WATERFORD — The restoration of the arched westerly entrance to Elm Vale Cemetery is being completed.
In July, selectmen signed a contract with Phil Jendrick of PDJ Construction of Waterford to replace rotted pieces, repaint and reroof the wood structure. It is about 25 feet tall and 24 feet wide, and is the newer of the two archways that lead into the cemetery on Sweden Road.
For Jendrick, the work has been an opportunity to work on a unique project and restore an piece of history in his hometown.
“There are gravesites from the 1700s,” he said. “It’s pretty unique. You don’t get that on every job site. It’s not every day you get to restore a piece of history in your own town.”
He said he hopes to wrap up the project with his crew in the next several weeks.
Work to repair rotted bases on the west entrance began several years ago. Once the base was unearthed by James M. Long and Sons of Waterford and his crew in February of 2013, they found only one post of the four-post structure was still attached.
Once the arch was stabilized, a decision had to be made whether to replace the footing with vinyl or wood before painting could be done. It was decided to keep the restoration project true and trim the base with wood.
Jendrick, who started his part of the project last week, said most of the distinctive dentil molding was in good shape, but some wood had to be replaced.
Cemetery Superintendent Bill Haynes said Jendrick’s portion of the project cost $11,115. All the money for the project came from fundraising in the town.
“When this is completed, we will begin fundraising for the restoration of the easterly archway, which is older,” said Haynes. “It had been restored in the late 1980s.”
The easterly entrance was repaired about 13 years ago. Although it leans slightly, it is considered to be in fairly good shape. The westerly archway is the newer of the two.
The cemetery is the resting ground for Charles Farrar Browne, better known as Artemus Ward, the 19th century humorist and contemporary of Mark Twain. Browne passed away in England in 1867 and was moved to Maine in a soldered metal casket. It was put on a two-seated spring wagon for transport to the cemetery, according to a 1915 newspaper story about Browne.