19 Grove St. ~ PO Box 58 ~ Peterborough, NH 03458 ~ 603-924-3235 

Depot Square

 

Depot Square sits at the confluence of the Contoocook River and Nubanusit Brook. The earliest town center in Peterborough was up on the hill, just across the Contoocook to the east.  But soon the advantages of the river valley influenced the establishment of business and industry in the current downtown location.The first buildings in what is now Depot Square were an odd assortment of sheds and  workshops. In 1844 the school district purchased some of the land and built a large (three-room) schoolhouse, which sat approximately where New England Everyday Goods is today.   At that time, School Street was laid out, which provided easier access for other enterprises.The school closed in 1888, when the town built a new central school on Vine Street. This building was converted to a lumber storage facility, and was eventually purchased and moved elsewhere for use as a carpenter’s shop.Meanwhile the railroad had come to town in 1861, and with it, the depot and Depot Street, connecting Main Street to School Street, was established.The railroad had a huge impact on the town. Local businesses were able to receive and ship goods quickly, and passengers could easily come into town for work, errands, and entertainment.The most prominent business in the history of Depot Square was Derby’s. Originally called Goodnow’s, the store was established in 1882. Ten years later John W. Derby joined the company as a clerk, and in 1889 he took part ownership, at which time it became Goodnow & Derby. Eventually the Derby family owned the entire business, and Goodnow was dropped from the name.During the 1920s Derby’s was a full-fledged general store, selling groceries, dry goods, menswear, hardware, grain, lumber, and cement. As Derby’s moved into its last decade in the 1980s, it still continued to provide a variety of goods, including furniture, hardware, and garden supplies. It occupied what is now the Sharon Arts Center space, all the shops currently connected to it in the Square,  and the freight depot (now Twelve Pine). Like many small department stores, Derby’s succumbed to changes in the retail industry, but customers can still find a delightful variety of goods in the new Depot Square shops. [slideshow_deploy id=’2360’]
Left, a map from 1892. Right, Depot Square TodayDepot Square Yesterday and Today

Current landmarks in and around Depot Square
1. Toadstool Bookshop,  2. Twelve Pine,  3. Waterhouse Restaurant,  4. Sharon Arts Center,  5. Post Office,  6. Monadnock Center for History and Culture,  7. Peterborough Town House,  8. Mariposa Museum,
9. Roy’s Market,  10. Peterborough Diner