This photo from 1933 shows the District 1 brick schoolhouse built in the developing village in 1838 to replace the older wood-framed school.
The mill burned to the ground (top photo) in 1877. L.J. Colony rebuilt after the fire and helped make Keene the rocking chair capital of the country in the late 1800s. The bottom photo shows the rebuilt mill.
The current village center was created around 1840, and part of that development was a large brick store built by Jonas Melville and Reuel Nims on what is the common today. (See March 2014 photo for a later version of the store.) Nims owned the land where the town hall is today, and he needed storage space for his mercantile operation. In 1846, he sold the Town the right to built a town hall on the land, provided it included an eight-foot-deep cellar that Nims and his heirs could use forever. That deed is dated October 1, 1846.
By 1859, the Nims store (later Homer Priest’s Nelson House) no longer required the storage area, and voters at Town Meeting instructed the selectmen to purchase the cellar and the adjoining land. In 1878, the Town voted to “take out the under part of the Town Hall and lower the house to the underpinning.” We can therefore date this photograph to 1878 or earlier.
The town hall would go through several more documented renovations, as the generations went on, but the “elevated” version was one that took us by surprise.