When Dr. John Ham submitted his review of Dover doctors to the NH Medical Society in 1879, one of the names on the list was James E. Lothrop. It was a brief synopsis: born in Rochester, NH in 1826, he “read medicine” with Dr. Jeremiah Howe in Dover, followed by a degree from the Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia in 1848. He returned to Dover, married a daughter of Joseph Morrill, gave up the practice after one year, and according to Dr. Ham, “became a merchant.” The latter would be an understatement.
We’ve previously mentioned the pharmacy of Lothrops and Pinkham, located at 466 Central Ave. on what was then Franklin Square. The Pinkham half was Alonzo, the Lothrop half was James E. (for Eldridge) and, for a time, his brother Daniel. From the very beginning, as noted, the store offered more than medicines: they were “booksellers,” and sold “paper hangings, window shades, etc.” (That was in the early years. Well into the 20th century the store was advertising “wallpapers, room mouldings, window shades, blank books and stationery, Eastman Kodaks and supplies … toilet articles, confectionery, and sick room supplies”; seemingly, almost as an afterthought, “Special attention given to the compounding of prescriptions.” (By this time, 1917, the business was owned by Harold Lothrop, the son of James E., with H.C. Woodman as manager.)
The Joseph Morrill mentioned above was the builder (in 1844) and owner of the Morrill Block, which began at the corner of Second Street and ran northerly for perhaps half the distance of Franklin Square on that side. Lothrop & Pinkham was located in that building, and Lothrop had the foresight and good fortune to marry his landlord’s daughter. (Brother Daniel also married a Morrill daughter.) So that at 474 Central he opened J.E. Lothrop & Co., offering “musical instruments, sewing machines, etc.” and later, in 1855, he helped create a Lothrop family-owned clothing business under the name of Daniel Lothrop & Sons, and expanded that to Morrill’s new four-story wooden building, constructed in 1870, that extended from the existing block all the way to Third Street and several doors around the corner. Daniel Lothrop, the father, died in 1872, and in 1883 Charles Farnham became a partner, with the business now known as Lothrops-Farnham, “clothiers, hats, boots, shoes, and gents furnishings.”
This was perhaps the premiere clothing store in Dover for many years, using several floors of 476-480 Central for display and sales, and in later years expanding to Rochester (1886) and to Somersworth (1895). In addition to the large business-name sign across the front of the Dover building there was a second advertising “Clothes and Shoes of the Better Kind.”
To add some background here: Joseph Morrill’s home was just up the street from his real estate, at the corner of Central Ave and Fifth Street. Into the 20th century it became the offices of Thomas Reid, an eye doctor, and Emmet O’Gara, a GP. A carriage house to the rear was, for many years, an antique shop owned by Dr. Reid’s son, Michael. Both buildings are gone, replaced by a bank and its drive-thru. Charles Farnham lived at 118 Silver St., the western half of a double house. At some point his son, Harry, by 1929 a co-owner of the business, moved into the other half at No. 116 … both were there as of 1931. Later, Francis Beasley, who was a manager at American Woolen Co., moved into No. 118. Harry’s widow, Grace, continued living at 116 Silver well into the 1960s.
J.E. Lothrop died in 1907. For a number of years he had resided in an annex of the American House that had been added “principally for the accommodation of …J.E. Lothrop and his wife.” This was Dover’s high-end hotel, located in the middle of Franklin Square directly across from the Morrill Block. (The space now filled by Days Inn.) That would not only have allowed him to live at a fairly high degree of luxury, but also almost literally to keep an eye on his varied business interests from him front window. Upon his death, his son Harold took over the pharmacy and Harold and another son, Thomas, became owners of J.E. Lothrop. For a time they had lived at 726 Central Ave., but at least from the early 1930s Harold and family lived at 1 Elm St. (on the corner of Silver Street), and Thomas lived at 85 Belknap St.
By that time this business had moved across the Square to 459 Central Ave. in the building at the corner of Central Ave. and Chapel St., now the home of Tuxedos and Suits With Style. For many years, now renamed the J.E. Lothrop Piano Co, it filled several floors of that building, expanding into a full-service furniture store. (In the later part of the 19th century and early years of the 20th pianos were a popular item; no radios or TVs, so people were much more into home-made entertainment.) For a time, Dover offered several piano stores including an outpost of M. Steinert & Sons, the designated agent of Steinway pianos, perhaps then the top of the line. This was located in the Masonic Temple Building.
And then, on Jan. 3, 1932, a spectacular fire destroyed almost the entire Morrill Block, from Second Street north. Twenty-six businesses were seriously affected. Lothrops-Farnham relocated to 432-434 Central Ave., the northerly end of what was then the Bracewell Block, a two story building with a decorative façade, between the Central Avenue Bridge and First St. (According to the store’s ad, this was known as Hanson Corner.) This was a much reduced operation from the previous store, but still a source of quality men’s (and now women’s) clothing and shoes. Lothrops & Pinkham somehow managed to recover quickly, at 468 Central … an early tenant of the “new” Morrill Block, the pharmacy now fully owned by W.C. Woodman and his wife Helen. J.E. Lothrop Piano remained in place for many years, owned by a next generation James Lothrop and manager Jim Tucker.
Currently, there isn’t a visible remnant of J.E.’s business empire, but there is more to come about his impact on the community way back when. Stay tuned.
Tony McManus is a Dover native. He is a former trustee of the Woodman Institute and an amateur student of Dover’s past. He can be reached at email@example.com.