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Kingston building recruited for new HGTV show

KINGSTON - TV star Bronson Pinchot knows a lot about acting, but he also knows what it takes to preserve pieces of history.

Dismantling a historic building, he says, is an art.

"I always tell my guys you have to use your ears more than you use your hands. If a piece of wood starts to creak, you stop so it doesn't break. You pick a different angle, a different tool, call over someone with more experience," said Pinchot, host of DIY network's "The Bronson Pinchot Project."

Pinchot is in discussions with Kingston town officials about the possibility of featuring the town-owned Grace Daley House on a new show in pre-production called "Bronson Pinchot Saves America."

The show would feature buildings constructed before the mid-1800s that are dismantled, with materials being used for other building restorations.

Pinchot, best known for his role as Balki Bartokomous on the popular sitcom "Perfect Strangers" in the 1980s and 1990s, said he learned about the fate of the Grace Daley House after putting out a call on the Facebook page for "The Bronson Pinchot Project" for buildings from 1840 or earlier that were facing the wrecking ball or being redeveloped. A fan sent him information about the house, prompting him to contact selectmen.

Voters earlier this month decided to tear down the house on Main Street rather than invest $150,000 to renovate the building. It was built in 1834 and now houses a thrift shop operated by a nonprofit organization.

Pinchot said that between "The Bronson Pinchot Project" for DIY network and the new show, which will likely air on HGTV, he's always on the hunt for pre-Civil War structures. He's especially interested in Greek Revival and Federal-style architecture.

Pinchot is now reviewing photographs of the building's interior and producers for the show are expected to discuss the project further with town officials.

"If it looks like it is going to work for both sides, they will talk dates and permits and logistics," Pinchot said.

Pinchot has enjoyed restoring buildings ever since he was 8 years old and fixed up an old gardener's shed in his backyard.

"I find it very moving, to be frank. We recently rescued an early 19th century cupola from, I'm guessing, a meetinghouse, that was rusting and rotting in a parking lot in Maine. We shored her up and smoothed out her blisters and fitted her out with wavy glass windows and made her ship-shape, then lifted her onto an early 19th century house with a giant lift. And when she sat perfectly on the saddle we'd built to receive her on the roof, we all gasped," he said. "She was in her glory on a beautiful old house overlooking a lovely meadow and creek, and I thought of her rotting in the parking lot and I shed a few tears of happiness, if you want to know the truth."

Through the restoration work, Pinchot said those involved with the projects develop a "mental dialogue" with the carpenters that built the structure, those who have lived there, and with the house itself.

"You let it know that you are taking it out of harm's way, and you ask it to work with you. And you admire the workmanship and you honor it. It's got a soul," he said.