HAVERHILL — Past generations gathered in the meeting room on the second floor of the historic Rocks Village Hand Tub House. They sat on handmade black walnut benches upholstered in haircloth stuffed with Spanish moss and horsehair. As the decades passed, the fabric weakened and shredded and the stuffing spilled out.
After decades sitting unused, the 1875 benches, called "settees," have been restored to as close to their original state as possible.
New upholstery and padding for the settees along with hand-rubbed oil finishes are just a few of the improvements that were recently made to the 1829 Hand Tub House, once the center of firefighting efforts in historic Rocks Village and also a place where villagers gathered.
Since 2012, the nonprofit Rocks Village Memorial Association has put $140,000 towards building restoration, not to mention countless volunteer hours.
The goal is to revive the Hand Tub House to the point where it can comfortably serve as a meeting place once again and also host various community events such as historical presentations and musical performances.
"We started with the infrastructure, which included extensive repairs made to the foundation," said association member Christine Kwitchoff. "We repaired and re-shingled the roof, made electrical upgrades, performed plaster repair, re-glazed windows along with carpentry work, including new clapboards on the rear façade. Finally, we were able to paint the exterior and the second floor interior."
The association became a nonprofit in 2012 with the goal of securing donations and grants for the preservation and maintenance of the Hand Tub House, which is owned by city and is under the stewardship of the association.
A community yard sale is planned for Sept. 11 and 12 with proceeds benefitting the ongoing preservation and maintenance of the Hand Tub House and its associated Toll House Museum.
Recent restoration work has included painting the first floor walls, floor and ceiling, painting the sashes on all 20 windows and re-upholstering the 10 antique settees in the meeting room.
The window sashes were painted by Haverhill resident Kathy McCormack, owner of Sitting Pretty Fine Painting, who donated her time and talent for this time-consuming project, Kwitchoff said.
Haverhill resident Michael Valvo of Michael Valvo Designs sourced replica fabric for the settees and each piece was refinished and re-upholstered by Dan Plourde of Dan Plourde Upholstery in Haverhill, Kwitchoff said.
The $14,450 cost of restoring the settees included a donation of $7,085 from the Methuen Festival of Trees, $750 donations from private donors whose names are on engraved brass plaques mounted to the backs of the settees, and smaller amounts from other donors who are listed on a wall plaque. Plourde kicked off the project with a $750 sponsorship donation from him and his wife, Doreen.
"While the building has come a long way, there’s more to do and the Rocks Village Memorial Association has a list of projects to complete the preservation of this site," Kwitchoff said.
The list includes repairing the sliding door threshold, upgrading the electrical service on the second floor and installing a copper weathervane atop the building's cupola. The weathervane in the design of a two-masted sailboat was handcrafted in Maine.
"A similar weathervane graced the building in the past and a replica was donated to the RVMA by a former resident of Rocks Village," Kwitchoff said.
The RVMA is currently working with Rich Lambert of Lambert Roofing on installation and the goal is to have the weathervane installed by the end of September.
If you can’t visit the yard sale but would like to make a tax deductible donation, checks can be sent to the Rocks Village Memorial Association, 59 Wharf Lane, Haverhill, MA 01830.
Community yard sale
When: Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 11 and 12, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, weather permitting.
Where: Hand Tub House, located at the foot of the Rocks Bridge, 1 River Road at East Main Street.
Items for sale: Pottery, toys, books, kitchenware, etched glasses, quilts, linens, tools, unique vintage and modern items and more.
See www.rocksvillage.org for more information about the sale and for weather updates.