It was several years ago when we discovered an old map stashed away in a closet at the Chester Historical Society. It was poorly framed and in poor condition. The map is signed, “W.R. Sill, 1848” and measures 16”x20”.
1848 is the oldest known map of Chester village. Realizing its importance, Chester Historical Society members voted to have the map restored. We sent it to Works on Paper, located in the Square in Bellows Falls. Here a complete restoration was performed. Below are a few of the issues that were addressed.
The map had been folded and refolded many times. When paper is repeatedly folded it breaks down the fibers in the fold. Eventually these weakened folds will tear which was the case with this map. On the reverse of the map you can see where someone, years ago, had used scotch tape to tape the tears together. The yellowed scotch tape residue created additional damage.
The restoration process:
The map was immersed in a series of water baths to remove acidity and discoloration. Then it was given an alkaline bath of calcium hydroxide to help reduce remaining acid.
It was then backed with Japanese tissue to mend tears, fill losses and provide overall support. Where there were major breaks or tears additional supporting strips of Japanese tissue were applied to strengthen the map and help reduce tenting or curling of the damaged sections.
To flatten the map it was placed in a humidity chamber. This helped to soften and relax the paper fibers. Then for six weeks it was pressed between layers of absorbent cotton rag blotters under evenly distributed weighted boards.
The map is now at The Framery of Vermont on Elm Street in Chester to be museum mounted, double matted, and glazed, using conservation glass providing 99 percent UV protection, and then re-framed. When completed, the map will be on display at Chester Historical Society.
Researchers will find this map useful. It’s an interesting study. Main Street homes and businesses are well documented. On the site of today’s Fullerton Inn is the original American House that burned in 1858. Across the street is Chester Academy. The Congregational church sits on the corner of Main and Church Streets. Three buildings are present on Church Street next to the church but no others.
Where Church Street meets Route 103, in what today is the “Y” sits the old meetinghouse. This meetinghouse was destroyed by fire in 1849. No photos are known to exist of that meetinghouse. Fortunately the map shows the meetinghouse with its front entry tower so common on old New England meetinghouses.
In Chester Depot there is not a single building. Only the railroad tracks are seen. Continuing down past Yosemite Firehouse is another interesting item. The big brick house on the left that Pember Hazen owned is present. Across the road in the field are two other buildings. One is a rather substantial building while the other is smaller. I have never seen anything on these two buildings before.
Where the new Jiffy Mart is today is what was known as Factoryville. The mills are shown as well as the canal that brought water from the Williams River over to Factoryville. Continuing down Pleasant Street toward Springfield only one building is shown. That building is Pizza Stone.
What we know:
This map is an original hand-drawn map. I did an online search for W.R. Sill but found nothing. Tom Hildreth took a stab at it and lo and behold he found W.R. Sill.
Here’s what Tom found:
“William Raymond Sill, Born 30 January 1822. W.R. Sill has been employed from 1844 to 1856 in the states of Vermont, New York and Wisconsin, as an engineer on the rail roads. Has been engaged in land agency and lumber business since 1856. His residence is La Crosse, Wis. Married Mary Edgar of St. Louis, MO,. On 24 May 1858.”
Where Sill is mentioned as an engineer he would be a civil engineer not locomotive engineer. Sill had a brother who graduated West Point and was a topographical engineer. The map was undoubtedly commissioned by the railroad.
The next meeting of the Chester Historical Society is Thursday, Jan. 25, upstairs at Chester Town Hall at 7 p.m. The monthly slideshow will be Chester photos recently donated by Ted Spaulding. Some of these photos I have not seen before. Everyone is welcome whether a member or not. Come see what we’re up to.
The only thing worse than trying to clean up a raw egg dropped on a linoleum floor is to drop the whole dozen like I just did.