READFIELD — The restoration of the Readfield Union Meeting House took significant steps forward recently with the announcement that it had received two major grants from the Viles Foundation and the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, both of Augusta, according to a news release from Board President John M. Perry.

To finish the three-year long project of rebuilding the sanctuary floor substructure, the Viles Foundation awarded the Meeting House $2,500 to help cover the cost of installing a membrane to diminish the moisture in the basement. In addition, the Meeting House has started to preserving of the painted ceiling done in 1866-68 by the Portland muralist, Charles Schmacher. To assist in this conservation the Maine Historic Preservation Commission awarded $17,250.

Now that the new timbers and joists that support the floor are in place, Perry said it was important to protect them from future dampness. The installation of a specially manufactured thick plastic membrane covers the entire dirt basement floor and extend up the vertical walls of the granite foundation

“The Meeting House is very pleased with the professional work undertaken by John Farrell of Maine-ly Moisture Control of Monmouth in the installation of the membrane. We try to employ local contractors whenever possible,” said Perry, in the release. “The project took three years and cost over $250,000. The Viles grant of $2,500 was applied to the total membrane installation cost of $9,600. An earlier grant from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission help purchase the membrane at an additional cost of $3,960.

Over the years it has been obvious that serious cracks had developed in the building’s ceiling and that some sections of it were clearly separating from the lath above. The current Maine Historic Preservation Commission grant will be applied to necessary conservation work on the decorated ceiling. The original proposal indicated a project cost of $35,000 and the commission grant will cover half the amount with the remainder provided by Meeting House funds.

The ceiling was closely evaluated from inside the sanctuary and from the attic above. Many of the “keys” that hold the plaster to the lath had deteriorated over time and explained why portions of the ceiling were seriously endangered. The conservation will be done in two phases, with half of the ceiling being done this fall and the other half in 2019. The commission grant is to be applied to Phase I. The Meeting House will seek additional grant assistance to assist in meeting the cost of Phase II next year, according to the release.

“Since the Meeting House is on the National Register of Historic Places and all work on it has to meet the national restoration standards set by the Department of the Interior, the Meeting House Board is working close with the commission to assure that all work being undertaken meets all the rightly stringent conditions to which the Board must adhere,” said Perry, in the release. “This is too beautiful and too historically important a building to not make certain that the Board is most careful and diligent in following its mission statement of preserving the Meeting House for all time. We are most gratified that the MJHPC has seen fit to award this grant.”

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