With the highway open, the time it took to drive to Manchester or Boston was nearly cut in half. You could now work in Massachusetts and raise your family in the green of old Nutfield. The change to the area was indeed great. Soon our fields and forests were being replaced by sprawling housing developments, apartment complexes and shopping malls.
Historically, there are three events that had the greatest effect on Nutfield. The first was the arrival of the Rev. James McGregor and his congregation in 1719; the second was beginning of the shoe industry on Broadway by William Pillsbury in the 1870s; and the third was the opening of I-93 in 1963.
Within 10 years, our population doubled; within 20 years it tripled; and by 30 years, it had quadrupled. The combined populations of the three Nutfield towns —Derry, Londonderry and Windham — went from 10,761 residents before the opening of I-93 to a population of 70,830 now.
The new highway may well have brought about great prosperity to the area, but it also created a demand for new schools, new churches and more traffic lights. It also sparked an increased need for more fire and police protection. Derry is no longer a small town. In the space of a single generation, we turned into a community with a population larger then most cities in the Granite State.
Will the ongoing widening of I-93 bring about more jobs and prosperity to the area or will it merely increase the need for more social services? Will it raise our taxes or help keep them in check? Will a bigger and better I-93 create more opportunities or simply more problems? Time will tell.
Regardless of how we view the road, this is its 50th birthday. Maybe we should honor the occasion with a huge cake with 50 candles — and bittersweet chocolate frosting.
Rick Holmes is the official town historian of Derry. His office hours at the Municipal Center are Mondays from 8 a.m. to noon and Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. Several of his books on local history are available at Mack’s Apples and Derry’s libraries.