Site No. 1: 28 Beech Street Extension. A 1916 map labeled this road “Kent Place.” The road didn’t continue very far, and John Elmer Kent’s stable, here since 1900, was the only building. His advertisement in Newmarket’s 1917 Directory featured “Horse and Auto Livery. Boarding and Training Stable, Carriages and Hacks at short notice, day and night.” Its location near the railroad must have been ideal.
Elmer Kent’s first stable had been downtown, not far from the Community Church. In November 1899, he announced plans to move out near the railroad. Local builders William Proctor and his father built a structure here that housed an active business for nearly 100 years.
Mr. Kent added grain, feed and lumber to his offerings; and related businesses found a place here as well. H.R. Haines installed a grain elevator and a coal conveyor out back, near the railroad tracks. In 1909, D. J. Brady listed his horse-shoeing operation at Kent Stable. He also offered rubber tire service and mentioned the telephone connection.
By 1920, Mr. Kent decided it was time for a change. While he had built the stable to provide a more reliable income, his real passion was training and racing harness horses. No longer interested in running the business he had built, he approached Joseph Filion and offered to sell it to him. His timing was perfect: Mr. Filion’s lucrative liquor trade had just evaporated due to the 1919 Prohibition vote. With a growing family to support, he bought the business. The 1927 Town Directory showed: “Joseph A. Filion — coal, wood, ice and grain.” And D. J. Brady’s horse-shoeing operation was still there, also offering wagon repair and automobile springs.
In 1938 Joseph’s son Robert took over the business. By then, his other son Louis had a heating oil business on site as well. During World War II, when the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard hired dozens of Newmarket residents, Louis Filion operated a fleet of buses from Kent Place to the Shipyard. They stopped downtown, at New Village and at Durham Side. Because of gas rationing, most people took the bus.
Joseph’s grandson Richard made the third generation of the Filion family to operate the lumber yard. It continued here into the 1990s.
Site No. 2 is up and across the street on the Railroad Bridge. Look both ways before crossing!
END OF AUDIO TEXT. See below for photos and more information.
Back in 1800, before the Newmarket Manufacturing Company and the railroad, this area was an orchard. Oak and walnut trees had been planted. Cider production had been an important part of colonial culture since the earliest settlers, and one landowner, Benjamin Lovering had planted apple, peach, pear and plum trees.
A 1916 map labeled this road “Kent Place.” The road didn’t continue very far, and the only building on it was John Elmer Kent’s stable. His advertisement in the 1917 Directory reads: “J.E. Kent. Horse and Auto Livery. Boarding and Training Stable, Carriages and Hacks at short notice, day and night. Dealer in coal, grain and feed.” Its location near the railroad must have been ideal.
Mr. Kent’s earlier stable was downtown, on Water Street, across from the Community Church. (Frank Durgin, who ran a grocery store kept two of his delivery horses and wagons there at Kent’s stable.) In November 1899, Mr. Kent announced plans to move out here, near the railroad.
William Proctor & his father built the new stables in 1900. They had also built the Caswell mansion (Site No. 8) and the Durgin Block (Site No. 27). This structure housed an active business for nearly 100 years.
By the 1920s, out behind the stables, Mr. Haines, who had a grain and lumber business, had installed a grain elevator and a coal conveyor—near the railroad tracks. And ownership of the stable had passed from John Elmer Kent to Joseph A. Filion. The Filion family would continue operation of the lumber yard into the 1990s.
John Elmer Kent
In 1854, opposite the Frank Lang Blacksmith Shop (Site No. 22), a machine shop on Water Street was purchased and moved 3 miles into Durham to become the paper mill at Wiswall Falls. In 1866 a livery stable was built in its place, and it was owned and operated by a Mr. Wiggin until 1885. After that, John Bennett bought the business.
John Elmer Kent moved to Newmarket from Durham in 1895, and purchased the livery stable. Downtown grocers such as Frank Durgin used his services. Mr. Durgin ran a grocery store and kept two of his delivery horses and wagons there at Kent’s stable.
Mr. Kent purchased property on a cart road that ran between the railroad tracks and Kittredge Square, and in 1899 he hired father and son Gilbert and William Proctor to build a new livery stable at that location. The old structure on Water Street was moved up behind the newly built Livery Stable, and the cart way then took on the name of Kent St. or Kent Place (today it is Beech St. Extension). In 1905 Mr. Kent expanded the livery into a grain and feed business, later adding a lumberyard out back.
Other businesses followed. In 1909, D. J. Brady advertised: “Horse Shoeing & Jobbing, Light Horses & Rubber Tires a Specialty, rear Kent’s stable… Telephone connection.” And H.R. Haines Co. (who had a grain and lumber business out at Crow & Eagle Falls and grain sheds beside the old Tiger House—Site No. 12) later installed a grain elevator and a coal conveyor in back of Kent’s Livery Stable.
John Elmer Kent’s passion however, was in race horses—primarily harness racing. He would stable and care for some of the finest race horses in the area. He was a veteran jockey at the “Speedway” (AKA Hall’s Park… Trotter Park„,Trotter Park…on Packer’s Falls Road).
Elmer Kent liked to train and race harness horses, and he had built the stable to house his horses and provide a more reliable income. He really did not care for the business part of the arrangement.
The Filion Connection
At that time “Yankees” and “French-Canadians” did not really socialize, but Kent was unusual in that he was friendly to the newcomers. When Prohibition was enacted in 1919, Joseph Filion was forced out of the lucrative liquor trade, and the following year he bought the lumber business of J. Elmer Kent.
He approached Joseph Filion and told him that he needed an income to support that large family… and that he (Joseph) should buy the stable. This was told to me by Richman Walker. I found a deed for the stable dated 1920 and Cynthia LaMontagne sent me a picture of the barn dated 1922 where a sign is visible saying “STABLE” on the left, “J. A. FILION” in the middle, and “COAL, WOOD, GRAIN” on the right. I believe at that time the “wood” referred to was cord wood used to heat as my father told me a number of times about buying up wood lots for cord wood.”
~ Per Richard Filion, written for the New Market Historical Society, 2013
Joseph dealt in coal, wood and grain, with supplies arriving by rail. His successor (in 1938) was his son Robert H. Filion. After WW II, R. H. Filion was a thriving and enterprising business carrying hardware and building supplies of all kinds. Many returning servicemen relied on Filion hardware to build their homes.
Robert was raised in Newmarket and was educated in the Newmarket grammar and high school system. He attended the University of New Hampshire in Durham. He was a resident of Somersworth for over 35 years, and owned and operated the R.H. Filion Lumber Company for over 30 years.
Active in politics, Robert was mayor of Somersworth from 1959 to 1963. While mayor, he was instrumental in bringing to Somersworth an urban renewal program, housing for senior citizens and low-income families, and the clean- up of the Salmon Falls River. He was also a NH delegate to the Democratic Party Convention that nominated John. F. Kennedy. Like his father he was a longtime racing enthusiast and was appointed by Governor John King to the Racing Commission.
Robert’s son Richard continued the business until the 1990s when box store competition such as Home Depot and Walmart, as well as national hardware chain stores forced the closing of many local building supply companies throughout New England.
Another of Joseph Filion’s sons, Louis P. Filion was in the ice business in 1923 until about 1946. He cut ice from the Lamprey River, and for years he stored it in an icehouse by the river’s edge and sold it by horse and cart through town. Turcotte’s Hardware store on Main Street also had an ice house in the back where he bought and sold Louis’ ice. The Star Theater was above the store. Those who remember it say that the air was cooled as it passed through the ice house; it then blew into the theater, thus creating the “first cooling system in Newmarket.”
Louis began a heating oil business in 1931, first operated from his father’s Company Offices on “Kent Street.” During World War II, he operated the family transportation bus line from Kent Street in Newmarket to the Portsmouth Navy Shipyard for all town employees. It made stops at New Village, Durham Side, and downtown. Because of gas rationing, many people took the bus.
The building that the Proctors first built in 1899 has since been renovated and is now Kent Place, a combination of housing units and commercial offices which stayed true to the original design of Gilbert and William Proctor.
Photos of the Filion Lumber Yard during WW II, when they operated the Navy Yard Commuter Bus for Newmarket employees.