History via the mail
postcard in his collection tells a local story
Manchester, by Robert B. Perreault, Arcadia Publishing, Postcard History
Series, 2005, 128 pages.
Local teacher and
historian Robert Perreault’s wonderful new picture book, Manchester, is
a history book in the simplest fashion. Perreault has taken samples of
his postcard collection, added historical tidbits about the images and
grouped them geographically into West Side, Downtown, etc.
The result is a
Manchester history book that will leave you proud and discouraged at the
same time; proud of the city’s industrial and architectural past and
disappointed that so much of our history has been burned or torn down
and replaced with box stores and cookie-cutter residences that are only
a shadow of their ancestors’ former glory.
As you might expect,
many of the postcards depict Millyard scenes or scenes of famous city
floods (1896 and 1936). There are also quite a few shots of grand
buildings that are long since gone—the six-story Kennard block building
on Elm Street that burned and the Upton’s Block building on Bridge and
Elm that was torn down in 1987 are both fine representations of lost
The most startling
postcards, however, are of places that still exist in lesser form,
stripped of former greatness. There is a postcard of the Crown Theatre
on Hanover Street with its original ornamentation and decoration. Now,
the building, which houses Child and Family Services, is barren and
plain. Another shocking old postcard shows Saint Cecilia’s Hall from
1911. The building still exists and is used by the Police Athletic
League, but without its ornate architectural features and overhangs it
is nearly unrecognizable from the postcard.
should serve a purpose as simple as its layout and captions:
preservation should not be just a hobby. Taking the easy way out and
tearing down an old building or dumbing down its style or look is not
always what’s best for a city. As Perreault writes in the book’s
introduction, the identity of Manchester’s future depends on an
appreciation of its past. Manchester should help anyone who reads it
better appreciate the city’s past.
Robert Perreault will sign copies of his new book at these city
Thursday, Sept. 22, 5 to 8 p.m. at The Franco-American Centre, 52
Saturday, Oct. 15, 1 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 1741 South Willow St.