Restoring the Rockingham Meeting House
ROCKINGHAM -- One of the oldest public buildings still in existence in Vermont, the Rockingham Meeting House, built in 1787, may last a little longer thanks to repairs done on the building.
Plaster repairs on the building have been completed, and a workshop will be held in January to teach anyone interested how to do their own repairs.
The building had little chunks falling off, and there were areas where the plaster was sagging, said Malin Deon the town of Rockingham's Certified Local Government coordinator.
"The repairs that we did were to about 1,800 square feet of the ceiling in the Rockingham Meeting House," said Deon. "The plaster there was the original plaster from the late 18th century when the Meeting House was built."
The Historic Preservation Commission received a matching grant from the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation for the repairs covering half of the total cost with the town contributing the rest. The total cost for the plaster repairs was $47,090 with more work still to be done.
"I've been fixing plaster for almost 30 years now," said Rory Brennan, preservation plaster professional from Brattleboro.
The Rockingham Meeting House has had almost nothing done to it since 1906, he said.
Brennan said he has worked on buildings such as the Vermont and Massachusetts State Houses.
"He stabilized all the plaster, filled in areas where plaster was missing and he did it all in a manner that was keeping with the historic nature of the building," said Deon.
She said Brennan will hold a workshop to teach anyone interested how to properly repair plaster on a particular building. The plaster repair workshop will be held in the Women's Club Room in the basement of the town hall on Jan. 21 at noon.
Deon said he will lead a three-hour-long workshop to explain how plaster works.
"It will be suitable for people that don't know anything about plaster, then he will go into some more advanced topics," she said.
Brennan said he will teach people the differences between modern plaster systems and 1800 or 1900 plaster systems. Through the workshop, he will also explain the most efficient ways of dealing with plaster issues and how to get it to last longer. If done right, he said, the plaster can last for hundreds of years.
Brennan said he will also have mock ups and slideshows for the workshop.
He developed an adhesive to fix plaster repair which he used on the 1787 Rockingham Meeting House. He said it takes about half the time of a conventional plaster repair.
He said plaster repairers typically use tape on the surface to cover up any cracks or the repairs, which takes more time. With his adhesive, there doesn't have to be work on the surface.
"You're actually fixing what's wrong with it," said Brennan. "It will stabilize the plaster and keep it from falling down."
He said the adhesive goes behind the plaster and in front of the lath. A lath is a very thin, sometimes narrow strip of wood or other material often used in plaster repairs.
Brennan said gluing the two together turns the plaster back into one unbroken piece of plaster.
Deon said there are plans to do more plaster repair in the spring.
"We need to whitewash all the plaster that will make it look shiny and new," she said.
They will also repair other areas that could be filled in or stabilized and anything that needs to do on the lower levels.
Deon said they will also complete clapboard repair which they have spent about $5,000 on so far.
The adhesive work has to be done when weather is freezing so they can't do anything in the cold months, she said.
This winter they will look for more grants to lead to more funds for further stages of repair, said Deon.
Carter Vanderhoof can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311 ext. 277.
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