Dollar General Should be Ashamed in Lisbon, New Hampshire

Picture of Demolished House in Lisbon, New Hampshire via Google Maps

Demolished House in Lisbon, New Hampshire via Google Maps

Recently we became aware that Dollar General has struck again . . . this time in Lisbon, New Hampshire (follow link to see our picture gallery). A well-kept, traditional New England style home with attached barn was demolished to build a hideous Dollar General store.

We also understand that the destroyer was completely unsympathetic to people wanting to salvage and reuse materials from the doomed home. It was a “demolish and run” job.

Picture of Dollar General Story under Construction in Lisbon, New Hampshire

Adding insult to injury, as indicated by the blue dot in the Google Map below, the Dollar General breaks the smooth transition from single family homes toward downtown Lisbon. We’ve all seen this process play out a hundred times and inevitably it means the other single family homes will begin to fall one-by-one.

After all, now all of the homes around this beast are less desirable to families. If they aren’t already, they will become multi-family rentals that will suffer from neglect. Eventually, another retailer or fast-food joint will move in next to the Dollar General further gutting the area.

And, of course, the architecture of the Dollar General is simply atrocious. Welcome to Anywhere, USA! Seriously, is this a store or a nuclear fallout shelter? I could go on, but it makes me too depressed.

The Dollar General is not just an affront to the living either as it sits right next to a funeral parlor. Now grieving relatives will have to drive by this monstrosity to pay their respects. Let’s not forget about blight created by the lighted yellow sign either.

Picture of Dollar General Sign in Lisbon, New Hampshire

Alas, this is not the first time that Dollar General has struck–follow link for a summary. Dollar General is not the only culprit either, Family Dollar also has a bad habit of destroying our architectural history as well.

We can only hope that the residents of Lisbon and surrounding communities shun the new Dollar General. Until these stores feel the sting in their bottom line, they will continue to pillage our villages.

Meet Jim Hobbs in Woodsville, New Hampshire

      No Comments on Meet Jim Hobbs in Woodsville, New Hampshire
Parker House and Wentworth Hotel in Woodsville, New Hampshire

Parker House and Wentworth Hotel in Woodsville, New Hampshire

We have had the pleasure of knowing Jim Hobbs now for several years. He is a true story-teller which, combined with his local historical knowledge, has led to a prolific body of writing. We asked Jim a few questions about the town where he grew up, moved away, and then returned to–Woodsville, New Hampshire (which is technically a precinct of Haverhill, New Hampshire).

We have also invited Jim to write here on Northern New England Villages to share his thoughts on past, present, and future of our small towns that we all cherish–stay tuned! But first, an introduction . . .

1) Bio

James Edward Hobbs (born October 24, 1937) is a graduate of Woodsville High school. After graduating his career started as a watch repair apprentice with McAllister Jewelers in Woodsville, New Hampshire.

In the late 1960’s Hobbs moved to Baltimore to work for a nationwide jewelry leasing firms and managed the jewelry departments in five Hutzler Bros. Department stores.

James retired from the jewelry business in 2000 and started a small business website call White Mountain Biz. He is a graduate of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in Carlsbad, California and taught a 13-week course on gemology at Woodsville High school.

He is an accomplished author writing over 200 books of humor and local history (follow link to buy one of his books). One of his best selling books is, “If You Believe This I’ve Got a Bridge For You!”, which contains over 100 humorous life stories.

In 1993 his children’s book series was read to approximately 850,000 children in 93 countries. Teachers in some countries used his books for teaching a second language.

Hobbs’ great-great grandfather, a shoemaker in Warren, New Hampshire, Edward G. Hobbs, came to Haverhill, New Hampshire in 1870 and his son John Hobbs, a farmer on Briar Hill, joined him in later years. John and Bessie had several children including Edward G. Hobbs, a blacksmith, who later became Chief of Police in 1943.

James, now at the young age of 80, is the last surviving male of the Hobbs family living in Haverhill, New Hampshire and is currently operating a coin, jewelry, gold and silver business in Woodsville, New Hampshire called White Mountain Trader.

2) What is one of your life’s most memorable experiences?

In the late 1970’s James, as the buyer of antique jewelry, purchased a man’s 5 stone diamond ring. One of the diamonds had a strange appearance as it didn’t display the normal brilliance expected in a diamond. It appeared to have a hazy line through the entire middle of the stone. 

James sent the diamond to the GIA and received a phone call  from an excited Richard Liddicoat, then the President of GIA. He had received numerous tributes during his lifetime, including the naming of the tourmaline species liddicoatite. But he had one honor that stood above all: “Father of Modern Gemology.” Richard passed away in 2002.

Richard explained that the diamond was the only known example of what was termed ‘Gliding’. There were no known examples until this find. Theorists had determined that such an event could occur if optimal conditions in the earth such as heat, location, pressure, etc. were present.

More specifically, the rough diamond material had to be molten but in the cooling stage. Also, and most importantly, there had to have been volcanic action within a certain distance. If, at the time of the volcanic action, a portion of the diamond material contained a weak adhesion between layers of the atomic structure there could be a slight shift in a portion of the entire mass causing a cloudy line.

James and Richard had met a couple of times in New York City at the International Gem shows. We always went to lunch and talked for hours–once we were even told they were closing and we had to leave.

James recalls that . . . one day, Richard paused during our phone conversation and then continued by asking if I would consider selling the diamond to GIA. I said absolutely not! There was silence on the other end of the phone until he finally said he thought we were friends. I said we are, but I still won’t sell the diamond. He asked why. I said because I would gift it to him. He was very relieved and said the next dinner was on him. Unfortunately, We never got to have that dinner.

The event was published, as Richard had promised, in a magazine the Institute has published since the war ended in 1945 called “Gems and Gemology.” James no longer has the copy he received, or he cannot find it since he probably lost in one of his many moves.

The magazine displayed a picture of the loose diamond and it stated information about its formation in an event called a “Gliding” and that the diamond would be used as a teaching aid at GIA. And, it was named the “Jim Hobbs of Sawyers Jewelry” diamond!

The magazines were 5 3/4 x 8 1/2” until 1981 when the size was changed to 10 x 8”. James is sure the magazine he is looking for was the smaller size, therefore pre-1981. He has purchased 25 magazines ending in 1979 with no luck. He recently found the last two magazines published in 1979 and the first two in 1980. He has not received them yet, but is hopeful. If the article isn’t in them he will have to search for the last two copies published in 1980.

If you have any of these magazines of this vintage, James would love to hear from you!

3) What was Woodsville like when you were a child?

When I was young the railroad tracks, 4-5 tracks wide, ran parallel with Central street. There were as many as 75 trains a day rumbling through town. Downtown stores were busy with locals and those arriving by train.

Rooming houses were always full, especially with railroad men that were here for the night to return back home the next day. There were several hotels in town including the Parker House and the Wentworth! And there was the theater and the Dandy Diner as well.

Parade in Woodsville, New Hampshire

Parade in Woodsville, New Hampshire

In those days the street were tree lined and music from band concerts were a weekly event. Carnivals and circuses came to town and the grammar school playgrounds were filled with children playing every summer evening. Jobs were plentiful if you were willing to shovel snow, weed gardens, deliver papers and mow lawns.

4) Compare and contrast Woodsville to today?

In earlier days everyone knew everyone and drugs were only used in hospitals.

5) How would you change Woodsville moving forward?

I would put strict restrictions on those purchasing houses just to supply rentals to those too lazy to work. Most of the landlords are not financially able to maintain our historical buildings. Most are out-of-town owners. There should be severe penalties for unkept trash receptacles and a monthly fee paid to the precinct based on the number of apartments and the number of people living in each building.

There should also be a more aggressive program for removing dilapidated, abandoned, rat, skunk and raccoon infested buildings, instead of just admitting it is a town-wide problem and then ignoring the issue! And residents have to start realizing that zoning is needed. (Editor’s Note: We have previously discussed the potential of Form-Based zoning)

Young and old alike enjoy Jim’s free downloads of his Childrens short stories!

“A. Tree”

Toothpicks, Bubbles and a Mirangus Bush!

Boris, the tame boar






Mossie Children’s Book #1 

New Town Picture Gallery 49: Bethel, Vermont

      No Comments on New Town Picture Gallery 49: Bethel, Vermont
VT Bethel Main Street 12

Beautiful Store Front on Main Street in Bethel, Vermont.

It has been a bit more quiet here than we had hoped in the past few months. We learned that we have a new addition to the family on the way and, needless to say, has been quite a distraction.

At the same time, we’ve developed a bit of cabin fever with all the snow we’ve been getting. This has allowed us time to format and upload some of the pictures we took over the summer. It’s also nice to remind ourselves that there really is a summer 🙂

This post also marks a significant milestone here at Northern New England Villages–our 50th town featured  in our town picture gallery!

Today’s featured town, Bethel, Vermont, was not even on our itinerary for the day. Somehow we got off of the route we were following and suddenly found ourselves in this picturesque town. So we jumped out of the car and took some pictures.

Picture of VT Bethel Bridge View 01

View of Bethel Mills Hydroelectric facility on the White River in Bethel, Vermont

We were particularly struck by how much of the village is built on a bluff overlooking the White River. Of course, the old mill building, called Bethel Mills, practically sits in the river and, amazingly, still produces electricity to this day. Here is a historical clip of their electricity producing past and future from their website:

Hydroelectric Since 1941

When Colonel Joel Marsh established Bethel Mills in 1781, he built his mill next to the waterfalls of the third branch of the White River, taking advantage of the water’s energy by building a log dam to power his saw and grist mills. Though the water offered its power freely, it occasionally wreaked havoc on the very mills that relied on it, and more than one owner was forced to rebuild after the destruction caused by flood waters. The most notorious washout of the mills was created by the Great Flood of 1927, when the saw mill and grist mill were destroyed along with the dam. Consequently, the river was both appreciated for its abundant gift of power and feared for its destructive potential.

Almost 160 years after Colonel Marsh first built his log dam, Raymond Durfee, a minority owner of Bethel Mills, had a new vision for harnessing the power of the river to supply electricity to the sawmill. His efforts began with a simple disagreement over the price that Central Vermont Public Service Company (CVPS) charged Bethel Mills for its electricity. CVPS was apparently unwilling to offer Ray the same electric rates it extended to other local saw mills, so Raymond decided to create electricity off the power grid and consequently built a small hydroelectric plant at his mill site in Bethel.

Raymond read manuals and books on the subject and engineered the plant using his own ingenuity and employees to build a concrete dam and powerhouse. Because the company could not afford new equipment, Raymond searched all over the northeast for used equipment to complete the project. The only affordable generator he could find was a General Electric unit built in 1888, which he bought for less than $500. The unit was affordable, but had a horizontal connection instead of the desired vertical shaft connection. Because of this constraint, he needed to engineer a system of belts and pulleys to make the system work. Raymond persevered despite the challenges, and by January of 1941 he was producing electricity at the mill. He produced so much electricity, in fact, that CVPS approached him with hat in hand to see if he would sell them his excess generation (an arrangement that still continues today).

In the mid-60s, Raymond’s son John took over the stewardship of the hydroelectric facilities. He was in the process of growing both the grain operation and the lumber and building material business and, over the next 30 years, upgraded the facilities as finances allowed. John replaced the old leaking wood penstock in the early 80s with a steel one, and added a second turbine in the late 80s to increase production and allow for more efficient use of the plant during times when the river was low. He added a mechanical rake to remove river debris for more consistent operation and updated the electrical equipment to comply with changing regulations.

In 1996, John’s son Lang took over the day to day operations of Bethel Mills, and like his father and grandfather before him, is committed to responsible stewardship of the facility. This commitment was tested early in his ownership of the mill, when an electrical short in the old 1888 General Electric generator caused a devastating fire in the powerhouse that destroyed much of the facility and equipment. Faced with a decision to scrap, repair, or replace the hydroelectric facility, Lang and his father made the financially and emotionally difficult decision to modernize the antiquated, but very ingenious, system Ray had pieced together.
Within a year of the fire, a new generator was installed, the powerhouse was completely renovated, and new computerized equipment was integrated to help manage the facility.

Starting in the summer of 2010, an ambitious 3-year upgrade plan was set in motion, which included a fish passage system, a more efficient turbine, new dam gates, intake racks, a flashboard system, and new operating software. When the project is complete, Bethel Mills will have substantially increased its ability to produce local, green, renewable energy.

At the current selling rate of approximately three cents per kilowatt hour, the Bethel Mills site does not generate significant revenues from sales of its electricity, but it is a real testament of Yankee ingenuity, hard work, perseverance, and a genuine respect of Bethel Mills history.

Do explore their website more thoroughly as it weaves a fascinating tale of the local families and businesses that have made Vermont and all of Northern New England the special place that is today. Here is an article detailing the modernization improvements being made to the dam.

The New England Central Railroad also runs through the town. Amtrack’s Vermonter services runs on this line between St. Albans, New York City, and Washington, D.C., but does not stop in Bethel.

We hope you enjoy virtually exploring Bethel, Vermont and also hope that you will visit in person soon.

Picture of Vermont Town Map Bethel

Bethel, Vermont