Eagle Scout Jeffrey Shepard works to bring 121-year-old Community Hall building back to former glory with new granite steps

Monday, September 08, 2014
PELHAM — Two years ago, Linda Hanscom was cleaning the gutters of the historic Community Hall building when she heard a boy’s voice from below asking if she needed help.

Jeffrey Shepard, then 15, was a Pelham resident with long family ties to both the town and the Community Hall building. He offered his help and spent the afternoon cleaning.

This wasn’t your typical teenage boy, recalled Hanscom, secretary of the Community Hall Committee. “I think he’s a very special young man.”

So it came as no surprise to her when, for his Eagle Scout project this year, Shepard chose to aid in the restoration of the 121-year-old Community Hall building at the corner of Amherst and North Valley Roads.

On Saturday, with help from his parents, grandfathers, two fellow scouts and the leaders of Troop 504 in Amherst, Shepard installed granite steps on the side of the building.

Hanscom noted that the impact of Shepard’s project will be long-lasting. “It’s not a picnic table that will deteriorate in five years,” she said. “This is something he can take his grandchildren to see.”

Shepard, now 17, said he was inspired to aid in the building’s restoration after seeing photos of the building when it was first built. He wanted to bring it back to its former glory.

Community Hall was built in 1893 as a one-room school house and was used that way until 1913 when the building closed briefly when too few children enrolled, according to a history provided by Hanscom. The building re-opened in November, 1914 as a town cultural center. At that time, Shepard’s great-great-grandfather, Frederick A. Shepard, was a member of the Community Hall Association responsible for its re-opening. Frederick A. Shepard also became chairman of the town Select Board in 1917.

And Jeffrey’s paternal grandfather, Donald Shepard, attended Boy Scout meetings in the building in the 1950s. Ronald Shepard, Jeffrey’s father, also attended scout meetings there in the 1980s, according to Hanscom’s history.

On Saturday, fellow scouts Ciarian Young, 16, of Amherst, and Chip Young, 15, of Hadley, (no relation) helped Shepard cut granite for the steps by hammering wedges into the stone. Some of the granite came from the October 2012 dismantling of a dam on Amethyst Brook, and some was donated by Doubleday Farm. Leftover granite will be used to construct a bench.

Scout Leader Lyle Denit, of Amherst, has known Shepard for eight years. He describes Shepard as “often quiet” but having a “good, dry sense of humor.”

“He’s been a really steady presence in the Scout troop,” said Denit. “You know, he keeps showing up to things — and ready to help.”

Gena Mangiaratti can be reached at gmangiaratti@gazettenet.com.