After WWII, sixteen million veterans suddenly needed medical treatment and care. In response, the U.S. government built fifty-six new hospitals. New Hampshire had lobbied for a VA hospital since 1938, and it was finally granted in 1945. Construction started in Manchester in 1948, with a grand opening in June 1950.
In addition to the eight-story main hospital, the $5 million complex included twelve ancillary buildings set on a thirty acre campus designed by Boston landscape architecture firm, Shurcliff and Shurcliff. It was recently announced that six of these brick ancillary buildings - all designed in a modern Prairie style - would be demolished to make way for new construction and expanded parking.
Because the site was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, and because it’s federal property, such action triggered the Section 106 process. The Manchester Heritage Commission and the N.H. Division of Historical Resources got involved and proposed a compromise: demolish five buildings, but keep Building #2 (known as the Manager’s Residence).
This house, stylistically unique in Manchester and the state, was originally built to house the hospital’s first chief administrator, Dr. George Pratt. Its horizontality - emphasized in its belt courses, low pitched roof, rectilinear chimney - and its cantilevered porch roof should conjure up another Manchester icon. The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Zimmerman House was also built in 1950 and included many quintessential Wrightian Prairie style elements.
Preservationists in Manchester (and beyond!) are hoping that the VA administration will see the value of the Manager’s Residence and also the potential for its reuse as outpatient services. According to Aurore Eaton, of the Manchester Heritage Commission, “We hope that Seven to Save status will emphasize the importance of this building’s architecture, history, and potential for veterans care.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Time is of the essence if we’re to help save this building. Contact NH’s delegation and let them know this piece of history matters more than parking spaces for several cars:
Senator Maggie Hassan’s person of contact is William Bateson, who can be reached by phone at (603) 880-3314 or by mail at 142 Main Street, Suite 520, Nashua, NH 03060.
For Senator Jeanne Shaheen, contact Christopher Scott at (603) 647-7500, or by mail at 2 Wall Street - Suite 200, Manchester, NH 03101.
For Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster, contact Melanie Spears, VA & Military Outreach at (603) 226-1002 or by mail at 18 North Main Street - 4th Floor, Concord, NH 03301.
For Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, contact the Dover office at (603) 285-4300 or mail to 660 Central Ave., Unit 101, Dover, NH 03820.
You can also contact Andrew Cushing at the NH Preservation Alliance with more questions.