Photos March 2008: Charles Hathaway
Keene, New Hampshire -- 667 Main St.

The Keene Restaurant was opened in late 1939 or during 1940. The unit survived World War II and lasted until late in 1966. Charles Hathaway who has documented the site discovered that the HJ franchisee at Keene likely embezzled or failed to pay royalties to Howard Johnson's which resulted in the location's closure. Then after its days as a HoJo's its building was occupied by a restaurant called The Hungry Lion. By the early 2000s the location came to be the site of Hope Chapel. Interestingly people at the church told Mr. Hathaway that there were once cabins adjacent to the HoJo's Restaurant similar to the arrangement at West Thornton.

The following commentary is provided by Nate Coggeshall-Beyea who has extensively studied and documented the history and development of Howard Johnson's in New Hampshire:

Located at 667 Main Street (Route 12), the Keene store was the western-most HJ in New Hampshire. It was opened in the early 1940s, during HJ’s last period of expansion prior to World War II. Designed specifically as a downtown restaurant, the Keene store appealed to both local and regional interests. As the largest town in the southwestern quadrant of the state, Keene was at the epicenter of the tri-state area, joining together New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont. With excellent traffic flow back and forth among the three states, Keene was for all intents and purposes the region’s most significant connection with urban life. With motorists converging on Keene from points south, west, and east, the opportunities for downtown and roadside businesses here were endless. It was a natural environment for HJ to establish one of its franchises, with a guarantee of patronage from passing motorist, visitors, and local townspeople.

The first known listing for the Keene store was 1941, and it appears to have been a very viable enterprise through the mid-1960s. Like Boscawen, Keene’s last known listing came in 1967. Perhaps competition from the nearby Brattleboro, VT store embattled this downtown restaurant, driving it to shutter its doors. Or maybe the more modern Nims Two style restaurant and motor lodge combination units in Springfield, VT and Greenfield, MA drew vital business away from Keene. Whatever the reason, Keene closed at the very height of HJ’s reign on roadside America. Even still, Keene boasted a successful operation for just over 25 years, leaving its mark on the tri-state region and economy.

Photos ca. 2002: Phil Edwards

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