—Est. 1725 —
Ever since Concord was first settled in 1726, Main Street has been its principal thoroughfare.
The town's first plan shows an unnamed street that follows the same path as today's Main Street.
The 1-1/2 mile route was lined with sixty-eight house lots, placed on the flat plateau above the Merrimack River. Since agriculture was the primary occupation, each house lot was supplemented with a field lot in the flood plain below.
In the 1700s, the heart of Concord was more than a half-mile north of its current spot. The multi-purpose Old North Meetinghouse (both church and town hall) stood there, as did the first post office. Downtown started to shift southward after the construction of a third town hall in 1790 on the site of today's county courthouse. Concord planned the new building with state government in mind; though the legislature was still migratory, indications pointed to Concord becoming the state capital, and the town wanted to encourage this move by providing permanent quarters.
By 1800, Main Street was a busy thoroughfare and the heart of a "prosperous, enlightened community."
Some seventy or eighty houses lined its length, as well as taverns, stores and a wide variety of shops.
The average citizen traveled by horse or on foot as only the most wealthy
owned chaises, and even basic wagons were few and far between.
Bridges at either end of Main Street, both of which opened in 1795, brought yet more traffic into town.
Horse and ox-drawn wagons laden with produce passed through, headed to seaport markets and returning piled high with merchandise.
Laws passed in the early 1800s prohibited and sheep from running at large on Main Street - an effort to improve traffic flow and the street's image.
Two early 19th century events brought yet more trade, business and visitors into town and cemented Concord's position as an economic and political base for the state. The first was the opening of two turnpike routes, both of which terminated on Main Street. The other was the designation of Concord as the state capital.
Forces at either end of Main Street competed for the new state house; the chosen site was roughly midway. Completed in 1819, the new building was a magnet, bringing businesses, residences and the post office south to this section of Main Street. Two decades later, the arrival of the railroad and the placement of the depot a few blocks from here finalized the relocation of downtown to this area. By then, downtown had its first formal sidewalks constructed of wood; prior to then, people shared the streets with horses and wagons.
After Concord was designated the shire town of the new
Merrimack County in 1823, the town enlarged its town house to share it with the county and thus keep all three levels of government local, county and state - centrally located, as they are to this day.
Interested in Concord's Downtown history?
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