Andover Congregational Church tries to raise $200,000 for grange hall restoration

  • Joyce and John Bourdon walk on the second floor of the Highland Grange Hall in Andover Friday. This section of the 166 year old building is in need of serious repair.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Andover Congregational Church is raising funds to restore the local Highland Grange Hall. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Highland Grange Hall in Andover was built as a school in 1850 and is heavily used as a community space today. It is owned by the Andover Congregational Church.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Flowers sit ready to be sold during a fundraiser Saturday to help restore the Highland Grange Hall in Andover. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Andover Congregational Church bought the Highland Grange Hall in 1991 and has been working to restore it for 10 years. ELODIE REED / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Friday, May 06, 2016

Joyce and John Bourdon are retired Andover residents, so they figured, why not help restore their local grange hall?

“I’ve got nothing else to do,” John joked Friday.

The building, initially built as a school in 1850 and used as a space for numerous community events today, is in its 10th year of intensive restoration. It was bought by the next-door Andover Congregational Church in 1991, and through vigorous volunteer work and fundraising by church members, the Highland Grange Hall now has a functioning toilet, a kitchen and basement, heat, and beams that aren’t about to buckle – yet.

All of this has been completed by the church’s restoration committee, which the Bourdons have led for the past four years. Joyce is a church member, and her husband is a handyman and engineer who built the Andover church’s steeple.

As for the grange hall, Joyce said, “It’s safe and usable.” Last summer, they helped ensure it could stay open all-year round by complying with several fire departments requests, including upgrades to the electrical work, new emergency lighting, a staircase in the back of the building and clearing out the less-than-stable second-floor hall.

“We kind of got a reprieve,” John said.

Now, though, they face perhaps the biggest hurdle: rais

ing an estimated $200,000 to replace the building’s roof, posts and beams, repair its second floor, right the foundation and, hopefully, get the cupola to not lean as much.

On Friday, Bourdon stood on the old, rickety second floor hall, which has been totally cleared as a safety precaution. A hole in the ceiling sat right over a temporarily strengthened beam.

“The timbers, believe it or not, were previously used in some other structure – like most other places in New Hampshire,” John said. “After 150 years they’re really not in a good condition.

“What are we going to do now to fix it permanently?” he asked. “We need money.”

The amount – $200,000 – is the worst case scenario, John said. The church is continuously fundraising through yard sales, bake sales and other events.

In the meantime, the Bourdons and other volunteers make what little repairs they can: tearing down old wallpaper and painting the walls, putting new clapboards on the front of the building and repainting it’s small sign, new cork boards in the main hall, and a small Sunday School space above the new kitchen.

Why? Because the hall is currently busy – it hosts a food pantry, regular church events, weddings, funerals and baby showers, coffee houses every third Friday, performances and other presentations.

“It’s a great community place for holding lots of events,” Joyce said. “It’s used constantly.”

It’s also a standing reminder of East Andover’s history.

“There’s members at the church, their grandfathers and early relatives were involved in building it,” John said. “It’s an old structure and people don’t want old structures to go away.”