Poof Tardiff: A Town of Today VIII

Hello fellow Berlinites. If you have saved these last seven stories about the town of Berlin, you would have an outstanding history of what Berlin looked like before it became a city. Now to finish this great chronicle that was written over 120 years ago.

According to the census of 1890, Berlin had about 3,500 inhabitants; by a census taken in the spring of 1895, five years later, that number had swelled to 6,000. This now made it the largest town in the state.

Berlin's streets and stores and many of its houses were lighted by electricity. This was furnished by the Berlin Electric Light Company, whose plant was situated in the mills of the Berlin Falls Fiber Company. The president of this company was W. H. Furbish whose first name was Willard (Willard Street). H. H. Furbish was the treasurer and general manager. This electric light company was an old institution and Berlin was one of the first places in the state where electricity was introduced. Gas had never been used here for illuminating purposes and it was highly probable that it would ever be introduced for that intent.

Water was furnished by several companies of which the largest was the Berlin Aqueduct Company. This system was installed in 1892 at a very heavy cost. The reason being that the soil of this town is solid rock and more than 30 tons of dynamite were used in blasting out the trenches for the pipes.

The main supply back then was a reservoir on Bean Brook in the hills about one mile east of the Androscoggin River. A pumping station above Berlin Mills also furnished an auxiliary supply of filtered river water.

This company furnished about 900 families with water and also supplied the town hydrants of which there were forty-six back then. It also equipped the mills with automatic sprinkler systems for fire protection.

The Green Aqueduct Company also supplied excellent water to a considerable number of families in the center of town, while the Cold Spring Water Company performed the same service for a number of houses on the newly developed East Side.

Protection against fire was furnished by three very efficient hose companies, as the high pressure of the aqueduct companies made the possession of steamers unnecessary at this time. There had been no serious fires in Berlin since the introduction of the water service, but the Glen Manufacturing Company and the Berlin Mills Company each had a steam fire engine of their own, with complete firefighting equipment and a thoroughly drilled fire department. The other mills were also supplied with hydrants connected with the aqueduct company system

At the same time that the waterworks were installed, a complete sewer system was constructed by the town. This resulted in a gain in the general health of the community.

Berlin was also well supplied with social and fraternal organizations, among them being a Lodge of the Free Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Independent Order of Foresters, Society of St. John the Baptist, Catholic Order of Foresters and the Brotherhood of Papermakers.

The old name of the town had been retained in the Maynesboro Club, which had convenient rooms in the National Bank block. These rooms were equipped with billiard and pool tables and furnished with a good selection of newspapers and periodicals. This club was a very import factor in the social life of the town.

We also had two opera houses in Berlin back then. One was the Whitney Opera House on Mechanic Street and the other was the Clement Opera House, in the Clement Block, where today's Badger Realty now operates. The Clement was a handsome hall with a seating capacity for 1,500 people and was one of the largest and best appointed opera houses north of Boston.

Berlin also had two outdoor ice rinks and in the summer it supported a baseball nine which boasted of being champions of the North Country. It was also at the “gateway” to one the greatest hunting and fishing grounds in the East, with deer, rabbits and partridge being plentiful. Trout and pickerel were also abundant, even within the limits of town. Every man in this part of the country back then was a fisherman and in the summer there was a continual stream of fishing parties making tracks for their favorite camping spots “up river”.

This town had an excellent public library founded in 1893 and very largely reinforced by a gift of the entire Berlin Mills library. The library had rooms in the Clement Block, where there were also the police court and town offices.

The banks of this town, of which there were two, played a very important factor in its progress. They were the Berlin Savings Bank and Trust Company of which A.M. Stahl was president in J. S. Phipps was treasurer and the Berlin National Bank, of which A. R. Evans was president and A. H. Eastman was cashier.

Both banks had been very conservatively managed and extremely successful. It was reported that $175 a share had been refused for stock in 1896 at the Savings Bank, while the National Bank boasted that it had never lost a dollar on a note.

A description of Berlin back then would be incomplete without mention of the natural beauty of its surrounding area. Berlin lies in a valley, hemmed in on all sides by mountains with three outlets. These are up the Androscoggin, down the same river and up the Dead River valley to the height of land, where the headwaters of the Upper Ammonoosuc begin.

From the heights, Prospect, Spring Street etc., as this upper part of town was called, is obtained a fine view all of Mount Washington, Madison and Adams. Also, a magnificent view is obtained from the summit of Mount Forist, while the outlook from Cates Hill, in back of town, can hardly be surpassed by anywhere in the White Mountain region.

Starr King spoke of the view from the Thompson Farm, where the Brown Company barn is today, as showing better the characteristics of the three great mountains Madison, Washington, and Adams than any view elsewhere obtainable.

Berlin Falls, before the Glen Mills were built, were one of the great features of the scenery of this region and they were spoken of in terms of the highest admiration by Starr King. The Alpine Cascade is a cataract of great beauty and was visited in the summer months by large numbers of sightseers. Today (2016), many people still visit these falls with side-by-sides and four wheelers.

To tell about all of the features of Berlin's scenery and to describe everything worthy of note in her various departments of activity, would be an almost endless task. All that Berlin asked back then was that those who doubted what was written of it, should have come and seen for themselves. It had good hotels, comfortable homes and its latch string was always out.

I hope that the short history of earlier Berlin before it became a city in 1897, shows people how this place became a boom town that attracted immigrants from all countries demonstrating how industrialized we once were.

Poof Tardiff writes a weekly for The Berlin Daily Sun. Questions or comments email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also, join the many fans of “Once upon a Berlin Time” on Facebook and guess at the posted mystery pictures.

Clement Opera House 1Clement Opera House

Berlin National BankBerlin National Bank

Berlin Hose Company 1890Berlin Hose Company 1890

Berlin mid 1890sBerlin mid 1890s