Frame restoration for Templeton’s Civil War tribute nears completion
TEMPLETON – Almost every town and city in New England was affected by the Civil War. Historic statues and memorials are the centerpieces of the city’s green and common spaces.
Weary of the war and its horrors, Captain Varanus P. Parkhurst of Company 1, 25th Massachusetts Regiment, returned to Templeton and built the great Republic Hall Army on Patriots Road.
To remember the sacrifices of the men he was proud to call “brothers”, Parkhurst installed two ornate frames with four granite memorial plaques in GAR Hall.
In the early 1970s, the hall was demolished. The granite tablets were mounted in the carriage shed attached to the main Narragansett Historical Society building at 1 Boynton Road, where they remain today. The executives ended up in the barn of a man named Ralph Henshaw, a caretaker for the Historical Society.
After nearly 50 years of languishing in the barn, these newly restored frames will have a new place of honor at the Society’s headquarters where they will house the commemorative plaques.
As GAR Hall was being demolished, then-Society President Colonel Edwin Tucker halted the demolition after the main wall was knocked down and had these frames removed safely as they were too large to lower down the stairs.
In 2016, Henshaw spoke to Society Director Brian Tanguay about the barn’s sad state: it was in imminent danger of collapse.
Once he saw the intricate woodwork and massive size of the frames, Tanguay wondered if they had been part of the altar in Trinitarian Church. At the time, Henshaw did not know where they came from as they had been in the barn for around 50 years. The double-inserted spaces in each frame raised questions about their use, but it was soon determined that their function was to hold the four granite memorial slabs in place.
John Manca volunteered to place the executives in one of his empty trucks at Aspen Trucking until they could be brought to their final home in Grange Hall, the informal name of the Company’s headquarters.
To accomplish this task, Tanguay and carpenter Michael Matuszewski in 2017 came up with a plan to cut a slot in the second floor of the Grange Hall between two windows and slide into the frames, using a sling and a lift. operated by the Bill Harris Co. .
“With eight other volunteers, the plan worked and about two hours after the frames were delivered, they were safely laid on the Grange Hall stage,” Tanguay said in an email.
Alan Cyganiewicz of Gardner, a master carpenter and vintage furniture restoration expert, was called in to preserve the frames and oversee their safe installation. Cyganiewicz traced and cut out two panels corresponding to the void above where each pair of granite slabs would be located within the frames.
“As of today, we have no image of what filled this area, but a fragment of an image that suggested it could be a regimental flag, probably canvas,” Tanguay said.
Over the next three years, Tanguay took the panels to several artists to find someone willing to paint them. But over time, interest waned. Just before all hope seemed lost, Tanguay encountered Sonja Vaccaria mural artist from Royalston.
“When (Vaccari) was introduced to this story, she immediately volunteered to help,” Tanguay said.
In two weeks, Vaccari had put the finishing touches. The frames are now ready to be mounted on the stage wall, which will happen in the next few weeks. Then the granite memorial slabs will be inserted where they were originally installed in 1880.
“I have many ancestors who participated in the American Revolution and the Civil War. I respected what Tanguay was trying to do and knew I had the ability and the time to help him achieve his goal of restoring the memorials. Painting the eagle panels was just part of the project,” Vaccari clarified in an email to The Gardner News.
According to her, the week-long process was done “methodically”, which includes using gesso during the preparation process, sketching the eagles and painting them.
The public will be able to see the frames and shelves when the Grange Hall reopens in 2023.
Tanguay expressed his gratitude for all the help the Society has received.
“We are so grateful to everyone who came out and helped move, store, restore and paint this important memorial to the men who gave their lives during the Civil War,” Tanguay said.