Milford and the Souhegan Valley are chuck full of antique and consignment shops with people trying to sell their second-hand wares. For about 26 years in the mid 20th century, Milford had a world-famous second-hand shop called the White Elephant Shop. The business was started in 1939 by Harold Reed, who came from Newport, NH. He purchased the old McLane Manufacturing buildings on Nashua street and began by hosting community auctions. The business became so well known, Life magazine came to Milford in 1943 and did a story on the business. It can be seen in the March 22, 1943 edition and has several pictures including a great shot of a 2nd floor room where Reed claims to have some 4,000 chairs for sale ranging from $.50 cents to $2 each. At the bottom of this article there is a link to the Life magazine on Google. In addition to the White Elephant shop, Reed also owned property on Middle Street. He sold both of these properties in 1947.
The White Elephant shop was sold to Nicholos Fitton and he continued to own and operate the White Elephant until a cold snow-filled night on January 23, 1966. Milford was hit by a blizzard that day and more than a foot of snow lined the streets. The call came in to the fire department at 9:22pm from call box #53. Over the course of the evening the huge wooden structure comprised of many buildings went up in flames. Firemen rushed into Milford from 10 surrounding towns and battled the fire through the night. According to the Milford Cabinet, by Monday morning all that was left were “smoldering heaps of rubble”. It was the end of an era for Milford.
I’m sure there are plenty of people around Southern New Hampshire that remember the White Elephant Shop and we’d love to hear your memories. For those of you too young to remember the White Elephant, maybe you would remember a similar browsers paradise in the 1980’s on the west end of town called the Crazy Teepee? What ever happened to the property where the massive buildings of the White Elephant Shop sat? Three and a half years after the fire, Cumberland Farms opened their first store in Milford in November of 1969 and is still there today on Nashua Street. The building encompassed the footprint of today’s Cumberland Farms building AND most of the parking lot including the gas pumps. As you can see from the photos below, the building sat very close to the road.