Historic stage curtain to be restored, replaced

LYNDEBOROUGH – A hand painted back drop which once graced the Town Hall stage will be restored and replaced sometime next year as part of the ongoing restoration of the 1843 hall.

The Heritage Commission recently decided to take on the project and made some investigations.

With the aid of Town Administrator Russ Boland, they will apply for a Moose Plate Grant in the spring.

On Nov. 12, the Board of Selectmen approved the application and said they would add the total cost of the project, which includes some repairs to the stage, to the Town Hall maintenance budget in case the grant is not received. Work would be done next fall.

The backdrop is estimated to have been painted about 1900, and it is assumed that it was purchased by Pinnacle Grange No. 18, which was very active at that period. The Grange closed in the early 1970s and ownership of the backdrop passed to the town.

The backdrop was rolled up and placed in storage when the hall was temporarily abandoned when town meetings moved to Citizens’ Hall in the 1960s.

Selectmen Fred Douglas and Arnold Byam said they remembered the backdrop when it was in place.

The backdrop measures about eight by 15 feet and is painted on cloth. It pictures a clump of birch trees on the left, a lake and mountains in the background. At one time, there were matching panels with birch trees at each side of the stage to screen actors’ entrances.

In 2008, the Historical Society learned of Curtains Without Borders, a nonprofit preservation association concerned with locating, preserving and restoring all of the old curtains in northern New England. In 2009, they brought the old curtain out of storage for an evaluation. The curtain was found to be in fair condition but with the fabric rated “good.” There were some water stains assumed to have been caused by a roof leak where it was stored plus a small tear. It had been either cut or torn from its top supports on the stage.

The restoration will include installation on the stage with a roller that will allow it to be locked when not on display.

Plans to start raising funds in 2009 did not materialize and the backdrop was returned to storage.

On Oct. 31, the Commission was again in touch with the conservators and a new estimate made for restoration. The cost, $3,649, will cover two days of work by two conservators including meals and lodging, and all materials. They will also require several volunteers to assist them plus a carpenter to help with the re-installation of the curtain.

Repairs to the stage include painting the well-preserved tin ceiling, removing some temporary wall boards from the back wall to reveal the windows and door that were the original stage setting. The gold paint on the door will be removed.

Curtains Without Borders can be reached at curtainswithoutborders@gmail.com.

The Heritage Commission generally meets on the last Thursday of the month, 7 p.m., at the Tarbell Library, but because of the holidays will not meet again until January. Anyone interested in assisting with the project is welcome.