LACONIA — The Belknap Mill Society received some good news at Thursday morning's ceremony celebrating the return of the building's historic finial and weathervane and the long-absent stair tower flagpole when Mayor Ed Engler announced that Aavid Thermalloy corporation and a pair of its employees had recently donated a total of $15,000 to the society.
He said that the gift comes on top of $5,000 the society received as a result of last fall's $20,000 donation Aavid and CEO Alan W. Wong made in celebration of the company's 50th anniversary celebration. That money was split equally among four recipients, picked by the mayor.
Engler noted that Aavid is a world-wide business which two years ago relocated its corporate headquarters back to the city where it was founded and that it shows the level of commitment that Aavid has demonstrated to the city .
He that the mill represents ''the soul of the community'' and what unites the entire city ''is the love for this building.''
Allison Ambrose, president of the mill society's board of directors, said that the decorative finial and the weathervane it supports are original features of the building, while the flagpole was a later addition.
''The return of these iconic pieces to the Lake City's skyline complete much-needed restoration work to the cupola and dome; critically important to prevent water leaks that threatened the building's historic fabric and contents,'' she said.
Ambrose said that grant funding for the project was provided by N.H. Land & Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) and Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and that the project of preserving this historic landmark was undertaken and completed by J.P. Paquette Construction of New London. She praised the work done by Paquette, as well as Littleton Millworks and Belknap Landscaping.
She also thanked building task force members David Stamps, Steven Weeks, Sr., and Fred Callaghan for their efforts on behalf of the project.
Paquette said that while undergoing cupola repairs to correct water leaks and a faulty roof, heavy rotting was discovered in the dome's finial, with the rot so extensive that a crane was brought in to remove the weathervane for fear that the finial and weathervane resting on it would collapse.
He enlisted the assistance of Littleton Millworks in re-creating the finial, which is made of rot resistant African mahogany, and PLP Composite Technologies, Inc. to manufacture a new flagpole, which is made of fiberglass. The Belknap Landscape Company provided crane services. While the weathervane was in storage, Paquette took on the task of having it painted and is donating the gold leaf to honor the long-standing, commitment and volunteer support of the Society by his parents, Andre Paquette of Laconia, and the late Margaret Paqeutte.
He also thanked City Councilman Armand Bolduc for agreeing to store the old finial and weathervane in his garage, where it has been for the last year and a half.
The society's managing director, Beth San Soucie, said ''we are delighted to have the finial, weathervane and flagpole once again gracing the rooftop of the mill; to see them as you make your way into the city showcases the historical importance of our community landmark.''
One of the first listed buildings on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, the Belknap Mill shows how preservation and history can combine in a community-based museum and cultural arts center. In 1976, the Belknap Mill was designated as the Official Meetinghouse of New Hampshire due to the architectural, geographical and historical significance of the building.
The Belknap Mill, which, built in 1823 is the oldest, unaltered brick textile mill in the United States. The Belknap Mill Society showcases a permanent exhibit that interprets the history of the textile industry in Laconia as well as educational programs for all ages.
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