Hello fellow Berlinites. The headlines in the paper during the middle of August read: “Rebuild the Cote Block.” A total of $625,000 was going to be spent to construct 16 multi-family dwelling units on the two upper floors of this old building, which was constructed in 1904.
In 1979, the ground floor housed Berlin Drug, Guay and Drouins and Ben Evans. These businesses were earmarked to receive a face-lift also. The state Community Services Administration had awarded the city of Berlin a $275,000 grant for the acquisition and rehabitation of the Cote Block. They said that the Cote building was a key part of Berlin’s revitalization effort back then.
There was also an attempt to get the Cote building put on the National Register of Historic Places. I do not know if this was accomplished and can’t remember how this project developed, but I do not think that the Cote Block was ever remodeled, because of the disarray that it is in today.
This block, when built in 1904 by L. J. Cote, held many tenants, offices and businesses during the years that Berlin was booming. Today, the whole block is now completely empty and certainly in need of a new life.
Of course, after the closing of Converse earlier in the year, Berlin was struggling to get new industry into the city. Headlines in a late August paper said: “Team effort leads to new industries for Berlin.” So, a fantastic team endeavor among local, state and federal agencies was the catalyst for luring three new industries into town, according to industrial development director Roland Sherman.
One of these was the Caron Moccasin Company of Bridgton, Maine, which located itself in the old NYA building on Willow Street in September. President Bob Caron said the he expected to hire about 15 people initially and then expand his workforce to 40 by the end of the first year.
Also, an announcement was made on Thursday, Aug. 23, 1979, in the city hall that a southern firm, which manufactured specialized footwear, would be leasing and eventually buying the smaller of the two Converse buildings on Route 110. They indicated that they would employ up to 40 people in the first six months and grow to 60 employees by the end of the first year.
In addition, a Canadian firm was pursuing the possibility of starting a business in the industrial building at the Maynesborough Industrial Park area. This mystery company could employ up to 200 people in its initial year, said Mr. Sherman.
If all went as planned, these three firms would employ 300 people said Sherman. Bringing new industry to Berlin back then was vital, since this town was presently in the grips of a severe downward trend. These businesses did not last long, if they ever did get established. It would only get worse about 25 years later when the paper mills closed.
On Sept. 5, 1979, ground was broken for the new St. Luke Medical Center (AVH Professional Center today 2017). A new $232,000 medical building was about to be built on the North East corner of Page Hill Road and Hutchins Street, just a short distance from the brand new Androscoggin Valley Hospital. It was to be built by Bouchard-Caron Incorporated. This facility was the third new medical facility to be planned or built in Berlin during the last eight months.
When this building was completed, it would be able to house outpatient offices for 12 physicians in its 12,600 square feet of floor space. Each of the two working levels would have six doctor’s offices, 14 examination rooms, two nurse’s stations and a large receiving office. The third floor of this new building would contain two bedrooms, a lounge and a conference room.
Maurice Caron, president of Bouchard-Caron Homes Incorporated, expected the building to be completed sometime in the spring of 1980. This medical facility is already 37 years old.
Finally, a subject about which I have been writing in the last three weeks and an integral part of Berlin’s past, the Mount Jasper artifacts were ready for display. Hundreds of artifacts, which revealed the lifestyle of Native Americans who lived up to 7,000 years ago in Berlin were going to be put on display in this city’s first museum, thanks to four years of work high atop Mount Jasper by anthropologist Dr. Richard Michael Gramly.
Since New Hampshire did not have a state museum back then, the bulk of the ancient collection of stone tools Gramly and his team of teachers and students unveiled, were going to be given to the University of New Hampshire. Gramly also wanted to lay out many of the more valuable specimens in a display room at the public library here in Berlin.
Gramly worked tirelessly to get the city’s businessmen, teachers and officials involved in this project. He argued that it was vital for Berlin to be the keeper of its own ancient history. This artifact collection is the largest of its kind in Coos County and will never be duplicated, Gramly said.
To accomplish his goal, Gramly needed to raise $3,000 plus commitments from this city’s businessman to maintain a small trust fund to pay for the upkeep of his display. Gramly wanted the display to stay here forever. He also wanted 60 acres to be set aside, including Mount Jasper as an historical site.
Gramly’s oldest finds, which dated back to about 5,000 B.C., had been unearthed at the top of Mount Jasper. Projectile points, which are sharp stone steps that resemble arrowheads, and other stone tools had been dug up here. Projectile points were employed by the Native Americans before the advent of the bow and arrow and were used in javelins, which could be thrown with tremendous force with the aid of a throwing stick. Since there was a very short growing season here, the natives had to hunt for their food and these tools helped.
Most of Gramly’s finds were uncovered at the base of the mountain. These included small stone tools such as hollow scrapers, perforaters and knives, which these natives used to make leather clothing, arrows, crafts and wood tools.
Why were the oldest discoveries at the peak of Mount Jasper? It had to do with the time and the way in which these natives traveled, Gramly reasoned. In the early years, Native Americans traveled by foot and most came to Mount Jasper by way of upper plateaus that surround the rhyolite mine where Gramly discovered the tools.
Gramly figured that about 5,000 years later the birch bark canoe was invented, which allowed these people to travel by inland waterways. Tribes coming from as far as Lake Champlain to the west, along with Maine and New Brunswick to the East, fell upon the exposed rhyolite of Mount Jasper. They developed it as a popular place to stop in the course of a long trip and make stone tools and arrowheads.
If the museum became a reality, which it did in the library, Gramly would produce a brochure to describe what was done. This he also did.
Librarian Inez Hamlin told Gramly that the library had room for the museum in the children’s department, but today (2017), it is at the entrance of the main library upstairs for visitors and local patrons see.
I will continue with the history of Berlin in 1979 with my next writing.