By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – It took a $680,000 repair job, including painting and new climate control in Representatives Hall and its portraits this summer to find out that the abolitionist and U.S. Senator John Hale of Dover wore a black suit, rather than a blue one for his portrait.
Dirt and dust from over the decades were removed this summer to reveal the true black suit.
“Who would have known?” said Terry Pfaff, “It was custom for his time to wear black.”
Pfaff, chief operating officer for the General Court, who is overseeing the restoration work in the State House complex, said among the final touches on the Reps Hall project was the rehanging of portraits Monday.
Presidents George Washington and Abe Lincoln, Franklin Pierce, former U.S. Secretary of State and Congressman Daniel Webster, Sen. Hale and Caroline Gross, the first female Majority Leader have all been cleaned.
They are all back on the cleanly painted walls, and the ornate plaster curls and columns of the stately room have been repaired.
But the best part, which will be noticeable next hot and humid day in that room will be the climate control which will be set to a comfy 68 to 70 degrees, said Pfaff.
Arch Painting was in charge of the work and Pfaff relied on the state’s favored restorationists to return the portraits to their original colors and glory.
Interestingly, Hale, (1806-1873) was a key founder of a party of abolitionists and his portraits hang in the same hall with New Hampshire’s only President Franklin Pierce (1804-1869).
They must have known each other.
Pierce was the 14th President of the United States who believed the abolition movement threatened the unity of the nation and he angered many abolitionists by signing the Kansas-Nebraska Act and enforced the Fugitive Slave Act before the Civil War.
Senator Hale must have had a few choice words for Pierce.
With the Civil War behind them, the portraits will now oversee battles and lawmaking in the People’s House, Representatives Hall, yet they will have an easier life going forward as there will be no more 92 percent humid days.
A climate-controlled environment to enjoy might make for better relations for all.
The project is separate from the one the state is still working on outside the Legislative Office Building.
While it does not appear you can get into the Legislative Office Building because of all the construction, Pfaff said you can get to it by using the tunnel under the street that connects the State House with the LOB.
The Senate had a recent facelift and it has been restored for several years now and this is in addition to extensive work done to Reps Hall in 2004. The State House is now 202 years old.
Pfaff said he expects the Reps Hall project that began in June will be at or under budget and noted it was part of pre-pandemic planning that got pushed off a little bit by the crisis and had nothing to do with the fact that lawmakers needed more space in the Bedford Sportsplex this spring to do their work.
It is expected that lawmakers could return to their old chamber, COVID-19 willing, this winter.