The Garrison Players Arts Center, located in the former Hiram R Roberts Grange
on Rte. 4 in Rollinsford, NH.
“Every now and then an opportunity comes along..”
Once upon a time…
The Garrison Players acquired this wonderful old building in 1988. At that time it had been allowed to sink into disrepair and had not been used at all for more than 10 years.
The Building was first built in 1895 as a grange hall designed by the noted architect Alvah Thurston Ramsdell. He was a popular architect of that time period, building more than 100 area homes …. and many other buildings which survive today: The Rollinsford Town Hall, The chapel at Pine Hill Cemetery, the old Strafford Bank Building where Crescent City Bistro and other businesses are now located, the former junior high school in Dover, next to the library, and many more.
When GP first got the building (or the building got us) we raised enough money to have the building lifted up, and a full foundation poured underneath. It was definitely in need, as the back end was sinking.
The back end of the building, which includes where the stage begins, was added in the 1920’s, and not done as well. GP also added the first of four new roofs….. but that’s another story.
The years went by, and Garrison Players worked as we could on restoring this space. We removed the old cracked plaster and tore out all the lathe and then removed all the old nails, one by one!
We were energized with a $180,000 matching grant from the NH Land and Community Heritage Project. GP was able to match the funds with grants, donations, yard sales, plays …. And the heritage project was kind enough to consider all the funds we’ve raised since acquiring the building.
Tom Dunnington and a few (very few) helpers filled in every crevice to create fire stops and framed everything that needed framing. Then the building was wired and plumbed (didn’t have either) and sheet metal for heat and air conditioning was run. Then the building was insulated with spray insulation all the way to the roof peaks.
Next came sheetrock ….. hundreds of sheets of sheetrock….. lovingly installed by contractor Gary Avery who learned a few new tricks in this room, like how to deal with curves.
Then came the paint, gallons and gallons and gallons of paint, most of which has been applied by Barbara Dunnington …. With a little help from a few of us along the way. All the old woodwork was of course removed, sanded, primed, painted and reinstalled in an effort to preserve as much of the original character of the building.
A very expensive alternative exit was added to meet code, and the building has been sprinkled (although not connected to anything as yet) …. That’s another $50,000 project because there is no municipal water service here.
But we have a 620 foot well, and a commercial septic system.
We’ve added bathrooms (the old three holer is gone) and a modern galley kitchen. The basement now has storage and a “green room” for the actors.
A wonderful brick walkway curves around the building… and the outside has been repaired and painted.
All of this is to say, that many years, many thousands of hours of volunteer effort and much money has gone into preserving this grand old building and creating a wonderful performance space.