WEST PARIS — Five stage curtains from the former West Paris Grange were rolled up and taken to Vermont this week as American Legion Post 151 prepares to take over the building.

The century-old curtains became available when the West Paris Grange disbanded and put the building up for sale. It was recently purchased by Legion post.

“It’s a whole set that the Grange is giving to the town of Wardsboro,Vt.,” said Christine Hadsel, director of the Curtains Without Borders conservation project.

The painted curtains are found in town halls, Grange halls, theaters and opera houses and were generally painted between 1890 and 1940. The Vermont-based Curtains Without Borders project documents and preserves historic painted scenery.

The project has logged hundreds of stage curtains across northern New England, including more 150 in Maine. Locally, they are in the Norway Grange 45 Hall, the Excelsior Grange 5 in Poland, Lakeside Grange 63 in Harrison, North Jay Grange 10, West Minot Grange and the Androscoggin Grange Hall in Greene.

On Tuesday, volunteers from Wardsboro removed the tacks from the roller of the grand drape in the former West Paris Grange on Church Street and packed it up to transport back to the small Vermont town, which lost its stage curtains 50 years ago. Some of the curtains will be conserved and hung in the town hall.

“It’s not often that the curtains get moved,” Hadsel said. In fact, she recalled only two or three times that any of the stage curtains have been moved from their original sites.

In this case the arrangement was made as part of the sale agreement between the Grange and the Legion, which had to clear space for renovations.

The Wardsboro group will apply for grant money to have Borders Without Curtains personnel conserve the curtains. Three of the curtains, lighting equipment and the teaser, which was a short curtain of about 18 inches in depth used to hide the rollers, and other fixtures on the stage will be hung. The other two damaged curtains will be cleaned and wrapped for long-term storage.

The curtains were painted by Charles H. Huiest, who was born in New York City in 1854 of Franco-Germanic parentage. According to Hadsel, Huiest  painted scenery at Rand’s Hall and the Griswold Opera House in Troy, N.Y. He also painted large scenic billboards, which were a new advertising venue at the time.

In addition to the curtains in West Paris, he produced scenery in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Columbia, Maine, she said.

She said the West Paris curtains will hang 10 miles from Huiest’s other stage curtains in Troy, N.Y.

His work is considered as good as the larger scenic studios in Boston, New York or Chicago, according to Hadsel. The “View of the Rhine” was one of his favorite subjects, along with Dunluce Castle in Ireland and more generic rural scenes, such as “November Twilight.”

The great-grandchildren of Huiest will be invited in the fall to see the rehung curtains in Vermont, Hadsel said.

American Legion Post 151 sold its building in 1990 to the Finnish-American Heritage Society when post membership dwindled. With a membership now up to 30 or so active members, the Legion felt the time was right for a new home.

The American Legion will host an open house from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 26, to show off its new headquarters, including the stage area where the curtains once hung.

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