The Hippo


May 26, 2020








Courtesy photo.

Images of Modern America: Manchester 

The book is available for purchase at Barnes & Noble, the Millyard Museum gift shop (200 Bedford St., Manchester) and the Manchester Historic Association Research Center gift shop (129 Amherst St., Manchester). For more information, visit or email Robert B. Perreault at 

Another time
Picture book shows Manchester through the years

By Angie Sykeny

 A lot has changed in Manchester since the 1970s. Buildings have been built and demolished, businesses have opened and closed and people have come and gone. In Robert B. Perreault’s new book Manchester, which was released in October, the transformation of the cityscape is documented through 163 photographs taken by Perreault between 1971 and 2005. 

Born and raised in Manchester, Perreault spent much of his childhood exploring the city on his bicycle. 
“I’ve always been interested in seeing what was there,” he said. “I would go out and ride all over to see which things were on which streets and what buildings there were and this and that.” 
As a young man in the 1960s, Perreault got a job as an usher at the now-defunct King Cinema on Amherst Street. There, he met a fellow usher and photography enthusiast, 17-year-old Gary Samson, who inspired him to start taking photographs and taught him how to use a camera. 
During his junior year at Saint Anselm College, Perreault left Manchester to study abroad in Paris, but not before buying a 35-millimeter camera of his own. In Paris and during weekends and school vacations spent hitchhiking around France and other European countries, he took countless photographs, not just of the popular sites and tourist attractions, but of day-in-the-life scenes which reflected aspects of European culture that were different from what he was accustomed to in Manchester. One of his most transformative experiences, he said, was photographing the 800-year-old Parisian marketplace Les Halles, which was slated for demolition. That gave him a new perspective as a photographer, which he carried with him upon returning to Manchester. 
“I started to look at Manchester in the same way that I looked at the European cities,” he said. “I started photographing whatever buildings I knew were going to be torn down and all buildings in general, just in case someday things changed. I thought, we have historical photographs taken by the people before us, but who’s doing it today? I wanted to be one of those people.” 
Perreault never had it in his mind to compile and publish his photographs until 2015, when he was approached by Arcadia Publishing to create a book about Manchester as part of its Images of Modern America picture book series. He agreed and spent the next year sorting through thousands of photographs to choose which would be featured in the book. 
“It was difficult,” he said. “Basically, I just went through and picked ones that I thought would be interesting and that other people would find interesting — I probably had several hundreds of those — and then I went through the whole process again and narrowed it down until I had 163.” 
The book has six chapters: Aerial and Bird’s Eye Views; Merrimack River and Amoskeag Millyard; Downtown Manchester; Elsewhere in the City; People, Organizations, and Events; and Eye-catching Images. It includes photographs of demolished and decayed buildings and structures, such as the State Theater on Elm Street, the Notre Dame Bridge and many of the mill buildings, as well as events such as demonstrations and protests, festivals and politician appearances. 
“There’s a lot of before-and-after of the changes that have taken place,” Perreault said. “It’s a way for people who lived here back as early as the ’70s to reminisce, and for people who are new to the city or were born later to see the changes that occurred through photography.” 
The other purpose of the book, he said, is to raise awareness about the cultural and architectural heritage of Manchester and to promote the preservation of historic buildings and structures that represent that heritage. 
“My message is, think before you tear down a building,” he said. “There is too much demolition without considering the losses.” 

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