Society to unveil expanded exhibit

NASHUA – The Nashua Historical Society is planning a St. Patrick’s Day celebration Tuesday night – but it doesn’t involve the green beer, Irish jigs and corned beef and cabbage buffets you’ll find at other parties.

Instead, the society is using the “holiday” to celebrate two recent developments at its Florence Speare Museum – the refurbishing and permanent installment of a long-dormant artifact of 19th-century downtown Nashua and the opening of the expanded version of its “Hats Off Nashua!” exhibit.

All are invited free of charge to the dual events, which get underway at 7:30 p.m. in the Speare Museum, 5 Abbott St.

The evening will begin with the unveiling of the refurbished wood-frame transom with gold-leaf lettering that graced the entranceway to the old City Hall at 121 Main St. from its construction in the 1840s until its demolition about a century later in favor of today’s City Hall at 229 Main St.

Longtime and well known Nashua resident Brad Whitney donated the transom, which he had stored in his garage for many years. Whitney and members of his family are planning to be there to take part in the festivities.

Then the focus moves around the corner to the “Hats Off Nashua!” exhibit for a short program on these “fashion embellishing textiles” – ladies’ hats – many of which were designed and created by Nashua’s own milliners, Gabriella and Cecile Bouthillier.

The sisters were the nucleus for years of the former Gaby’s Exclusive Millinery Shoppe, it was called in the 1951 phone book. The store was at 85 W. Pearl St., where Cathy Kert Interiors is today.

The guest speaker will be Margaret Koelliker, a costume designer and maker who specializes in men’s hats – particularly pirate hats of the 1600s and 1700s. Among the clients she has designed items for are Disney-MGM Studios and The Discovery Channel.

According to the historical society program guide, the exhibit highlights a number of different style hats, many of which were created by the Bouthillier sisters. The exhibit has been enlarged and now also includes men’s hats.