Historic guideboard on Shutesbury town common packed up for repairs

The historic guideboard on the Shutesbury Town Common is loaded into a truck for a trip to a Williamstown conservator, where it will be restored.

The historic guideboard on the Shutesbury Town Common is loaded into a truck for a trip to a Williamstown conservator, where it will be restored. CONTRIBUTED/CLIF READ

An historic guideboard on the Shutesbury town common gets loaded into truck for trip to a Williamstown conservator.

An historic guideboard on the Shutesbury town common gets loaded into truck for trip to a Williamstown conservator. CONTRIBUTED/CLIF READ

An historic guideboard from the Shutesbury town common arrives at the Williamstown conservator.

An historic guideboard from the Shutesbury town common arrives at the Williamstown conservator. CONTRIBUTED/MATTEO PANGALLO

Preparations begin to load an historic guideboard on the Shutesbury town common for trip to a Williamstown conservator.

Preparations begin to load an historic guideboard on the Shutesbury town common for trip to a Williamstown conservator. CONTRIBUTED/CLIF READ

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 02-15-2024 8:16 PM

SHUTESBURY — A historic guideboard on the Shutesbury Town Common since 1837, helping travelers navigate to Massachusetts communities both near and far, is temporarily absent from the green as a restoration project begins.

The wooden guideboard was wrapped in plastic and loaded onto a truck on Jan. 30 by five volunteers so it could be transported to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, to begin a $17,312 project that will include paint analysis and stabilization.

Historical Commission member Matteo Pangallo, who chairs the Community Preservation Committee and who joined volunteers Daniel Lass, Paul Lyons, Clif Read and Al Werner in preparing the guideboard for its journey, elaborated on the project to the Select Board last week.

Pangallo said the guideboard is being put into a sealed environment for one to two months, in a condition of anoxia to kill any insects that may be present, and to stabilize the wood until all excess moisture is released.

Then, once stabilized, the conservators will determine the best approach for its long-term protection, a treatment schedule and a date by which the guideboard will return.

Conservators, he said, want to undertake a closer inspection of the sign, including evaluating the age and condition of the paint and wood. The first stage of the rehabilitation treatment will either consolidate or replicate the current paint layers with lettering, and could compensate for small losses and other structural deficiencies. An angled molding will also be applied to the top edge of the skirting molding, a method for shedding water.

Since $10,000 was appropriated from the CPA account in spring 2022, town officials had been seeking to identify the best approach for caring for the guideboard that has been a constant presence for travelers at the corner of Wendell, Cooleyville and Leverett roads, pointing to various cities and towns, including Northampton, 17 miles to the west, Boston, 75 miles to the east, Keene, N.H. 40 miles to the north, and Prescott, just 6 miles to the east, but now one of the communities that lies below the Quabbin Reservoir.

Other money for the project comes from the Historical Commission and Friends of the Shutesbury Historical Commission.

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Pangallo said the guideboard will also be evaluated for the possibility of returning the cupola-like structure to its original form. The design of the new top, and choice of a new roofing material, will be decided by the Select Board in consultation with the Historical Commission, and the conservators will then develop a proposal for the second phase of restoration.

The Historical Commission continues to explore whether a structure should protect it, such as a pergola, which a resident has offered to build once materials are purchased.

“When the guideboard is finally returned to the Town Common, it will be protected from further damage by moving it back slightly from the road, setting it up on a stone or concrete base, and building a gazebo-like structure over it,” Pangallo said. “The design of the gazebo will be in keeping with the architectural style of the historic buildings around the common.”

The guideboard was first placed on the Town Common by Lorin Briggs, a cooper and town resident, according to records held by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and was previously refurbished in 2009 by residents Bob Groves and Jim Aaron.

The application made for CPA money two years ago describes the guideboard as “a tangible and much-loved historical structure” that has included the occasional addition of the satiric and mythical Ripton, a make-believe Massachusetts town that made its way through the Legislature and was signed into law by then Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1984.