Restoring Orange’s ‘Minuteman Curtain’

  • The Orange Town Hall Restoration Committee is raising money to restore the “Minuteman Curtain” in the Ruth B. Smith Auditorium to its former splendor. Contributed photo

Recorder Staff
Thursday, July 12, 2018

ORANGE — A little more than 100 years ago, a marvelous stage curtain depicting the minuteman statue in Concord was hung in the Town Hall’s auditorium for the first time.

But while work has been done to restore the floors, paint, plumbing, heating and lights in the Ruth B. Smith Auditorium, the colors of the “Minuteman Curtain” have faded, and the monument to America’s earliest militia has begun to blur.

Now, in its latest effort to beautify the auditorium — located on the second floor of the Town Hall building — the Orange Town Hall Restoration Committee is seeking to restore the 1912-made curtain.

The committee is seeking $7,500 in donations in order to enlist Curtains Without Borders, a conservation project and company that specializes in restoring historic curtains made between 1890 and 1940.

“The restoration of the curtain will be a stunning visual reminder of the original splendor of the hall, and will provide a central focus on the stage,” said Orange Historical Society Director Maureen Riendeau, an organizer of the Town Hall Restoration Committee’s efforts to restore the curtain, in a statement.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, curtains depicting natural scenery or historic places were quite trendy in the U.S., according to Curtains Without Borders’ brief history of historic stage curtains. In New England specifically, the painted scenic curtains were popularly hung in town halls and theaters — 483 such curtains are included in Curtains Without Borders’ directory of New England states.

So, the Minute Tapioca Company, which operated a large factory in downtown Orange, commissioned the Twin City Scenic Company in Minneapolis, Minn., to paint a curtain, and then donated it to the town. After years as the stage backdrop in the auditorium, the curtain was put into storage.

“With the assistance of local volunteers and local fundraising, their experts will help to restore the curtain to its former grandeur, and it will be replaced as a backdrop to the stage,” Riendeau said.

The Ruth B. Smith Auditorium is on the second floor of the Town Hall building and was once considered the Town Hall itself. It is used for various social events, as well as municipal government events including joint meetings between various boards and annual town meetings.

Since 1999, the Town Hall Restoration Committee has been working to “bring the auditorium back to its original splendor,” Riendeau said, but other projects have taken precedence over the curtain.

So far, the auditorium’s floors have been restored and the interior paint has been replaced. A plan is in place to replace the stage lighting, which was removed because of fire code issues.

Restoring the curtain, however, will allow Orange to once again display its one-of-a-kind piece of community art.

Those wishing to donate money to help restore the curtain should mail checks made out to the Orange Town Hall Restoration Committee, care of the treasurer, to the Orange Town Hall, 6 Prospect St., Orange, MA 01364. Put “curtain” on the memo line. The committee is also working on getting a link on the town’s website for online donations.

Any funds raised above the $7,500 goal will go toward other restoration projects in the auditorium. New stage lighting will be the first priority, Riendeau said, as it will make the auditorium once again suitable for hosting concerts, plays and other theatrical performances.

For more information, contact Deb Kent or Maureen Riendeau at moe@crocker.com, or by phone, 978-249-6336.