Posted: 11/29/2021 15:26:48 PM
When Santiago Rodriguez carefully replaced the weather vane atop the 1881 Pioneer Engine House tower on Washington Street in Penacook, it ended seven years of coordinated efforts.
Rodriguez, of Bill’s Roofing in Manchester, was one of the many workers who helped restore the historic aspects of the building, which is now used by the Merrimack Valley School District’s Facilities Department. Decades ago, the Town of Concord sold the old fire hall to the Merrimack Valley School District for a dollar, a purchase price with conditions.
“The act requires the school district to maintain the building and keep it genuine,” said Fred Reagan, Merrimack Valley facilities manager. “It has historical value and we are legally obligated to take care of it. ”
In 2014, members of the Penacook Historical Society were looking at the village rooftops and taking pictures. Someone noticed that the slate roof and some of the wood trim on the pipe tower, an 85-foot-tall structure once used to hang fire hoses, looked rough. They called on Reagan to launch a plan of action.
MVSD funded the restoration, which was carried out to the highest standards of historic preservation, according to contractor Rob Zielinski of Z Design.
The job lasted five months with Zielinski and Paul Donaghey from Canterbury doing most of the carpentry. Day after day, workers and historic conservatives have climbed the blue scaffolding to get to work. Bill’s Roofing of Manchester did all slate and copper work using reclaimed slate to match the original. Preservation carpenter Mark Hopkins reproduced the triangular vents in his Canterbury workshop. And restoration mason Krystal Fortin cleaned and repointed the bricks, carefully respecting the color and content of the original lime mortar.
Much of the crew had worked together at Concord last year on the restoration of the Kimball Jenkins Mansion in 1882. This project won a Preservation Achievement Award from the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance.
The arrangement between the Merrimiack Valley School District and the city states that when the school district ceases to use the building, it returns to the city.
The 1,500-pound brass bell, made by William Blake and Company of Boston, Massachusetts, still hangs in the tower. Historian and Penacook Historical Society board member Ruth Speed has learned that the bell, which was used to rally volunteer firefighters, was hoisted to the top of the tower by a team of horses. In 1883, residents of Penacook raised $ 760 at a two-day fundraising fair to purchase the finely crafted bell, according to Speed.
However, the original bell clapper – the part inside that swivels to ring the bell – is missing, replaced by a swivel hammer. “We think we know who might have the fighter,” Reagan said. “If we find it, we’ll put it back in the bell and ring the bell for everyone.” ”
And that weather vane on it? This, along with four metal ventilation tips, were carefully reproduced by William Day of BD Welding & Fabrication in Boscawen. The originals, too fragile to withstand another hundred years, will be handed over to the Société historique de Penacook to be presented to the public.
Historian and filmmaker Althea Barton is a member of the board of directors of the Penacook Historical Society. She is also the Director of Outreach and Development for Kimball Jenkins.