Dunbarton Town Hall restoration project moves into second phase
DUNBARTON — The original oak staircase resident Bill Zeller slid down as a child and as an adult, leads to the second floor of Town Hall.
“As I got older I got better at it,” said Zeller, 76.
Zeller remembers the school pageants and concerts held on the second-floor stage, and the shows put on by the adults.
“I went to school in Dunbarton. We played hide and seek and kick the can around Town Hall. It was my playground,” he said. “The grange met there. There was a secrecy in the grange. There’s a hole in the back door and as kids we would peek in there to see what the adults were doing.”
When Zeller served as principal of the elementary school, he was responsible for building the fires to keep concert-goers warm.
“I would bring my sixth-grade students up there and allow them to ride down (the staircase). I would, too,” he said. “I’m so anxious to have (the second floor) restored and use the stage again. Not just for nostalgic reasons but it’s the only stage in town.”
The second floor of the 1909 Town Hall, which had been used by many community groups, has been closed to the community for more than 20 years because of building and safety code requirements such as outdated lighting, plumbing, the sprinkler system and American Disability Act compliance.
A movement to restore the second floor began in 2009 when the Town Hall and Theatre Restoration Project Committee was created. Since then, the community and the committee have brainstormed ideas, received grants, raised money and identified the existing conditions that need to be met. In completing phase one, CMK Architects of Manchester has developed a proposed floor plan and design, taking into account ADA and building code requirements, and maintaining the character of the building.
“We have all this great information. Now, we have to do phase two and come up with the final design,” said Tiffany Dodd, committee chairman “Phase two will give us detailed drawings and that will give us a guaranteed maximum price. Our goal is to bring access to the second floor, bring it up to code and return it as the heart of the community.”
While the refurbished first floor has been home to the Dunbarton Library since 1995, the windows are the only upgrade to the second floor since 1909.
The idea is to build a two-story, 34-foot by 17-foot addition on the back of Town Hall for an elevator and a main staircase; build a second floor rest room; new sprinkler system, electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling and lighting; and possibly a kitchenette for refreshments. When the work is complete, a new library entrance through Town Hall’s front door will be built.
The committee has about $100,000 in reserves, which includes $25,000 approved by voters in March for the second floor restoration, grant money, pledges from supporters and about $5,000 from a $3,500 match campaign sponsored by the Dunbarton Library trustees.
“Right now, many of our children commute to Bow, Goffstown or Concord for after-school activities. How attractive to be able to provide similar experiences right in our hometown?” said Colleen Madden, library trustee. “Before the second floor was closed to the general public, it was the cornerstone of Dunbarton.”
Arts on the Common
The Dunbarton Arts on the Common takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, May 10, and Sunday, May 11. Proceeds from the event will go toward the Town Hall and Theatre Restoration Project. About 100 artisans are expected to attend. There will also be a beer-tasting tent and live entertainment.