By LINDA KELLETT
C-S-E News Staff
FORT PLAIN — In the days leading up to the Last Night celebration here, Historic Fort Plain’s Unity Hall Community Arts Center project underwent a dramatic transformation.
In a massive combined effort, local volunteers that included area residents, contractors and building professionals donated more than 100 hours of work to sweep, clean and dust windowsills and frames, latticework and railings, heating vents and the main hall floor.
They also put their backs into the disposal of crumbling floor tiles, the removal of firmly embedded nails and staples that once secured tattered carpeting and flooring materials; and they installed plastic over screened windows in the bell tower high above the village.
Most notably, though, they toiled to construct a subfloor in the front foyer, covering a large gaping hole that once threatened to swallow up the area around it — bringing members of the not-for-profit group one step closer to their goal of rehabilitating the once-glorious 1896 Universalist Church of the Messiah at the corner of Center and Mohawk streets.
Group officer Tolga Morawski expressed thanks to the many people who labored in the cold under the feeble rays of head lamps and in the blazing brightness of floodlights to further the group’s dream of making the former Universalist Church a performance space, art gallery, educational center and more.
In a Christmas Day e-mail, Morawski wrote, “Also, I will add a quick thank you to those of you who have volunteered or donated in 2012. We do appreciate it.”
Among those credited for their help and support over the last week were Canajoharie contractors Hein Kraak, of New Amsterdam Contracting, and Joe Gyurik, of Grade A Contracting, who helped install the subfloor; Rich Strunk of Windy Hill Restorations of Starkville, who donated a 12-foot white oak beam in support of that foundation; Canajoharie resident Stephen Young, who cleared a large section of damaged floor tiles; Adam Bermas, of Fort Plain, and Dave Hayes, of Canajoharie, who enclosed the bell tower and engaged in other labor-intensive tasks; Sportsman’s Den business owner and group officer Tanya Towne, who along with members of her family helped clean up debris; Fort Plain residents John Diotte and Susanne Mahn; and others.
A little more than a year from the time that members of Historic Fort Plain took ownership of the once-condemned building, they hosted their first event: A series of acoustic sets by local, “top-notch musicians” as part of the successful 2012 Last Night celebration in Fort Plain.
In order to become a member or to donate to Historic Fort Plain, write to Historic Fort Plain at P.O. Box 53, Fort Plain, N.Y. 13339, or visit the website at www.HistoricFortPlain.com.