By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — A well-known building that once served as an early town hall is getting upgrades and improvements.
Volunteers continue to give the Upper Village Hall in East Derry new life — work that is bringing the historic building back from the brink of disaster.
Members of the East Derry Village Improvement Society gave town councilors an update on how the restoration and repair work is going.
The building was built around 1875 and was once home to town meetings, libraries, clubs, Grange meetings, social gatherings and fire department activities.
Through the years, the hall fell into disrepair. It was in danger of being demolished until members of the East Derry Village Improvement Society took ownership from the town in 2009.
The town sold the hall to the group for $1, but officials requested a detailed plan for what projects were planned and when work would be completed.
A specific timeline was put in place to have certain projects done.
In the years since then, work has been done in stages. With the help of devoted volunteers and local business donations, the end could be close.
Major work included bringing heating systems up to code and doing some structural repairs to keep the building safe for community groups to use and for those who want to rent the space.
Other projects include painting the exterior.
There are no plans yet for what will happen on the lower level of the hall, but a permanent tenant option may be in the works.
Offering the hall as a space for others to use is a big part of its future, said Paul Dionne, president of the East Derry Village Improvement Society.
“We had 30 rentals last year and 80 so far this year,” he said. “We’re holding our own.”
Right now, youth theater group Kids Coop Theatre calls the hall home. Other rentals include private gatherings, meetings and special events.
Dionne thanked local businesses like Benson’s and Simpson’s Painting for donations and services to help the hall.
Councilors said it was all good work.
“It’s great to see that building coming back,” Councilor Neil Wetherbee said.
Once the entire project is completed, the East Derry Village Improvement Society will have the building’s deed in hand.
“There have been a lot of volunteers, a lot of sweat equity, late nights,” Dionne said. “But it’s for the good of the community.”