ANDOVER – Six years and counting, but
real progress is taking shape.

The nearly 150-year-old Andover Town
Hall is undergoing restoration and repair, thanks to the combined
efforts of several volunteers and about $70,000 so far from the town.

“This is a great building,” said
Elissa Thibodeau, chairwoman of the Town Hall Restoration Committee. She was covered in paint Monday as she
covered some of the trim.

Across the way, Freeman Farrington and
Jere Melzar were also rather paint-covered as they covered what was
once the small room where Andover residents voted. Now, that room will be used for
meetings, and voters will have lots more space in the hall’s large,
bright dining room.

The project began when more than three
dozen windows on the first and second floors were redone and
repainted. Since then, a core of about five
volunteers with help from many others every so often, have painted,
repaired and painted more.

In the second floor hall is one of the
most well-preserved canvas murals in the state, believed to be
created nearly 100 years ago. The velvet curtains on either side of
the 12- by 21-foot artwork have been cleaned and repaired by one
volunteer, and the ropes that roll it up and down have been replaced
by another.

Farrington and Melzar, among other
things, have also brought the oil tank up to code.

Farrington, Melzar and Thibodeau, along
with Kathy Richardson and Bradford Thibodeau, have given hundreds of
hours to the project.

“The community support has been
amazing,” Selectman Trudy Akers said.

So far, between $70,000 and $80,000 has
been appropriated at annual town meetings to fix up the town hall,  Thibodeau said.

“We hope to allocate some money every
year,” Akers said.

The hall is loved, she said. One year,
someone made a motion to close it during the winter months. That
motion was soundly defeated.

A major project, to repair the cupola
and clock at the top of the building, is currently under way. It is
one of the few projects that is not being done by volunteers.
Steeplejacks of Biddeford are working on it.

The town and the Restoration Committee
expect it to be done by Nov. 11. Then, a townwide celebration will be
held to honor the clock tower and bell during its 100th birthday.

Another project is replacement of the boiler in the
near future.

Over the years, the town hall has been
used by the now defunct Lone Mountain Grange, as a library, for art
shows and performances, as a meeting place for the Knights of
Pythias, and for a multitude of other events.

“We’d like to see it used more,” Thibodeau said. She said a town resident is interested
in searching for greater uses for the building. A committee with that
goal may be formed in the future.

Melzar said he enjoys working on the
building and giving something back to the town.

Thibodeau said the committee is taking
steps to get the town hall on the National Register of Historic
Places. A representative from the Maine Historic Preservation
Commission is expected to visit the hall, and several surrounding
historic structures, sometime within the next few days.

Thibodeau said the commission’s
representative has indicated that the hall may likely not qualify on
its own because of the vinyl siding on the exterior, but a
historic district that would include the nearby Congregational
Church, gazebo and Andover Historical Society building as well as the
town hall may qualify.

Replacement of the siding is one of the
committee’s many long-term projects Thibodeau said.

“This is a lifelong project,” she
said.

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Elissa Thibodeau, chairwoman of the Town Hall Restoration committee, stands outside the historic structure. The cupola, clock and tower are being repaired. When done later this year, the town will celebrate the 100th birthday of the tower.

Jere Melzar, Freeman Farrington and Elissa Thibodeau unroll and measure the canvas mural believed to be nearly a 100 years old in the meeting room of the Andover Town Hall. The curtains that surround the mural and the rope that rolls and unrolls the mural have been repaired. One long-term project is to have the mural professionally restored.


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