Inspection of wiring leads to cancellation of annual holiday light display

An angel announces the birth of Jesus at the La Salette Shrine on Route 4A in Enfield in 2004, part of the shrine’s Festival of Lights display.

An angel announces the birth of Jesus at the La Salette Shrine on Route 4A in Enfield in 2004, part of the shrine’s Festival of Lights display. Valley News file photo

By LIZ SAUCHELLI

Valley New Staff Writer

Published: 11-16-2023 3:21 PM

ENFIELD — The annual Christmas display will not light up the hillside at La Salette Shrine in Enfield this holiday season.

The Enfield Shaker Museum made the decision after a town inspection at the property earlier this fall, said Carolyn Smith, interim director of the Enfield Shaker Museum, which purchased the shrine in September. The display, which has taken place annually since the early 1950s, included thousands of lights in a variety of designs including angels, Christmas trees, hearts and stars that extended up the shrine’s hillside.

“The wiring on the hillside is not even close to adequate or safe,” Smith said.

It would cost at least $114,000 to upgrade the wiring, she added, citing an initial estimate the museum received, which “doesn’t say anything for what might have to be done with the lights themselves.”

The town inspected the building and discovered the substandard wiring after the Enfield museum purchased the roughly 28-acre property for $1.3 million in September, Enfield building inspector Liam Ehrenzweig wrote in an email.

“Use of an existing building and its utilities is allowed by (New Hampshire) building code to continue as long as it does not present an immanent hazard,” Ehrenzweig wrote. “Inspections of existing buildings is not required by the N.H. building code unless repairs, alterations, additions, relocation or a change of occupancy occurs.”

Shaker Museum staff are planning to put up a small light display at La Salette in early December. There will also be other programs including holiday-themed musical performances and a singalong.

“It will look festive, but it’s not going to be what people are used to,” Smith said.

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The museum purchased the property — which originally belonged to the Shakers — after the La Salettes made the decision to sell it due to a declining number of priests.

“We are working on a whole schedule of what we hope will be fun activities for the public to participate in,” Smith said.

She said it is too soon to say what the display will look like next year.

Enfield Town Manager Ed Morris said the town, particularly the Parks and Recreation Department, will work with the Shaker Museum to help plan and put together the holiday display.

“We will support whatever their decision is and try to help them,” Morris said.

Since purchasing the property, the museum has focused on upgrading the infrastructure, Smith said. Two shingle roofs are scheduled to be replaced in the coming month: One on the Stone Laundry Building (previously the La Salette gift shop) and another on the Wood House (the former bingo hall and cafeteria).

The roofs on those two buildings are of particular importance, as the Enfield town offices and library will begin to relocate there for a year-long stay at the beginning of December while Whitney Hall is undergoing renovations. The town will pay $2,000 per month in rent to the Shaker Museum and cover the cost of utilities.

“It gives us some breathing room on those buildings,” Smith said.

Additionally, plans are in the works to replace the furnace at the North House, where the La Salette priests used to live.

“There’s just a lot to bring the buildings and the facilities up to code,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a long and expensive job. We’re prepared to do it.”

For more information about holiday events at the Shaker Museum, visit shakermuseum.org. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.