For the Rotary year of July 2020, through June 2021, the Bow Rotary Club had planned a series of events to celebrate its 50 years of existence and service in the Bow community. 
Old Town Hall Project
Last fall, in connection with the Rotary Club’s 50th Anniversary year, we wrote about our project to update the wallpaper in the Old Town Hall.  We provided a bit of history about the OTH: that it was originally built in 1847 by the same carpenter who built the Bow Bog Meeting House, that it was used from 1847 through 1956, primarily for town meetings and the work of the selectmen. 
As members of the Rotary Club began stripping the wallpaper, led by Past President Judy Goodnow, we discovered many instances of crumbling plaster.  Several people who came to check on the progress commented "the wallpaper is probably the only thing holding the walls together.”  In some parts of the walls, this was absolutely correct.  We had an idea before we began that a few places needed repair, but once the wallpaper was completely removed, the significant cracks and fissures as well as general deterioration of the walls made it clear professional attention was required.  

Before Pictures
Further, as the paper removal progressed, we realized that the ceiling had nicotine stains as well as yellowing from over time.  It only made sense to have the ceiling painted, so the Rotary Club paid Mike Soucy to paint the ceiling.  The only problem was that the ceiling tiles are fire resistant, so they had to be painted with a special intumescent paint.  To reduce the cost of his time, club volunteers covered the lights and smoke detectors, as well as completely protecting the floor with floor coverings prior to the paint work.  While waiting for the plasterer, the interior storm windows were removed and cleaned, and the interior windows were cleaned and painted.  Several are in dire need of reglazing and caulking, as there are clear openings between the wood and the glass.
Bad Plaster Photos

The town hired a professional plasterer with experience in restoration plastering work.  In preparation for his work, the chair rails above the wainscoting were removed and numbered so that they could be returned to their original locations.  Jack Joyce, the plasterer, noted that when the building was built, the walls had never been prepared for painting; they had been repaired from time to time, but they were still rough in areas which had not been repaired.  He strongly suggested that in order to preserve the walls for many years to come, nothing should be hung on the walls, including curtains.  He recommended that picture rails be installed, for items that would normally be hung on the walls and that the curtains be hung from the window casings.  The town decided that the picture rail should go entirely around the room about 12 inches below the ceiling.  Once Mr. Joyce had completed repair of the walls, they were gently sanded and primed, and new textured wallpaper was selected.
When Bow built its Old Town Hall, many other towns in New Hampshire were also constructing town halls.  Some towns in New Hampshire used pressed tin on their walls (the Gilmanton Town Hall still has its original pressed tin on the walls and ceiling), which was quite the thing in the later 1800s, and very expensive then and now.  Bow did not apply pressed tin, but likely whitewashed the walls for many years, as that was a cost-saving application.  However, the Bow Town Report for 1908 shows an expense for “wallpaper, paint and varnish for the Town Hall in preparation for Old Home Day”.  There are no known photographs of what that wallpaper might have looked like.  
The wallpaper chosen in 2021 by the Bow Heritage Commission and purchased by the Rotary Club, has been in continuous production by the Anaglypta Company (the pattern is called “Alfred”) since 1907, and is meant to replicate the appearance of pressed tin.  Conceivably, a similar paper could have been chosen in 1908 for the Old Town Hall; this wallpaper is intended to be painted, and the same color as the original color found in the Old Town Hall entryway and kitchen has been used.

Wallpaper Sample and Wall Finished & Painted
The chair rails removed prior to the plaster work have been stripped and revarnished, and re-installed.  The wainscoting has been given a thorough cleaning and water-based dye stain was applied to recolor the worn and chipped areas. 

Damaged Chair Rail Repair & Refinishing
A picture rail (a joint project between the Bow Men’s Club and the Rotary Club) is being milled and produced by Rotarian Bob Couch with a profile similar to the chair rails.  This will be funded, painted to match the building’s trim and installed by the Men’s Club.  This will provide the only means by which items will be hung on the walls.  The floor is in the process of being refinished as of this writing.
The new curtains selected for the Old Town Hall reflect the “bold colors, with floral and paisley patterns” of curtains in use in the early 1900s, and are of the rod pocket style, which was most common at that time.
The general appearance of the meeting room of the Old Town Hall is now comparable to how the room might have looked in preparation for that Old Home Day in 1908.  This has been a tremendous project for the Town as well as the Rotary Club and Men’s Club, and although the scope certainly crept well past a mere “change of wallpaper”, it has resulted in a space we can be proud to use and share with others.

Photo by Eric Anderson

More photos are available in a project album Here.