At one of the NHS monthly meetings in late 2005, a member, Marjorie Sawyers, childhood resident of Kellyville where the two railroad covered bridges are located, informed the Society of the $500,000 grant and the lack of fundraising to secure the $100,000 grant match.
NHS member and former President, Kathy Butcher, spent the winter researching the proposed project to see what was needed, what was planned, who might participate (snowmobile clubs, ATV clubs) if NHS decided to attempt the fundraising. At the May 2006 monthly meeting, Society members convened at the Pier Bridge with State of NH personnel, Dr. James Garvin, James McConaha, Emily Paulus; President of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, David Wright; Newport Town Manager, Dan O’Neill and Diane Davis and Judy Wilson from the Twin Ridge Mountaineers Snowmobile Club. A comprehensive tour of the bridge and its needs was given to members and guests by these experts. After discussing the project later in the meeting, the Society voted to devote time and resources in attempting to raise the $100,000 grant match needed for the July 1, 2007 deadline.
An account was opened in the name of the Pier Bridge Preservation Project at Sugar River Savings Bank with Newport Branch Manager, Leighann King overseeing the deposit of funds received.
The Society immediately took a leadership position by contributing $10,000 to kick-off the fundraising campaign. Contribution categories were established with a bridge-building flair in mind as follows:
Master Bridgewright - $10,000 +
Journeyman Bridgewright - $5,000 - $9,999
Apprentice Bridgewright - $2,500 - $4,999
Carpenter’s Helper - $1,000 - $2,499
Trunnel Pounder - $500 - $999
Stone Mason - $100 - $499
Friends of the Pier Bridge - $5 - $99.
Although overwhelmed by the large sum of money needed to be raised, we began pursuing the $100,000 goal by participating in all of the flea markets/craft fairs offered on the common during the summer. Our offerings included the sale of Corbin bridge items, Pier Bridge tee shirts, long sleeve tee shirts and sweatshirts, covered bridge pins. Jim Chrimes of Newport Sign Solution designed our beautiful Pier Bridge logo as his contribution to the project. His graphics appear on our shirts, mugs and notecards. We partnered with the ladies of the local Eastern Star helping them sell their remaining stock of Newport Afghans and sharing in the profit. An additional partner is Richard Creterola, formerly of Newport, who still had unsold videos of the rebuilding process of the Corbin Covered Bridge. Profits from the sale of the videos also have gone to the Preservation Project. In addition, we solicited yard sale items from members, friends and neighbors to sell. Most important, posters were created with pictures of the bridge showing needed repairs. Flyers were handed out telling of the grant and $100,000 fundraising project. Residents and summer visitor generously deposited their pocket change, bills of larger denomination and checks into our collection can. Many people were vaguely aware of the existence and location of the bridges, others were not. Users of the Sugar River Rail Trail were very familiar with both bridges having past through them many times when using the trail. Several collection cans were set up at local gas station/convenience stores in town and have remained throughout the project.
With the end of summer, we began looking for another venue to sell our retail offerings (with profits going to the Project) and continue to keep the project visible in the eyes of the community. Sugar River Bank and Lake Sunapee Bank allowed us to use their entryways to set up tables to display and sell our products. This sales activity continued through Christmas 2006 and resumed in April of 2007. Patrick O’Grady, author of “Replicate – The Rebuilding of the Corbin Covered Bridge” had 100 copies of his 1994 book reprinted with the profits going to the Project. For those not aware, our beloved Corbin Covered (highway) Bridge was burned by arson in April of 1993 and replicated in 1994. Copies are still available of this wonderful story and over 100 photographs of the 1994 rebuilding process.
Maine artist, Joan Dodge, hand-painted Christmas bulbs with the image of the Pier Bridge on one side for us to sell. Her work is exquisite and the Pier Bridge ornaments will be available for sale through 2009. Incidently, this ornament is the first in a series of hand-painted ornaments by Joan of images of Newport.
Railroad Conductor, Bruce Davison, West Paris, Maine hand-crafted some beautiful shaker boxes in various sizes and colors for us to sell. Bruce was conductor on the very last train to pass through the Pier and Wright’s Bridges on September 5, 1977. Information about this last trip is written on the inside cover of the boxes and a photo of the train entering the Pier Bridge on its way back to Claremont is included. (Bruce had Engineer, Mark Tewksbury, drive the train through the bridge, let Bruce off, back the train up so that Bruce could take a picture of the train just entering the bridge.) A few of the boxes are still available for sale.
During the fall of 2006 a capital fundraising campaign began with leadership contributions and pledges received from generous local businesses and individuals. Letters were mailed followed by phone calls urging participation. This activity continued throughout the first nine months of 2007.
In early 2007 letters were sent to all Historical Societies in New Hampshire asking for help in meeting our goal. Many contributions were received from this mailing and contributions continued into late spring. A mailing was also sent to snowmobile and ATV clubs soliciting contributions. A very generous leadership contribution was received from our local Twin Ridge Mountaineers snowmobile club. The Shugah Valley Snow Riders of Claremont also pledged financial support and the Washington Snow Riders made a contribution.
The National Society for Preservation of Covered Bridges President, David Wright, wrote of our campaign in newsletters published by the Society. Contributions began arriving from coast to coast. A group of National Society members researching covered bridges in North America no longer in existence (www.lostbridges.com) included a paragraph on their website about our fundraising and added a link to a list of our covered bridge related items for sale. Orders began coming in. A link was also listed in other covered bridge web sites to the product link offered by Lost Bridges.
An article for Soo Nipi Magazine was written by Jackie Cote, Fundraising Chair, with contributions from various experts in the field. Information contributed by these experts can be viewed on the “What the Experts Say” link of this Pier Bridge Preservation Project section on a rotating basis. The article generated great interest and contributions began coming in from residents in towns where the magazine was distributed.
In late January, the late Clint Trefethen, outstanding local artist, contributed a beautiful painting of the Pier Bridge for the Society to raffle. Clint passed away three weeks after donating the painting and we were devastated! His generosity, talent and good spirit will be missed for many years to come. The painting was unveiled initially at Lake Sunapee Bank as part of a local covered bridge exhibit. (Newport was once the home of 19 covered bridges, six highway and thirteen railroad.) In early spring the painting was removed to Sugar River Bank and remained on display until raffled as part of our June 2, Reliving New Hampshire’s Past, event. Permission has been granted by Clint’s daughter, Amanda Toppin, to use the image provided by Clint for prints of this beautiful painting. Robin Mitchell, Marshfield, Massachusetts, was the lucky winner.
Two Pledge-Challenge Campaigns were launched in order to solicit individual leadership contributions from local residents. The James E. Lantz pledge-challenge campaign began with a leadership challenge pledge of $1,000 from Jim. Other community leaders were challenged to match Jim’s pledge. Total raised from this campaign was $10,750. The second Pledge-Challenge Campaign was launched soliciting smaller contributions. The Larry & Jackie Cote pledge-challenge campaign began with a challenge pledge of $600 from Larry & Jackie. Total raised from this campaign was $3,200. Grand total raised from both Pledge-Challenge Campaigns was $13,950.
A Grass Roots Contribution Drive was launched in April of 2007. Society members and friends were asked to get ten $5.00 contributions from relatives, neighbors and friends for a total of $50 collected by each solicitor. There were many participants including students from Newport Middle High School who raised $579 for the Project. Total Grass Roots proceeds were $1,481. In addition Richards Elementary School penny drive yielded $31 and the Towle Middle School raised $50.
Kathy Butcher spent much of 2006-2007 organizing a large fundraising event which was scheduled for June 2, 1007 – Reliving New Hampshire’s Past. The event spanned three venues with different offerings at each. Several New Hampshire Historical Societies set-up displays in the Newport Opera House with information about their respective towns, some with local items for sale. A few traditional craft vendors who needed cover were also in attendance at the Opera House. Traditional craft vendors displaying hand-made items using traditional methods were on hand at the Newport Town Common. A fireman’s muster took place at Parlin Field, Newport’s airport, at the North end of town. Society members were also on hand at the Opera House and Town Common to spread the word about the Pier Bridge Project and sell our retail products. The event was a success and raised approximately $2,000 for the Pier Bridge Preservation Project.
In late January 2007 an anonymous local benefactor donated funding to hire grant writer, Catherine Hogan, Sunapee, NH to pursue grants for funding of the Preservation Project. Congratulations to Catherine for a successful grant seeking campaign which to-date has realized $25,500 in grant funds. Many thanks to the local benefactor who made it all possible!
Please check our “50 State Contribution Project” link to see how you can help us receive contributions from all 50 states. Join the fun…Let’s get them all !!
If you have contributed to the Pier Bridge Preservation Project by dropping money in our cans, purchasing our products (all profits for the past year + have been deposited to the project account), or making a direct pledge or contribution, we thank you so very much for supporting the Pier Bridge Preservation Project and helping us to reach our goal.
On Tuesday, October 2, 2007, I received a very important phone call from Carolyn Viles of Tourism Cares, Canton, Massachusetts, telling me that the Pier Bridge Preservation Project had been awarded a $10,000 grant. This grant award brought our fundraising total to $100,450 securing the $500,000 grant. This was, indeed, a long awaited and happy day for the Newport Historical Society members who have worked long and hard to raise the $100,000, 20% grant match. As of October 26, 2007 the total raised to date is $101,732.72.
If you have not yet contributed, we urge you to do so. Any money that we continue to receive will increase our total raised and will be used for needed repairs to either the Pier or Wright’s Railroad Covered Bridges. My heartfelt and sincere thanks to all who have contributed funds and helped in any way.
Newport Historical Society
Treasurer and Fundraising Chair