Press-Republican

Local News

June 20, 2009

Volunteers working to re-raise the Grange

WHALLONSBURG — Almost all the chewing gum stuck under the folding chairs was gray, circa 1950 or '60.



No pink, no raspberry blue or purple wads.



Construction volunteer Mary Burke made the observation with a rather droll grin as she hoisted another 40-pound, three-seater bench over the balcony railing.



It was probably 100 degrees up there.



There were piles of the seats — each in near-perfect condition — under a generation of dust (and some gum).



"Here we go," Mary said, gripping the line, lowering the next folded bench over the balcony with the help of her husband, Tim, to Bill Johnston on the floor below.



They were among about 10 volunteers helping that day, as renovation of the former Whallonsburg Grange got under way.



Four local organizations are working together to rejuvenate the building for use as a community center.



UNCOVERED

In a matter of hours, the foam drop ceiling had been torn down. The proscenium of the stage opened another five feet in height.



Windows behind the balcony, hung with cobwebs, poured light onto the grange floor for the first time in some 40 years. It spilled over railings marred with antique graffiti.



"Wow," was pretty much all anyone said as they walked through the front door.



The second ceiling came down the next day, with 10 more volunteers pushing restoration right to the pine rafters.



It was the dirty work, tearing through some 95 years of construction in Phase 2 restoration at the Grange Hall, a process that continues this summer on various volunteer fronts.



About $50,000 has been raised so far to help pay for new electrical wiring, lights, engineering, materials and some construction labor.



BUILT IN 1915

The building, a barn-shaped community hall with a big basement kitchen and stage, was originally built in 1915.



In 1933, it was lifted and turned to make room for the road.

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