Written by Fred Kacprzynski (with contributions from Diane Mitton and Elizabeth Mead)
The Thompson-Ames Historical Society
weekly news release.
You may view previous news releases here...
4/19/07 - Where Do Signs Go When They’re Retired?
What are signs? Wood, metal or paper with words and sometimes pictures, that’s all. But beyond this superficial view every sign is also an important placemark in history.
What happens to signs after they‘re retired by new owners with different objectives, new modes of transportation, or other changes. One place for Gilford signs to be retired to is the “Hallway of Historic Signs” in the Grange Hall, one of the buildings managed by Gilford’s Thompson-Ames Historical Society. Several years ago T-AHS started to hang historic Gilford signs in the hallway of the Grange building in the Village. It took root and now has grown to more than a dozen. These signs are small remnants of the people and culture here. Each sign tells a tiny part of the story of Gilford - its people and the culture that developed here.
The Grange hallway exhibits wonderful signs from the Smiling Hill Farm on Cherry Valley Road, the Gunstock Hill Farm on Gunstock Hill Road and the High Maples Farm on Morrill Street. In themselves, these signs represent only a part of the story of the farms they advertise. Although the Smiling Hill Farm itself has a long history, starting as the Caleb Marsten Farm in 1792, the sign placemarks the time it became known as the Smiling Hill Farm, when, “In 1944 the Guild family of Massachusetts purchased the property as a hobby farm and summer home, and returned ”Smiling Hill Farm” to active operation until 1952” (The Gunstock Parish p. 221). Another of the farm signs, that for the Gunstock Hill Farm appears practically unworn. The Gunstock Hill Farm sign was owned and operated by John and Esther Weeks for many years. The sign was originally taken by a later owner Penny Washburn to help her remember the farm that she had owned for four years in the early seventies. The sign hung in her living room in Vermont and then in Florida for years -- until 1997, when Penny returned it for retirement to the Hallway of Signs. Another, the High Maples Farm was originally the Gilman/Morrill Farm. This farm is best known as having been owned for three generations by Samuel and Winifred Smith and their family. They raised a family of ten children there and gave it the High Maples name. There are more complete stories of the Gunstock Hill and the High Maples Farms accompanying the exhibited signs. The others do not have these accompanying stories. The small part of the story told by the farm signs at the Grange building can pique one’s interest in searching out more information.
Also displayed in the hallway are signs that were retired from other businesses in Gilford. Some advertised summer resorts, directions to reach them or the amenities they provided. There are signs for Morrill Beach Cottages, for Fairview, (both located near present day Ellacoya) a board mounted paper sign with directions to Mt. View (now the Kings Grant), as well as a placard advertising “with bath”. There are several historic village signs, one for “Thomas P. Ayers Boot and Shoe Maker” that advertised his shop at 40 Belknap Mtn Road in the Village, an old Mt Belknap Grange No. 52 sign, a hand lettered sign for the Village Store flanked by photos of George Washington Munsey and John Gilman Wadley, two of its early proprietors, and a large sign that gave notice to travelers on the Lakeshore Railroad that they had arrived at the Glendale station.
By saving these signs, T-AHS has made it possible for many people to visualize a small part of Gilford history that would otherwise be lost. Come and take a look for yourself, see if your interest is awakened. Perhaps you might have some additional information or would like to volunteer to research information on one or more of the signs. And if you have a historical sign, Gilford’s Thompson-Ames Historical Society may provide a nice location to retire it to. It could provide a good story for someone in the future.
Gilford’s Thompson-Ames Historical Society, a nonprofit organization dating from 1943, is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the cultural history of Gilford. The Society meets its preservation goal through the collection, documentation and conservation of archival materials and artifacts of daily life in Gilford’s history. It owns, maintains and operates two historic buildings in the Village, the Union Meeting House and the Grange/John J. Morrill Store. The Society celebrates the cultural history of Gilford by exhibiting artifacts at these buildings and at the historic Rowe House, operated under lease from the Town of Gilford, through educational presentations, with programs to keep alive heritage arts and crafts and by providing community services and publications.
Anyone interested in more information about Gilford’s Thompson-Ames Historical Society can visit our web site (www.gilfordhistoricalsociety.org), the office upstairs at the Grange building in the Village (open whenever someone is working) or call (603) 527-9009, (leave a message and you will receive a return call) or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org