Work continues at Antrim Grange

  • The Antrim Grange house on Clinton Road. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/25/2021 1:00:59 PM

The Antrim Grange has been working since 2017 to get the wheels turning in its effort to refurbish its hall, and there seems to be some progress. 

Beth Merrill, secretary of the Antrim Grange, said the current goal is to get the foundation in working order, specifically under the northern area of the building. When work started, she said the group found that instead of minor foundation problems, the whole northern part of the building was sitting on the ground and rotting. 

Since then, that part of the structure has been under construction.

“The building has been open and exposed for several years now, between when we started it and now when we’re finally getting our ducks in a row,” Merrill said. “We just need to get it closed back up so that we don’t have elements, we’re not subject to the elements or animals.”

That is what’s on the table over the next few months, according to the stonemason under whose direction the work is being done, Andras Lazar. He hopes to finish and close up the east side of the building with stonework and woodwork before winter comes. 

“That’s what I’m shooting for – not planning to work here through the winter,” he said.

Lazar, who Merrill referred to as “an angel of mercy” more than once, became involved with the project after doing other stonemasonry work in the area and running into a Grange member, who asked him to check out the foundation. Over the years and despite the setbacks, he has kept going out of determination.

“I’m not one to give up on a project,” he said. “I don’t want to walk away. It’s important to me. If I started it, I want to at least try to be a part of the finishing of it, or to finish it.”

The process has been so long mostly due to funding setbacks, according to Merrill. Early on, the Grange received significant grants and community donations, but once the project got started, the group decided to pause in order to have a building assessment report drawn up in order to apply for more grants. That took months, and then when COVID-19 hit, that further delayed the project. 

“It’s a very overwhelming project for a small-member organization that is not a wealthy one,” said Merrill. 

But the building itself means a lot to the Antrim Grange, and to the surrounding community. The building was second floor of the original town hall, according to Merrill’s husband and Grange member Arthur Merrill, built in 1785 and moved to where it is now in 1832. This origin is part of the root of the foundation problems – the Grange Hall was not initially designed to sit on the ground.

The Grange bought the building in 1894 after having organized in 1883, and has owned the building ever since.

“Not a lot of Granges in the state that own their own building,” said Arthur. “So that’s kind of a thing of pride for us that we still own it – it’s part of the history of the town.”

Dawne Hugron, another member of the Grange, said she fondly remembers going to the hall when she was very young, and she hopes the work will be done soon, so that “the young people that are coming in as junior Grangers hopefully will have a place to come.”

Currently, the future of the project includes the Grange trying to shore up even more funding. The group submitted an application for a Land and Community Heritage Investment Program grant in the spring, and is hoping to hear back soon. Once Lazar finishes the current work, there’s more to be done. The building having been exposed has allowed moisture in, with the paint, plaster and other parts of the interior needing repairs. Plus, the roof will need to be replaced in the future.

But all of this work is being embraced by the Grange members as part of what it takes to protect this piece of town history.

“This Grange building to me is part of the story of Antrim,” Hugron said, “and where it sits right now is on a very small piece of land, but we’re trying very hard to make this Grange, this beautiful building, look beautiful again.”

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