Thursday, February 10, 2011

Londonderry’s Grange Halls

Grange Hall No. 44 and the Mayflower Grange Hall
Grange #44
located on Mammoth Road
Throughout the records of the citizens of Londonderry, the Grange halls feature prominently in the obituaries and wedding announcements in the Derry News. Many people, both men and women were members of the Grange organization. Wedding receptions, funeral dinners and scout meetings were held in the two Grange halls in Londonderry, which still stand today. Both halls are still rented for private parties, and well used by many social and volunteer organizations.

The National Grange Order of Patrons of Husbandry began as an agricultural organization in 1867. Their peak membership was over one million members in the early 20th century. Men, women and children were all allowed to become members, and entire families participated in types of activities, not only agricultural pursuits. Today there are still over 300,000 members of the Grange. In many small towns it was the only social organization available, and many built Grange Halls for their exclusive use. Over time, many of these halls became the center of entertainment, especially in rural areas, and are still rented out for many community uses.

The Mayflower Grange
now the Londonderry Senior Center
The Mayflower Grange Hall is located in North Londonderry, on Mammoth Road near the north fire station. This building also dates back to the early 1900s. At one point masses were celebrated here whilst St. Jude’s parish was being organized back in the 1940s and early 1950s. The Mayflower Grange has served as our town Senior Center since 2007, and monthly the “Nutfield Sessions” sponsors open mic events on Saturdays, free to the public.  On Monday 7 February 2011 the Senior Center was closed due to concerns over the heavy snowload on the roof, but town officials planned to remove the snow and ice and re-inspect the building's safety.

The Grange No. 44 built their hall in Londonderry on Mammoth Road, on the corner of Pillsbury Road, in 1909. It is listed in the New Hampshire Registry of Historic Places. This picturesque building has been the site of many wedding receptions, concerts, and meetings over the years. In the 1930’s my mom’s cousin, Betty Hitchings, had her wedding reception there. Boy Scouts still hold weekly meetings, even though the building still lacks bathroom facilities. Recently I attended an art fair in the old building, which attracted many people from out of town. Folks from in town and from away marveled at the original interior they had never seen before, even though they had driven by the old building many times.

This year the Grange No. 44, which still has 36 members, started a restoration project to renovate and reside the cedar building. In Londonderry, well known Grange Master Hank Peterson and long time Historical Society member Marilyn Ham are actively raising $20,000 to cover the cost of re-shingling the building. Donations may be sent in care of Gladys Woodin, 580 Charles Bancroft Highway, Litchfield, NH 03052.

For more information: The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry website the website for Londonderry Grange #44

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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