South Lyndeborough Common reaches 100 years old

LYNDEBOROUGH – The little common in South Lyndeborough, squeezed between Forest Road (New Hampshire Route 31) and the Wilton-Bennington Railroad tracks, has been undergoing a revitalization over the past three years.

It was created in 1914 by the Village Improvement Society to improve the looks of the intersection in front of the railroad station, a dirt area, which was often muddy. It was an unsightly first view of the town by those passing through, the ladies said, so they got together to create a common.

On May 25, as part of the annual Memorial Day observances, the common’s 100th anniversary was recognized.

The restoration began in 2010 by a committee named by the Board of Selectmen to choose a place to relocate the town’s World War I and World War II/Korean Conflict memorials. The two granite markers had been in front of the library, which was to be enlarged.

The committee was unanimous in its choice of the common.

At the same time, the Hartshorn Memorial Cannon was moved closer to the railroad tracks. It was moved from in front of Citizens’ Hall to the common in 1934, but the widening of Route 31 left it too close to the road and was being affected by road salt.

An old Christmas tree was removed from the center of the lot and replaced with a new one at one side, allowing much more space for events such as Memorial Day observances.

In 2013, a third monument, to honor those serving in Vietnam and all conflicts since then, was placed between the first two.

The stone chosen was originally the bottom step at the side entrance to Citizens’ Hall. It was placed between the two original stones and a bronze plaque will be placed on it later this year.

A brick patio was laid in front of it. Residents were invited to buy inscribed memorial bricks and that offer is still available.

Eventually, a brick path will lead to the flagpole. In rededicating the common, Lafayette Artillery Company Capt. Walter Holland noted that it is not a ”veterans’ memorial park, but one for everyone,” a place to sit, to rest, to contemplate.

The bricks on the patio commemorate many people and events including one given by the “last sixth grade to graduate from the Central School.”

Two granite memorial benches have been donated. Last year, the Heritage Commission installed a historic marker with the history of the village on one side and the railroad and Baptist church on the other side.

Clearing the brush at the eastern end of the common, between the tracks and Putnam Hill Road, will continue to improve the view of the common from that direction.

When the railroad came through town in 1873, the town’s only station was at the crossing of what is now Putnam Hill Road, and Forest Road. This crossing was originally called Putnam’s Corner and was the site of a half dozen houses.

The Baptist Church was built in 1836, moved in 1863 to where it is now, and replaced by the Lafayette Artillery Company’s Armory Hall, which became the first railroad depot. The Post Office gave it the designation of So. Lyndeboro. The official spelling didn’t get returned until the 1980s.

The hall was moved across the road and a new station was built in 1910.

The original road crossed the center of what is now the common. The dirt area around the station was frequently muddy and the road gradually moved to the front of the church. It was seen as an unsightly perspective of the village for those passing through.

In 1910, a group of village women, organized by Alice Kimball, formed the Village Improvement Society. One of their first projects was the beautification of the town “square.”

In 1914, according to the town’s second history, an engineering plan was devised by William Kimball and carried out by “sixteen men with horses, carts and wheelbarrows.” The ladies served them dinner.

Over the years, the society maintained the area, made gifts of shrubs, renewed the benches, planted a community Christmas tree and maintained the horse trough, which sits at one side of the common.

The flagpole was added in 1917, and replaced in 1933.

Railroad passenger service to the town ended after the floods of 1936 and the station was torn down in 1946. Some of the bricks of the foundation can be seen near the “So. Lyndeboro” sign erected in 2002 by the Wilton Scenic Railroad.

Curbing was added along Route 31 in 1982, cutting into the common and leaving the cannon too close to the road where it suffered some salt damage.

The Improvement Society disbanded in August 2004 and the common fell into neglect.

Most of the above information is from research done by Heritage Commission Member Stephanie Roper.