Walsh gives update on Rockingham Meeting House


ROCKINGHAM -- The town's Selectboard held its traditional annual meeting at the Rockingham Meeting House on Tuesday and Development Director Francis "Dutch" Walsh delivered his yearly report on the historic building.

Walsh said the structure is in excellent condition and told the Rockingham Selectboard that a statement made in 1915 by a man named Lyman Hayes still rings true today. Walsh said the Meeting House, which is in continuous use and open to the public, remains one of the finest examples of Colonial church architecture in New England.

The Meeting House was erected in 1787 and declared a national historic landmark in 2000. It also neighbors a cemetery.

The development director said the Meeting House has seen 290 visitors since Memorial Day. He said 130 of those guests represented 25 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom. Four of the visitors, Walsh said, were professors of architecture from Williams College and Yale University. Walsh told the Selectboard one professor said the building was "the most perfect and majestic Meeting House they have ever seen."

According to a memorandum from Walsh, the Meeting House's entire exterior was painted in July 2013. Plans to replace materials include the sills on the west door and center entrance door on the building's south side and the wood skirt beneath the center entrance door.

Walsh's memo states the 15th Annual Roots On The River festival was performed at the Meeting House in June and a pre-concert inspection conducted by Bruce Martin, a regional manager of the Vermont Division of Fire Safety, on May 30 produced satisfactory results. Also, the town monitors the plaster on the walls and the ceiling.

The Annual Pilgrimage to the Meeting House this year was held on Aug. 3 and featured the return of the Rockingham Anthology, a collection of fictionalized accounts of people important to Rockingham's past. Walsh told the Selectboard the pilgrimage was well attended. He also said Carroll Simonds and Winston Merrill continue to act as docents and greet visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day from May to October.

Walsh told the Selectboard there is a monthly checklist that acts as a preventative maintenance measure.

"We do this because we don't want there to be in a situation where we've been in the past, where all of a sudden we have a huge expense," he said Tuesday. "We're trying to keep the building in the kind of shape it is in now so that the town doesn't have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to fix something."

Walsh mentioned the division of fire safety was concerned that the building's doors have an inability to remain open. This could prove tragic if there was an emergency during a Roots on the River festival or similar event in the structure. Walsh said he researched the particular latch that was recommended, but they cost $35 a piece and four were needed. He said he went to J&H Hardware in The Square and purchased 79-cent latch hooks and placed them at the bottom of the Meeting House's doors because they would not cause any damage to them. Regional Manager Martin seemed satisfied when he inspected them, Walsh said.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.


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