our coffee cups in a meeting room in the church basement, we met with Alan Manoian, the Director of Economic Development for Nashua from 1994-2004, and the man who created the Nashua stroll. After sharing with us the work he did to make downtown Nashua a place people want to walk around and enjoy, Alan brought our class on a walking tour of Nashua.

The speed limit when driving on Main St in Nashua is 25 miles per hour. The average walking speed for an adult is 3 miles per hour and it changes the experience dramatically. The first place Alan took our group was the Deschenes Oval, a small park dedicated to the memory of the men and women of Nashua who gave so much over the years in armed conflicts. Our class paused there for a time to read their names and hear their stories. Nashua would not be the same place without the sacrifices of these men and women and it felt fitting to start the day by reflecting on what we still owe them in the lives we live today.

As we continued at a walking pace along Main St and over the bridge, it was easy to see how the Nashua River has influenced the manufacturing and technological history of Nashua. Many of the buildings still there today were either built directly for manufacturing purposes or were built to serve the influx of people who came to Nashua as the industry of the town grew. It’s easy to drive past the river and the buildings lining it and not notice them anymore but when standing on that bridge, the history of this place becomes tangible.

Our class walked from there to the Nashua Historical Society on Abbot St, where we walked slowly and thoughtfully through each room; we read the descriptions of the artifacts that were once every day objects used by ordinary, working people and saw images of Nashua over the years. We laughed at some of the fashion styles and marveled at the inventions and industry advancement. Surrounded by the history of Nashua, we then heard from Liz Fitzgerald, Director of Community Impact at United Way Greater Nashua, about the current demographics and diversity in the Nashua community.

Throughout the morning, we could see that Nashua has always been a place for all people, no matter your background, family, or origin story to be a part of a community. A place where you can work hard, raise a family, and enjoy life together and that legacy continues on today.

By: Johanna Beachy – NeighborWorks SNH

We had a beautiful afternoon for the second half of our history, art, and culture day.

We started the afternoon by visiting Positive Street Art where the dynamic duo, Cecilia Ulibarri, Executive Director & Co-Founder and Manny Ramirez, Co-Founder & Lead Artist, described to us what their nonprofit organization is all about.  They explained to us in detail how the design of a mural is chosen, the collaboration process with key stakeholders, and the choosing of the artist.  The studio that they are housed in is located at Bridge Street, and they have completely revamped their space to make it a welcoming, comfortable space for artists of all kinds to gather and showcase their creativity! The walls are adorned with local artists’ pieces all available for purchase. Their studio is truly a hidden gem within our city.  Below is a snapshot showcasing all their upcoming events:

After leaving Positive Street Art we navigated all the construction going on downtown and made our way to the corner of High and Main. Once we were all there, we split off into groups and embarked on a downtown mural and sculpture scavenger hunt. The directive was to find all 18 “points of interest” in 1 hour and take a picture of your entire team in front of each.  Selfie skills were definitely  put to the test during this activity.  Although the results have not been formally reviewed yet, I think I can say with confidence that Team 2 won since we were the first group back to the Nashua Center for the Arts building.

Once all the teams arrived after the scavenger hunt, we were greeted by Richard Lannan, President and Owner; The Lannan Company, Inc.  in the foyer of the Nashua Performing Arts Center.  Richard spoke to us about his personal real estate ventures and then informed us how the center came to be.  The theatre resides in the former Alec’s Shoes -for us millennials -or the former Miller’s Department Store for those non millennials. Once we had all recovered from our hot jaunt up and down main street were introduced to Pete Lally, President, SPETACLE Live, who accompanied us on a tour of the theatre.  Opening in April 2023, NCA has the capacity to host up to 1,000 people, and unlike any other theatre in the state or the region NCA has retractable seating which allows for more of a ballroom type set up for certain events.  As a group we toured through the entire theatre, visiting the VIP room and the 3rd story floor and veranda that is not open to the general public.  From here you have a beautiful bird’s eye view of all of that is happening on Main Street—or at my favorite downtown destination Michael’s Italian Kitchen.

By: Melissa Francoeur – SNHHS

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