NORWAY – A weather vane atop the historic Opera House clock tower on Main Street needs repairs, but even if there was money to do it, the question is how.

“I know it should be done, but I haven’t really studied how it can be done,” said Jim Bryant, a 70-plus-year-old resident of Wayne who is contracted by the town to keep the E. Howard clock ticking in the tower. “Short of a helicopter I’m not sure how you could get at it.”

Although there are no formal plans to restore the weather vane, Town Manager David Holt said he approached Bryant last spring and asked him to price the job.

Bryant has not yet done so, and with budgets being tight Holt said it’s improbable the job would be done without private or trust-fund money.

“It would be up to the voters, if that is something they would like to fund out of one of our trust funds or maybe one of our supportive groups would like to fund raise,” Holt said when asked this week about the idea.

The decorative copper and iron weather vane, one of only a few known 19th-century weather vanes left in Norway, most noticeably is missing its east and west directionals.

“It’s in disrepair,” said Bryant, who most recently completed the repair of the weather vane on top of Sturtevant Hall at Hebron Academy. The weather vane directionals have been gone since before he started working on the clock 10 years ago, he said. “If they landed on the street, probably some child has it in their bedroom.”

The history of the weather vane is not readily available, but it is assumed it was crafted after the bell tower was erected in 1894. It appears to be similar to those attributed to the J. Howard Co. in East Bridgewater, Mass., with its iron lightning rod, scrolled tail and arrow and is reminiscent of other weather vanes in the area including one on top of the nearby Unitarian Universalist Church on Main Street.

Bryant said he’s not sure how the weather vane was erected 100 years ago or more, although he’s pretty sure there was staging used.

Bryant is no stranger to heights. He is often seen hanging out of clock towers around the state and has, on occasion, worked on weather vanes using staging.

In the case of the Opera House, staging would be problematic because the only access would be from the street side and the three-phase wiring poses a great danger.

“The Catch-22 is how to get at it. It would take quite a crane,” Bryant said. “I’m not really a steeplejack. I hang on to nearly nothing, but not nothing.

“The reality is more with the structure than cosmetics,” said Bryant, referring to the severely damaged three-story brick edifice in the heart of downtown. “I don’t know what will happen.”

The building is owned by New Hampshire Realtor Barry Mazzaglia of Londonderry and has been closed since a partial roof collapse in September 2007. Two ground-floor businesses were forced to move because of heavy water damage, and the long-vacant upper floors have been partially shored up. Some officials have expressed fear that the back wall of the building is in danger of collapse.

Mazzaglia bought the Opera House for $225,000 in 2003 after it was placed on the state’s Most Endangered Historic Properties list by Maine Preservation of Portland. It is the anchor of Norway’s designated National Historic District. Built by the Norway Building Association in 1894, it was owned by the town from 1920 to the mid-1970s, and then by a succession of private owners for the past 30 years or so.

The ballroom and balcony on the upper floors played host to the community life of Norway, including concerts, balls, traveling minstrel shows, theater performances, National Guard musters, town meetings and high school graduation ceremonies. The top stories have been unused since a movie theater closed in the 1970s, and the five ground-floor storefronts have had occupants off and on over the years.


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