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Around The Grange
Ornament depicts Wallingford Grange Hall

By Melissa Chicker, Meriden Record-Journal (12/14/11)

  DECEMBER 15, 2011 --

Past meets present as the Historic Preservation Trust keeps its annual ornament tradition alive for residents. For each of the past 20 years, the image of a historic building has been imprinted on a glass holiday ornament, offering a glimpse into the town's long history. The choice this year, Grange Hall, highlights the town's agricultural past.

Sales of the ornaments fund the restoration and upkeep of two of the Preservation Trust's buildings: the Johnson Mansion, on South Main Street, and Royce House, on North Main Street.

"We want people to appreciate the history we have and go about preserving it. Wallingford has a rich heritage that exists in hundreds of buildings across town," said Jerry Farrell Jr., the trust's president.

Grange Hall, built in 1933 and located at 586 Center St., originally was a meeting house for Wallingford farmers twice a month. The hall served as a social outlet for the farmers to discuss concerns and to exchange ideas about livestock and crops. It also offered a way for farmers and their families to come together and socialize.

Seventy-eight years after it was built, Grange Hall is used for the same purpose. Agriculture in Wallingford, however, is not as it once was. According to John LeTourneau, a Grange member, the farmer's membership dwindles more each year. Residential neighborhoods have replaced farmlands.

Grange membership is now open to anyone, and smaller scale farming like gardening or planting is discussed at meetings still held twice a month.

"The building is something to see," said LeTourneau. "Everything in the building is very old-fashioned. It is like time has stopped."

"You get the feeling of what it was and what things were like back in the day," he said.

The building remains a well-preserved time capsule. According to LeTourneau, behind the stage curtains in the main hall advertisements from businesses 50 years ago, many no longer in business, are still present.

The painted-glass holiday ornaments are being sold for $8 at the Wallingford Lamp and Shade, on 124 Center St., which is owned by LeTourneau.

The ornament design was done by architect Steve Lazarus, of Lazarus and Sergeant Architects. The Preservation Trust usually orders 500 to be sold, but this year half that number were ordered, partly because of the continuing depressed economy, LeTourneau said.

Many residents are loyal collectors, as a piece of tradition they keep every year. Some former residents call to order ornaments to be sent to their homes out of state.

"To bring attention to Wallingford past gives residents the feel of what things were like back then," said LeTourneau.

Historic buildings featured on the ornament have included the old Wallingford Library, the James Dana House, and the very popular Yankee Silversmith, which sold out immediately because of its sentimental value to many residents, LeTourneau said.

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