Still Signing

Several years ago, perhaps 8 to 10, I attended a guided tour of the then partially demolished Paul Revere Heritage Site. The now beautiful and fully renovated Rolling Copper Mill had been torn apart. There were no windows or doors, just brick walls and a concrete floor with puddles of standing water that needed to be carefully navigated by our small group of mostly Canton citizens. My tour was guided by George Comeau, and I was deeply moved and excited by George’s knowledge, commitment to the project, and visions for the future of the site. At the end of this enlightening tour, George addressed the small group and said, “What we really need now is your time, your wealth, and your talent.” I thought to myself, “I’m in!”

Thus began my fervent endeavors to share my time and talents, (and some moderate wealth), with the PRHS. I started attending meetings in Town Hall with several other enthusiastic volunteers and town leaders. There was much to do with many false starts and missteps along the way but eventually plans emerged, committees were formed, and things started to happen.

One of those first “things” was the appearance of wayside panels or interpretive signs along the walking trails of the 7 acres of green space which comprises a good part of the PRHS. One of the first committees I joined was the one which researched, wrote, and installed those signs. The committee had been headed by Emily Prigot, a former park Ranger for the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. She was ably assisted by Sepp Bergscheider, Chairman of the Historical Commission. Both Prigot and Bergscheider were members of the Canton Historical Society with access to their treasure trove of historic photos and artifacts, which would be crucial to our endeavors.

For the next year the three of us would meet, mostly at the Histy, and research, write, design, and edit. There were old maps to consult, documents to read, and old artifacts to ponder. Sorting through the hundreds of images that were at our disposal was an exhausting task. We carefully crafted engaging questions at the end of each panel which were designed to help our visitors find a connection to the story. We hoped that we would be giving them “something to chew on” after they had left.

From the beginning our challenge had been to design signage for things that were no longer there! For example, the house that Paul Revere had once lived in had been torn down at the beginning of the last century. We placed a sign where the house had once stood and with the aid of a few very old photos and Huntoon’s words, tried to give the visitor a sense of what it must have looked like and what it must have felt like to live there two hundred years ago.

Bergscheider liked to say that the signs were an appetizer for the museum that was to come. Such a lovely image!

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