FAIRFIELD — Jeannette Duperry stood at a table Saturday inside Victor Grange, looking through old photographs that marked the building’s history.

Duperry and her husband, Carl, who had their wedding reception in the grange 56 years ago, said they are grateful for all the work grange members have done to preserve the building. The couple live in Connecticut six months of the year and six months in Canaan, and Carl’s brother, Rick, is a longtime member of the grange.

The Duperrys love to take part in the activities there.

Treasurer Roger Shorty offers a tour Saturday of the remodeled Victor Grange in Fairfield Center. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“They’ve done an amazing job,” Jeannette Duperry said. “You meet an awful lot of nice people here. The grange brings everyone together. If it weren’t for places like this, people wouldn’t get out like they do.”

The Duperrys were among many who turned out Saturday for an open house at the grange, located at 142 Oakland Road near the intersection of routes 23 and 139 in the Fairfield Center section of town.

Grange members were cooking up hot dogs and popping corn under a tent in the new parking lot.

“It’s been a five- or six-year endeavor, but we’re finally done and we are excited,” Barbara Bailey, the grange’s lecturer said. A grange lecturer is a traditional title that means program director.

The land next to the grange previously had a house on it that was owned by a local woman. Bailey got involved near the end of the woman’s life, helping to ensure she could stay in her home. After she died, the land went to the bank, and Bailey tried unsuccessfully to convince bank officials to give the land to the grange.

The bank tried for a while to sell the property, she said, but the house was an eyesore and no buyers came forward. The property was not suited for development.

The bank gave up eventually, but still wouldn’t sign the property over to the grange, transferring it to the town instead. Finally, after more requests to town officials, Bailey and the grange got what they wanted.

The real work started after that — knocking down the structure, filling in the foundation, and setting up the parking area. The grange had to raise the money for the project first.

Bailey said she was grateful for the community’s help and donations. The parking area ensures safety for people coming and going to the grange building.  She said this means visitors won’t have to try to back up onto the busy road when they leave.

The building itself is more than 100 years old, having been constructed in 1898. The grange has worked hard to make repairs and has replaced the foundation and windows, rebuilt the front entrance and replaced two furnaces, among other projects. It also mitigated a problem a few years ago when bats had infested the building.

More repairs are needed and next on the list are insulation and ventilation.

Treasurer Roger Shorty offers a tour Saturday of the remodeled Victor Grange in Fairfield Center. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The grange was originally formed as a society for farmers in the area to discuss current events, educate and help each other. Now it serves multiple purposes, including providing a social space for seniors and offering exercise classes and space to work on crafts. The grange hosts monthly meetings, coffee hours and potlucks. The pandemic interrupted their activities for a while. But people were eager to return, said Bailey.

“It’s one of those things that they need, obviously, because they keep coming back,” she said. “They were chomping at the bit and calling us — ‘We’ve had our shots, why can’t you open the grange?’ ”

Saturday, on the second floor, Bailey and Roger Shorty, grange treasurer, pointed out the canvas stage curtain that they hope to restore. The 100-year-old curtain sports advertisements from area businesses, as well as a hand-painted rural scene.

They’re also looking to restore the blue-and-cream-colored tin ceiling. The tin cost the grange $357 when it was transported from Pittsburgh to Boston by boat and then to Maine by train before farmers pitched in to help move it to Fairfield, according to Bailey.

Treasurer Roger Shorty offers a tour Saturday of the remodeled Victor Grange in Fairfield Center. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Outside, Winslow resident Fred Clark strolled around and chatted with grange members who were talking and laughing under the tent. He said it had been a couple of years since he had been inside the building and he was impressed with the changes.

“It looks great — it really looks good,” Clark said.

Grange Master Rita Fortin, a member for 60 years who lives in Benton, said anyone who wants to join the grange, donate, or get involved is welcome to attend meetings. The meetings are held at 7 p.m. the second Monday of every month, preceded by a 6 p.m. potluck dinner.

Shorty, agreeing with Bailey, had said the grange welcomes new members. “As long as someone can see good in another person, they’re welcome here,” he said.

 

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