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Joyce Endee

Warming hut reconstruction well underway

Huot Center building construction student Tyler Blake of Laconia hammers away at the reconstructed walls for the old warming hut located on 11A in Gilford. (Lauren Tiner) (click for larger version)
May 11, 2011
Students from the Huot Technical Center of Laconia are hard at work reconstructing exact duplications of the four walls that will soon be installed in the old warming hut in Gilford, along Route 11A.

A restoration project started by Sarah Anderson, 15, of Gilford with the help of her mother, Carol Anderson, has taken on a life of its own thanks to their efforts and the willingness of the community.

Anderson is now a tenth grader, and started this project at the age of 10.

A group of students in David Dupuis' building construction class were up for the challenge, and plan to complete the walls and transfer the structure over to the warming hut by the end of the school year. When the new walls are implemented, the warming hut will be an 18-by-33-foot structure.

The signature red warming hut dates back to the 1940s, and was used specifically for the Gilford Outing Club, whose members would often use it to take breaks to stay warm and eat a snack while skiing during the winter months. Locals now refer to this hill along 11A as the town sledding hill.

The GOC shut down in 1992, yet during its reign, trained two-time silver medalist in the 1960 Winter Olympics, Penny Pitou. In 1994, the property was donated to the town. Anderson, a major advocate for the warming hut, was the force behind its rehabilitation, and received a go ahead from the town to further pursue this project with the help of her family and Gilford's Director of Public Works, Sheldon Morgan.

Since this approval, much research has been conducted on the GOC and the warming hut itself. The Andersons also established that their first phase of the restoration project would in fact be considered a reconstruction project, since the walls of the hut are rotting.

"The students at the tech center are duplicating all four walls exactly. They have taken pictures and exact measurements, and are now using rough cut lumber," said Anderson. "This has gone from a historic restoration project to a historic reconstruction project since the walls are rotted, yet we'll still be able to re-use the windows and the doors."

Huot Center students, who are also practicing hand nailing rather than using nailguns, attempting to stay true to construction techniques used back in the '40s, are handling the same lumber used for the original hut. Rough cut lumber and beams also pose a few problem solving methods, since rough cut lumber is often larger in dimension than modern lumber, which is dried and slightly downsized in a kiln. Anderson explained that rough cut lumber exhibits "true dimensions."

Dupuis said within the next two weeks, the students plan to complete the final portion of the four walls. The structure will then be transported to the site in Gilford by a trailer.

"This has been an interesting project for the kids, since they are not used to working with rough cut lumber. It is rough to handle, and can sometimes cause splinters, although I offer them gloves," said Dupuis.

He explained that building construction students at the Huot Center once built a house per year, yet with the economy, the center has been encouraged to find local projects to work on instead, which eventually led the class to the prospect of reconstructing the warming hut.

"Building houses were great, hands-on projects, yet now the students can give back to the community. Eventually, the students plan to visit the hut when its finished," said Dupuis. "This project will go in the history books, since it will be one of my last projects with the students. We're popular not just for our free labor, but for the quality we produce."

While the reconstruction of the walls is the first phase of the project, after this phase is complete, the Gilford Rotary Club plans to step in to assemble the walls and work on the clapboard siding of the building, and ultimately complete the project. Anderson added that resident Any Howe has already milled the lumber for the siding. The roof of the hut and its shingles will also have to be addressed.

The tow shack at the top of the hill will also need to be replaced. Afterwards, Anderson's goal is to list the warming hut on the State Historical Registry, 17.95 acres and all. Anderson hopes that listing the hut on the state registry will help preserve its historical significance.

In recent news, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has also asked Anderson to write a blog for the trust's Web site in regards to the warming hut project in Gilford, thrusting this project into the national spotlight. This is the first time any resident of New Hampshire has been asked to represent a project for the trust in such a manner not to mention the resident happens to be a motivated 15-year-old.

Martin Lord Osman
Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
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