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Meet the Houses of Canal Street



With planning for construction of a new bridge and a new pedestrian walkway to replace our Depot Street Bridge now well underway, I thought it would be interesting to look at the history of the houses that line the Bellows Falls Canal on either side of the bridge.


Built between 1800 and 1883, these houses are the only residential buildings in the Downtown Historic District. As you can see in the historic (and rather blurry) photograph above, they face the Canal and the railyard on the island in Bellows Falls. The three-story wood frame structure with the flat roof at the left of the photograph is 58 Canal Street, built in the mid-1860s.


The buildings at the west end of the Depot Street Bridge—46 and 50 Canal Street—share a rich history of sitting at the center of so much of our town's history. Learning more about that history will help us appreciate where Bellows Falls and Rockingham have come from, where we intend to go, and how critical infrastructure investments are to the future success of Bellows Falls, including redevelopment of the Bellows Falls Island and revitalization of our downtown.


A Devastating Fire and a Black Diamond


As reported in the newspaper clipping to the left, an early building at 46 Canal Street—the Walter C. Hadley & Company Harness Shop—was destroyed by fire in 1911. The current building dates to 1930 and was originally owned by the White Brothers Milk Company, which used it for parking and washing their milk trucks. Between the 1940s and 1979, it was home to a machine shop and a woodworking company. In the 1980s, Floyd LaFoe Sr. ran a scrap metal and iron business for 7 years. Through 2004, C.A. Rahue utilized the building for warehouse storage of nuts and bolts. Currently, it is owned by auctioneer Sharon Boccelli, who purchased it in 2004 and restored and rehabilitated the structure and grounds.


50 Canal Street, located at the end of Depot Street and shown here on the left, was built in 1880. Called Black Diamond's house, it was said to offer entertainment and housing for the men from the railroad on the second and third floors. Nominated to the Register of Historic Places, this building is a 2.5 story, wood frame structure with composition shingle siding, now owned by Floyd LaFoe Jr.



Two Sets of Twins




64 and 78 Canal Street, shown to the left in an historic photograph and to the right as they are today, are almost identical brick houses and the first ones built on the Canal, circa 1800, for Canal Lock workers. They remain the only examples of Federal style domestic architecture in the historic district and today are privately owned.


These houses originally featured four interior end chimneys. Today, 64 Canal Street's front pair of chimneys remain and a gabled, pilastered surround has been added to partly conceal the original transom. At 78 Canal Street, only the two rear chimneys remain.



The twin wood frame houses at 82 and 86 Canal Street, shown above to the left, were built in the Greek Revival (vernacular) style in 1860 and 1883, respectively, and today are privately owned.


The Bellows Falls Garage Project, dedicated in 2022 by Windham Windsor Housing Trust, added apartments and replicated the 1923 Bellows Falls Garage front facade, as shown to the right above.


All of the photos presented here can be viewed in our Gallery.


Do you have additional information on the houses of Canal Street? We'd love to hear from you!


Questions?

You can email us at any time with questions about the Depot Street Bridge replacement project, either directly at developmentassist@rockbf.org or via the blog, and we'll respond. You can also send us information on the history of the area, which we'll be happy to share with the community through this blog,


Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for the next post!


Betsy Thurston

Executive Director of the Bellows Falls Downtown Development Alliance

and Rockingham Development Assistant



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