Saturday, November 20, 2010
Completion of the first step of a multi-year project to preserve and restore the UMH rare and beautiful windows
READFIELD -- The historic Readfield Union meeting House this week completed the first step of a multi-year project to preserve and restore its rare and beautiful windows. Thanks from a grant from The National Historic Preservation Commission in Boston the exterior casings of the five most endangered windows were scraped, primed and painted and then covered with clear UV-resistant Lexan sheets. The work was done by a master craftsman, Joseph Caputo of East Pittston who is knowledgeable about historic buildings.
The Brick Church has 17 windows, the majority of which have not been painted and cared for in over 140 years. Some contain unusual colorful non-leaded stenciled glass panes while others are of more traditional stained glass of the Arts and Crafts era. The stenciled glass windows are most unusual, with only one other church in Maine have examples of this uusual mid-19th centiry craftsmanship. They were installed when the Meeting House was remodeled in 1866-68.
The National Trust Emergency Intervention Fund paid for half of the total cost, with the remainder coming from income the Meeting House received this year from its initial membership drive. "With restoration expected to reach into the six figures, the Meeting House Board wishes to recognize the kindness of both new members and the National Trust for making this advance possible," said Meeting House Board President Marius B. Peladeau of Readfield.
For the current project the casings were carefully scraped to the bare wood. Samples were taken of the original paint so that it could be matched exactly. New primer and paint was applied. The Lexan was then carefully cut to fit into the arched window opening. Two sheets had to be used so that a horizontal rail could be placed at the middle to mimic the meeting rail of the two original sashes. Before the Lexan was screwed on spacers were placed around the casing so that the plastic sheets do not rest directly on the casing. This will allow condensation, which will form when sun strikes the cold Lexan, to dissapate through weep holes at the top and bottom.
To make the installation as unobtrusive as possible the round molding which forms a visual transition between the casing and brick wall was also allowed to show so that the original architect's intentions have not been violated. In all, three windows in the facade and two in the apse were completed this fall.
"Now that the windows are closed in from the weather with the Lexan, the Board will now try to raise funds so that the badly deteriorated sashes can be taken out from the inside and removed to a restorer's workshop this winter to be rebuilt, painted and reglazed," Peladeau added. Most of the large windows will cost up to a $1,000 to rehabilitate, but some of the smaller sashes can be restored for $300 to $400. Anyone willing to "adopt" a window should contact the Meeting House at 685-4537.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
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The work on five of the Meeting House windows was completed in November. Thanks to a matching grant from The National Trust for Historic Preservation the casings were restored and repainted and UV-resistant Lexan placed over the openings to preserve the sashes. They will be taken out and restored later as funds become available. If anyone wishes to adopt a window there are only 12 left to go!
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In November the Meeting House Board appeared before the Readfield Select Board requesting that the Town sign a Letter of Intent to the Office of Economic Development so that the UMH could apply in January 2011 for a Community Development Block Grant to assist in the Meeting House’s restoration. The Meeting House thanks the Select Board for voting unanimously to support the application.
To meet Federal grant guidelines there must be a legally advertised Public Hearing on the proposal so that everyone may comment. The legal notice will appear in the Kennebec Journal at least ten days before the Select Board’s next meeting on December 20th. At that time the public is invited to attend, learn about the UMH’s aims and make any comment they wish. Anyone not able to make that meeting may come to the UMH Board meeting on Thursday, December 9th and obtain information on the project.
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After the very successful Dave Mallett concert in August, Board member Flo Drake has heard from a number of musical groups wishing to appear at the Meeting House next summer. After listening to a demo CD the Board voted to invite one of the groups to give a benefit concert for the Meeting House next July. Look for more details. Also, as a reminder we wish to advise that brides wishing to book the Meeting House for a wedding in 2011 should be in touch shortly, as well as those hoping to hold some sort of cultural, musical or religious service. The Board has formulated a new, clearer policy for the public’s use of the building and it will be happy to mail a copy to anyone who is interested.
Friday, November 5, 2010
2. The only surviving Trompe l'oeil Art done by Charles J. Schumacher in the 19th century (of his 51 creations).
3. Only one other church in Maine has rare stenciled glass windows. Those at Union Meeting House are more striking in design
4. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982
5. In 2009 a small group of volunteers came together and made the committment to restore and preserve this National treasure for future generations.
But when one enters, it is the interiors - the sanctuary, apse and choir loft that makes people say "wow". Yes people can travel to Pompeii or Italy or to the great cathedrals of France, Germany and Austria and see examples of Trompe l'oeil murals. But why spend all that time and money when one of the finest examples of the art, as practiced in mid-nineteenth century America, can be found in Readfield, a small rural community a few miles from Maine's state capital of Augusta? For both the classic exterior and the striking interior the "Brick Church" was placed on The National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Charles J. Schumacher's trompe l'oeil murals give the appearance of columns, arches, and wall plaques while in reality the effect is achieved totally with paint on the flat plaster walls. The apse is only four feet deep yet Schumacher has painted receding arched colonnade that seems to go on forever. It is a masterful optical illusion.
The black walnut and butternut pews, stained glass windows, kerosene chandelier, the wall sconces, painted ceiling, and the lectern are all original. The original Bible also survives.
Think of Readfield without the Union Meeting House which sets Readfield apart from all the surrounding towns and gives it a panache that is unmistakable. It is historic, artistic, cultural, and also serves as a community gathering place.
Please support simply because you know it needs support.
We invite you to assist in restoring this cultural landmark through your donations, gifts in kind and / or membership. We also need volunteers and would appreciate hearing from you!
Secure online donations via the Network for Good web site.
Donations and membership dues can also be mailed to:
Readfield Union Meeting House
158 Thorp Shores
Readfield, Maine 04355.
Membership Annual Dues:
Single $25.00 Family $45.00 Student $15.00 Patron $75.00
Benefactor $100.00 Sponsor $150.00
Life Fellow $250.00 Corporate $250.00
If you have questions, wish to arrange for a tour or would like to request brochures email: UnionMeetingHouse@gmail.com
The Readfield Union Meeting House Company is a charitable entity incorporated in 1828 under the laws of the State of Maine. It is also a 501(c)(3)non-profit organization and all donations are tax dedutible to the full extent allowed by I.R.S. regulations.
Wish List: Volunteers (contact us to see what specific needs are); 8.5x11 paper; business envelopes; 44cent stamps;
READ ON TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE UNION MEETING HOUSE
The only source of income has been a dedicated group of volunteers who, for the past 60 years, have worked with the Board of Directors to raise funds for ongoing maintenance. In recent years the income has not been sufficient to undertake needed repairs. We are inaugurating a membership program and initiating a capital fund drive to build an endowment to preserve Union Meeting House.
When talking about a historic building, especially one with a steeple, stained glass, old brickwork, and an interior that is a work of art, the expenses are high. We thank the older generations for preserving the church intact, yet it is a weighty burden. Since the building is on the National Register of Historic Places both state and federal agencies keep watch to make certain nothing is done to downgrade the Union Meeting House and its famous interior. The standards for restoring a historic building are stringent and the Union Meeting House Board of Directors is well aware of the responsibilities that rest on its shoulders.
About 40 years after the "Brick Church" was completed the congregation decided to hire an architect to redesign the interior so it would look more appropriate for the mid-Victorian period. An artist, Charles J. Schumacher of Portland was hired to do the interior decoration. In his lifetime he completed 51 buildings in Maine but today the Readfield Union Meeting House is the only one that survives intact. Imagine if Rembrandt has created 51 painting and a mere single example had come down to us today?
After Schumacher finished his work, stylist carpet, handsome black walnut and butternut pews seating over 300, a large cast iron chandelier and matching wall scones were installed. Bright non-leaded colored stenciled glass" windows were added. These are most unusual, found only in one other church in Maine. A new pulpit and matching chairs for the minister and two deacon's chairs in the Gothic Revival style were purchased. The choir was remodeled into a loft space, with a curved, artificially grained frontal painted to approximate butternut and walnut, therby linking the choir to the sanctuary and pews. One can picture the choir members enfolded in this artfully designed space lending their voices to the prayers of the worshipers. The original pump organ that was in the choir loft still exists and has been restored.
Monday, November 1, 2010
accumulate on the wooden casing and rot the wood. Once the Lexan in installed it will protect the newly painted casings from the weather and allow the later removal of the window sashes for extensive restoration.
The UMH Board was pleased in October to host members of the Meggison family from out-of-state. The two brothers and one sister are all direct descendents of the Nickerson family (after which Nickerson Hill Road is named). After a tour of the Meeting House they kindly offered to pay for the needed restoration of the Nickerson family window at the Meeting House. The $1,000 cost will be donated over a period of three years. We thank the Meggisons for this most generous gesture and we also thank our Advisory Board member, Evelyn A. Potter, for the genealogical research that allowed us to be in touch with the current members of this historic, old Readfield family. In all, the Brick Church has seventeen windows so persons interested in adopting a window, and memorializing their family with a plaque, are encouraged to get it touch with the Board.
Mrs. Rochelle Bohm of Bangor, a staff member of Maine Preservation, the statewide citizens group working so hard to develop an awareness of historic buildings, came to Readfield in October to meet with the Board and to give it the benefit of her experience. All the Board members felt it was a profitable meeting and will be working to implement some of Mrs. Bohm's suggestions. Both Maine Preservation and the Maine
Historic Preservation Commission have strongly urged the Union Meeting House to apply for a Historic Preservation Community Block Grant that could be used to assist in the restoration of the building. The Board has been in touch with Town Manager, Code Enforcement Officer, and Mrs. Gail Chase of the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments on this matter. The next steps are to schedule a public hearing in Readfield to allow for community input which, hopefully, will lead to Town approval at an upcoming Selectmen's meeting. The Town, which willl administer the grant, (if received), must send in its Letter of Intent in early December. The Public Hearting date will be announced in local newspapers and at the Town Office Bulletin Board. The UMH encourages all residents to attend and support the restoration of this local landmark building.
The cost of the renovation of the Brick Church and its continued maintenance is so large that private funds alone will not meet the expense. Grant funds will have to pay an important role in raising the necessary funds to do all the work that has been deferred for 25 years.
At its last meeting the Board nominated and elected Mrs. Barbara Boenke of Readfield to the Board. Barbara has been serving since early this year on the Advisory Board and it is a pleasure to welcome her as a full voting member of the Board. A former school teacher in Chicago and for the Department of Defense in Germany, she has also been a school librarian and a museum curatorial assistant. She and her husband, Warren,
moved to Readfield in 2004. They built a home at Camp Menatoma where they reside year-round.
So that everyone can know who is involved in the UMH, we list below the members of the Board and Advisory Board. Board: President Marius B. Peladeau, Secretary/Treasurer Donn Harriman, Barbara Boenke, Florence Drake, Joan Wiebe and Milton Wright. Advisory Board: Buzz Butler, Brianne McNally, Rev. Karen Munson
and Jack Smart.
Friday, October 1, 2010
In the past weeks people going up and down Church have noticed workmen around the building. When the professional assessment of the Meeting House was done a year ago, along with a host of other problems, it was mentioned that the repair of the rare stenciled glass and stained glass windows had been too long deferred. In fact there exists an old newsletter sent out in 1993 by Ernest Bracy, then Board president, that immediate work was needed on the sashes. Unfortunately not much was done 10 or 15 years ago although a couple of windows received some preliminary attention. The Church has 17 windows, some 12 feet tall with two 6 foot sashes. The Board felt it was desirable to start pecking away on the windows although its first and most important need at this point is to re-grade the site to prevent rain and snow melt from flowing into the basement and rotting the floor substructure. As a result, a contract was let in September to Joseph Caputo, a master builder in East Pittston, to start work on the five most endangered windows. These are the two in the apse and the three in the front of the church. His was the low bid and he is a thorough professional, having worked previously on old buildings. The Board had an earlier quote of over $2,500 to restore each of the three windows in the façade. It cannot afford this $7,500 cost at this time.
Therefore it was suggested that each of the window casings (the wooden frame that holds the sashes) be scraped, primed and painted in the authentic red/brown color has always distinguished the Meeting House, and then cover these repaired casings with Plexiglass. This would keep the weather away from the delicate, tender sashes and buy time until more money can be raised to take out the sashes and remove them to a restoration studio. There they could be stripped of old paint, the badly weathered wooden frames repaired and the old glass then inserted and reglazed. A final coat of primer and two of paint would finish the job. This major undertaking, to cost many thousands of dollars, will have to await a major fund-raising drive. But in the meantime the plexiglass covered will keep the sashes from further deterioration.
It should also be mentioned that the costs above are for the stenciled glass windows. The price quotes for the restoration of the stained glass windows is even more expensive. Fortunately, just as this “Messenger” was to go to press the Meeting House Board received word from The National Trust for Historic Preservation that it would provide the Meeting House with an “Emergency Intervention Grant” to cover the cost of Mr. Caputo’s work. The Meeting House will matcvh these funds by paying for the Plexiglass installation. The Trust’s Intervention Grants are for just such badly needed emergency repairs. It saves the five threatened windows from having to go through
another Maine winter unprotected.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
ANTIQUES APPRAISAL DAY SEPTEMBER 19
Bring all our old items for a professional appraisal at the Union Meeting House in Sunday, September 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A team of experts in different fields of antiques will be on hand to give you an idea of what you have collected or inherited from your family is worth in today’s antique market. For the modest fee of $10 for one item, $18. for two, and $25. for three, anyone can present their antique to the appraisal team. Among those scheduled to attend are Bruce Buxton of Portland, noted Maine auctioneer and appraiser who specializes in art, furniture, decorative arts, textiles and ceramics. Beth Turner of Damariscotta, certified by the Gemologist Institute of America, will handle all jewelry, and Brian Harding of Wells, a book dealer who has broad expertise in the field, will do books and paper items. Marius B. Peladeau of Readfield, a Fellow of The Company of Military Historians,will appraise antique militaria and firearms pre-1873. The appraisers are donating their travel and fees so that all income will go to help in the continued restoration of the Meeting House. It is recommended that persons bring antiques, not collectables and no bottles, coins or stamps. Everything else is fair game so bring something to test the appraisers’ knowledge and be rewarded with an up-to-date valuation of those old items you prize so much. Look to local papers for more details. For information in advance call 685-4537
Dave Mallet Concert a Great Success
The Board of the Meeting House thanks everyone who came to the Dave Mallet concert in August and made it such a success. Mr. Mallet was very appreciative of the enthusiastic crowd and the friendly reception he received. The church looked full and it was a perfect evening. A goodly sum was raised and it has been deposited into the Meeting House’s fund for restoration. Making the night a gala event was the result of a lot of hard work by a dedicated corps of volunteers. Due the greatest appreciation are Board member Flo Drake (the captain of the ship) and her husband, Bill (the first mate). Also helping man the ship were Board members Joan Wiebe, Secretary/Treasurer Donn Harriman
and President Marius B. Péladeau. At intermission a table full of sweets and drinks were available for a donation. Assisting in assembling this buffet by obtaining donated items were Advisory Board members Evelyn Potter and Holly Hock Dumaine, as well as The Country Moose. Ann Mitchell, Mildred Péladeau,Mrs. Drake and the Readfield Family Market, all of Readfield, the Old Post Office Café of Mt. Vernon, the Apple Shed Baker of Kents Hill, and Holly Randall of Fayette.
Most important were those who provided funds to help defray Mr. Mallett’s fee so that as much as possible of the tickets receipts would be pure profit. The Meeting Houses wishes to acknowledge especially (in alphabetical order): Savings Bank of Maine in Readfield, Attorney Stephen Hayes of Augusta, Dr. Philip Tedrick of Readfield and the Winthrop Credit Union.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
This spring an examination of the apse at the rear of the Brick Church revealed that bricks were falling out of the top northwest corner. If this was allowed to continue
the roof would have no support at that point. In addition it was found serious cracks had developed over the two windows and that all the mortar was badly eroded. Bids were solicited and the winning contractor, Jon Jennings of Forgotten Stoneworks in Manchester
and Hallowell, was retained to do the work. The Board of Director of the Brick Church is extremely pleased with his professional work, completed a few weeks ago, and now the apse is in good condition. However, this was an emergency, unexpected repair that was not budgeted and forced the Board to dip into its funds at a time when the money was earmarked elsewhere. Help the Union Meeting House restoration. Become a member. Call 686-4537 for more details on how you can assist the church.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
to do simple, easy things at the Meeting House we’d love to hear from you.
CONGRATULATIONS to Ann Harriman and Joshua Long who were married in a beautiful ceremony at the Meeting House on June 4th. We wish them a long and happy life together.
AND MORE CONGRATULATIONS to our neighbor, St. Andrews Episcopal Mission,which will be
celebrating its 50th anniversary very shortly. The UMH Board extends its sincere best wishes on reaching this important milestone.
With the flurry of envelopes coming in with membership donations it was surprising, one day, to get a notice from the Post Office that there was a box waiting for the UMH. In it was a membership check but also, carefully wrapped in tissue, a delicate, tiny teacup with a picture of the Union Meeting House on its side. It was sent by Rev. and Mrs. Peter Bridges. He was, some may remember, the first fulltime pastor when the five Readfield churches were united in 1961. The little cup was made by a transfer process in Germany at the turn of the last century. It has a piece of tape on the bottom stating it was a gift in 1907 “To Laura from Oremell (or Cremell) Hunton. Of course, Hunton is a good Readfield name but who was Oremell and who was Laura? The transfer was
obviously taken from a postcard in the UMH collection (gift of Holly Dumaine) that shows the exact same scene, even to the size of the trees on the lawn, which today are monster maples. Of course everyone recognizes that the cup and postcard show the Brick Church’s original spire on top of the steeple. It blew down in December 1916 and the current dome was built to cap the big hole that resulted. The Meeting House thanks Rev. Peter and Mary Ellen Bridges, who now live in Burlington, Vt., for remembering
their years in Readfield by this delicate gift.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
By now nearly everyone in Readfield has probably received a letter from the Union Meeting House announcing the commencement of its 2010 membership campaign. Since the mid-1980s practically no maintenance or restoration has taken place and so the building faces a number of serious challenges. If you wish to see it continue into the new century please consider becoming a member. We especially appeal to businesses in town for their assistance. The address to contact us is below. We are pleased at the number of Readfield residents and summer visitors who have responded already.
Those who have driven by the Brick Church have noticed a big change in the trees on the north side. They had grown so large and thick that that blocked sunlight and hindered the wind providing ventilation on that side. As a result moss was growing on the brick, which is not good for it and the dampness was accelerating the rotting of the 182-year-old windows sashes. Thanks to Dave Linton of ATL Tree Service the evergreens were trimmed and a large oak overhanging the roof was cut back. If that branch had broken off in a storm it would have done severe damage. The Board of the Meeting House thanks Mr. Linton for his several days of labor, which he donated at no charge. It is gesture such as this that encourages the Board to push ahead to try and save the building.
We are seeking very careful workmen to restore two of the window casings and sashes in the Church. Since the building is on the National Register of Historic Places only qualified persons should apply.
In April The Board and Advisory Board members did a clean-up of the outside and inside of the Church to prepare it for the upcoming summer season. Flowers were planted and the grounds look much better. There is a wedding scheduled in June and a Quaker Memorial service in July. If you want to book the Meeting House for a wedding, concert or other function let us know well in advance.
The Board also thanks Advisory Board member Joy Bonnefond for bringing some working from Kents Hill School to aid in the clean-up. It also thanks Rev. Karen Munson of Torsey Methodist Church, also on the Advisory Board, and Mrs. Tamara Stockwell, school librarian, for having students help with the membership mailing mentioned above. Their help is appreciated.
The Union Meeting House is seeking a careful, meticulous person to restore two windows at the Church. He/she must be able to replace glass, glaze, scrape,prime and paint both
sashes and casings. Some careful woodworking skills required. May lead to further
window work. Must be insured, give references and show examples of
previous work of this type. Call 685-4537.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
membership program and sent out occasional newsletters. On his death it lapsed but now the Board and Advisory Board have decided to resurrect the membership program since they have received inquiries on how citizens of Readfield and surrounding towns can support the Meeting House which so obviously shows it needs upkeep. We will have more details on the membership drive in our next report in the “Messenger.”
One of the big problems confronting the building is the lot on which it stands. Although at first glance it appears to be elevated on a little knoll, after 183 years water and snow coming off the roof has eroded a ditch at ground level. Thus, the water is not draining away from the building but is seeping back under the foundation and into the crawl space. This keeps everything under the floor very damp and, as a result, the framing timbers that hold up the floor are rotting and the floor and pews are sagging. In addition the way the lot slopes up rather than down in the back of the church causes rain water to flood into the basement.
Mr. Doug Riley, a talented professional civil engineer (at 22 Church Rd.), has most kindly offered his services to fix this problem. He will survey the lot and come up with a new site plan that will completely repitch the grade. Then, he will draw up a set of specifications so that the Meeting House can put out to bid the job of regrading the land. This will also necessitate the removal of a septic field at the front of the church which has too high a mound, and of pumping the septic flow up back into
the septic system in back of St. Andrews Mission. Hopefully local contractors will be able to come forward to do the work and help the Meeting House solve this serious problem. There is no use replacing the floor until we solve the dampness problem. It is obvious to all that since the floor holds up the walls, repairing the floor framing members is of the highest priority or else we stand the chance of damaging the beautiful painted murals on the walls.
The entire Board extends its deep appreciation to Mr. Riley for offering to do this work at no cost to the Meeting House. His extreme interest in saving the Meeting House is pleasing to the Board since it indicates that town folk recognize the importance of saving this building for future generations. While the Board is handing out thanks, it wants to mention that Ron Simons, the talented photographer on the Winthrop Road, known to all in town, has taken professional photographs of the Meeting House’s glorious interior. He also donated his services and this is much welcome. Naturally, every penny the Board can save can be applied to the restoration. Mr. Simon’s photographs will be
useful as the Board seeks funds to conserve the Brick Church. Having these pictures available to send to a Foundation far out of town shows what the Meeting House looks like much better than mere words. Thanks to Mr. Simons and Mr. Riley.