Irish Acres

Map of Irish Acres

West side of Willard, Madison (Hemlock), Hillside, Emery Streets

Another intentional community owes its existence to an energetic and ambitious priest who wanted to preserve the character of the neighborhood surrounding his church.

Until 1894, Berlin’s English-speaking Catholics shared St. Anne’s Church with French-speakers and services were held in both languages. That year, English-speaking Catholics organized their own parish and began work to establish their own church building.

Postcard of St. Keiran's Catholic Church, Berlin, N.H.

St. Keiran’s Catholic Church

What was to be the site of St. Kieran’s Church (Emery St. at Willard) was purchased by Bishop Denis Bradley, Bishop of the Diocese of Manchester in February 1894 from Henry H. Furbish. (Liber 70, Folio 185). The cornerstone of the church was laid June 3, 1894, and the church was dedicated May 30, 1895 (Berlin Independent June 6, 1894; June 5, 1895).

drawing of St. Kiernans at Dedication form The Berlin Independenct June 5, 1895 IrishAcres5

Much of the interior decoration, including the stained glass windows, altars, statuary and rail was donated by parishioners. The interior wood-work including the altars and pews were built by a local Berlin firm, the Berlin Manufacturing Company led by A. N. Gilbert.

Photograph of Rev. Edward D. Mackey

Rev. Edward D. Mackey

The force behind the new church was an Irishman, Fr. Edward Mackey. Father Mackey also built the parsonage (1894-demolished) and the adjacent St. Patrick’s School (1902/3, corner of Madison & Emery).
In addition to the buildings that usually accompany a church, however, Mackey also built a neighborhood. Around the time construction started on the church, the land in the immediate vicinity (High, School, Willard and Emery Streets) was sold by Furbish to Blanchard & Twitchell for development. Mackey purchased a number of the new lots for houses. Additional lots were apparently purchased when Blanchard & Twitchell platted more of the area in March 1898 (Liber 91, Folio 406). In all, Mackey appears to have constructed about a dozen houses in the immediate vicinity of the church. According to one source, Mackey rented these houses to members of the church and applied the rent towards the purchased price (St. Kieran Centennial Book 1894-1994). Today “Irish Acre” houses are located at 153-193 Madison, 168 Madison, 176 Madison and 181-197 Willard. By building the houses Mackey could control development in the area around the church. One early parishioner writes, “[Mackey] also gave a lot of attention to the surrounding cluster of dwellings, so as to have the place look tidy and respectable. He worked hard from the time he started, until he got the place to suit his taste. I think it shows up very well and that the Irish element has done fairly well in helping the appearance of the city as well as helping themselves at the same time.” (Hayes 1927: 5)

Fr. Mackey and many of the new residents of the neighborhood were Irish or of Irish heritage. The Irish were generally the seventh largest immigrant group in Berlin (after French-Canadians, English-Canadians, Norwegians, Italians, Russians, English, and some years Polish and Russians). Compared to the number of French Canadians, the Irish were very few in number. Although some Irish in Berlin emigrated directly from Ireland, Canada was a preferred spot to immigrate to in part because the cost of passage was significantly lower than to the U.S. Second generation Irish, born in Canada to Irish parents were referred to as “Canadian Irishmen.” When they arrived, the Irish settled in the older, denser urban parts of Berlin that had always been home to the newest immigrants. Although Irish families were attracted to the neighborhood, which came to be called “Irish Acres” or “Mackeyville” after the church and houses were built, it was always a much smaller enclave, than, for instance, Norwegian Village.

Irish Acre Houses along Madison

Irish Acre Houses along Madison Street

Irish Acre House Irish Acre House Irish Acre House
Irish Acre Houses Irish Acre Houses Irish Acre Houses
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2In 1910, 63 of 5,082 foreign-born residents of Berlin were from Ireland (both parts) versus 3,025 who were born in French Canada.
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