Do you remember the Green Ridge Turkey Farm? Who can forget the giant turkey that once stared out across the Daniel Webster Highway from its perch atop that iconic sign?
For nearly 60 years, the Green Ridge Turkey Farm stood on the corner of DW Highway and Spit Brook Road in Nashua, NH, about two miles north of the state border with Massachusetts. Its site was historic – the main house of the farm, called the manor house, had been a long-time Nashua landmark, dating to revolutionary times when it had served as a stage-coach inn.
Through several ownership changes and one major fire, the Green Ridge served dinners and pies to generations of New Englanders. The Green Ridge served not just turkey, but also seafood, and, briefly steak, when the Olde Coach Inn and Restaurant closed and the Green Ridge opened its short-lived steakhouse.
But, of course, people best knew the Green Ridge Turkey Farm for its turkeys, which were sold either “drawn and ready for the oven” or “cooked and pan-roasted.” The Green Ridge also offered its own dressing and gravy.
The Green Ridge Turkey Farm’s Early Years
The Green Ridge Turkey Farm got its start when George and Grace Kimball bought the 200-acre property in 1931 and opened a farm stand. Its frontage on the Daniel Webster Highway contributed to the Kimballs’ success. By 1938, Mr. and Mrs. Kimball expanded the stand, adding turkey sandwiches and ice cream to its offerings. Two years later, in 1940, the Kimballs added the restaurant, and the Green Ridge’s reputation for great turkey, supplied directly from their farm, quickly caught on. The farm was soon raising 6,000 turkeys.
The reputation of the Green Ridge as a restaurant and turkey farm spread throughout New England during the war years. Then, during one of its best years, just four days after Thanksgiving, disaster struck the Green Ridge. At 6 PM on the evening of November 27, 1950, a few hours after the farm had hosted the New England Turkey Growers’ Association, Dr. Frank Flagg knocked on the door of Mr. and Mrs. Kimball’s home. The Green Ridge, just 100 yards south from where they were sitting, was on fire.
Dr. Flagg and the Kimballs set off to alert the fire department, but couldn’t find a working telephone. A recent storm had knocked out phone service in the area. Eventually, others saw the smoke and flames in the sky and the calls began arriving at the Nashua Fire Department. The first caller told the fire department that the ‘Green Ridge farm building [was] ready to explode.’ A moment later, a call from the Wayside Furniture Company confirmed that something was wrong at the Green Ridge.
The Central and Lake Street stations responded to the fire. All call men were soon summoned to duty. Firefighters arrived to find the fire at its peak and the interior of the building was completely engulfed in flames as the smoke rose skyward. Motorists and nearby residents stopped to watch the fire.
A lack of hydrants in the area meant the firefighters had no available water. Firefighters had to rush a half-mile south to another property in order to get water. By then, the fire was out of control.
By the time the fire was out, the restaurant was a total loss. George Kimball told reporters he didn’t have adequate insurance coverage to rebuild. The restaurant had been officially closed for the season just a couple of days before, and would have reopened the next year, on February 22.
The losses were deep, however, and the costs were formidable to replace the lost dining room, soda fountain, and two deep-freeze units that had been holding 250 turkeys. The Kimballs put the Green Ridge Turkey Farm on the market.
After the Fire: The Flanders Years
A buyer came forward. On March 15, 1951, the Kimballs sold the Green Ridge Turkey Farm to Mr. and Mrs. Howard Flanders. Howard Flanders was active in local Nashua politics, serving on the Governor’s Executive Council.
The Flanders rebuilt the restaurant and reopened it soon after. John Flanders, their son, recalls, “They bought Green Ridge Turkey Farm in 1952. It was a farm stand then. They built the large restaurant. … We had 25,000 turkeys on the range behind the restaurant. Thanksgiving was a nightmare!”
During the Flanders’ ownership, the Green Ridge was open from 11 in the morning until 11 at night. Full meals started at $1.75, John Flanders remembers.
The Charpentier Years
The Flanders’ ownership of the Green Ridge lasted only a few years. After rebuilding and reopening the restaurant following the 1950 fire, the Flanders sold it to Victor and Anna Charpentier in 1954.
The husband-and-wife team moved to Nashua from Somersworth, NH and ran the restaurant for 12 years. He oversaw the kitchen. She ran the dining rooms. They managed personnel together. People drove north on Route 3 from all over Massachusetts and southern New England for leaf-peeping, skiing, and to come to the Green Ridge.
Business boomed during those post-war years and Victor and Anna invested in the restaurant, adding two large function rooms and a cocktail lounge. “Every Sunday, there was a long waiting line to get seated,” Gail, the couple’s daughter, remembers.
When Victor Charpentier died in 1966, Anna retired as the restaurant’s owner and manager, and control of the Green Ridge passed to Victor’s nephew, Luc. Luc Charpentier ran the restaurant through the 1970s, 1980s, and into the mid-1990s, when it was closed, razed, and replaced by a Barnes & Noble, which still stands at the site.
A lot has changed on the site where the Green Ridge Turkey Farm stood for so many years. DW highway is no longer a country road. Turkey shelters no longer dot the turkey range behind the restaurant. Today, new restaurants, stores, and strip malls fill the spaces between the stop lights that have sprung up on a widened and much busier Daniel Webster Highway.
The Green Ridge still lives on in the memories of New England residents. As one commenter said here in 2013, “I discovered the Turkey Farm and fell in love with it. No one ever came to visit me … who wasn’t treated to a fine New England turkey dinner there. … I was devastated when they closed.”
Even today, many of us still look twice for that giant turkey when we drive up and down Nashua’s DW Highway.
Has it really been more than 20 years since it came down?
Many thanks to Gail Charpentier and John Flanders, both children of former owners of the Green Ridge for their contributions to this article.