Dining with Fido at Mercy Hall

The dining room at Mercy Hall, circa 1949.

Today the oval dining room at Mercy Hall, Thomas More College’s property at 90 Concord Street in Nashua, plays host to sneakers, Oxfords, pumps, and painted toenails, but rarely to paws. In the room’s early years, however, daily guests included a dog that ate his meals at the long mahogany table from a specially designed chair.

Frank E. Anderson and his wife, Ella, who built the stately home at Nashua’s northern extremity in 1906, were childless, but lunched each day with their dog and with Mr. Anderson’s private secretary, Lillian E. Cross. Mrs. Cross’s granddaughter, Sharron Newell of Lowell, MA, received the story of the dining dog from her mother, Shirley Cross Noel, in 2013, but the breed and temperament of the canine do not seem to have been handed down. One likes to imagine a courtly Borzoi or immaculately groomed Afghan, but unless the custom chair was the height of a foot-rest that is hardly probable. Perhaps he was a Pekingese named Pu Yi in honor of the newly dispossessed Emperor of China.

Mrs. Cross served as secretary to Mr. Anderson in 1912-1913. Her general schooling ended in 8th grade, but her mother paid for her to learn stenography and typing at Nashua Business College. At 14 she obtained a position with Maine Manufacturing; at 16 she was chief stenographer, earning $10-$13 a week. By the time she was employed by Mr. Anderson, she had married and given birth to her first son, Irving.

Each morning Mr. Anderson sent a car to pick up Mrs. Cross at her house and convey her to his Beaux-Arts showplace on Concord Street. Mr. Anderson then ran what might have been the largest shoe manufacturer in the world, the Estabrook-Anderson Shoe Company. In its heyday the factory between Pine and Palm streets in Nashua produced 10,000 pairs of shoes daily.

The Andersons sold the house on Concord Street in 1925. From 1947-1992, it was the home of Mount St. Mary Seminary, a high school for girls run by the Sisters of Mercy. Mrs. Newell, whose grandmother had lunched with the Andersons’ dog, is a member of the Class of 1961.

Thomas More College acquired the property in 2014. The house is currently undergoing renovation for a designer showcase running August 2-31.

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