WESTERLY — It might look like a major production, but the elaborate jungle-gym of scaffolding in front of the Granite Theatre is for a minor repair only.
“Right now the project entails either repairing or replacing one of the columns supporting the portico,” said Gil Bricault, a board member of Renaissance City Theatre Inc., the theater’s parent organization. “All the scaffolding makes it look worse than it is, but we need to have a way for workers to work on the column.”
The workers hired for the job are from Picus Woodwrights of Shannock, a general contracting company owned by Gregory Bressler that focuses on restoration, preservation, remodeling and adaptive reuse of commercial and residential historic properties.
“All is well and we will be opening as scheduled in March,” Bricault said.
The repair was not, however, without some mystery and drama. When Bressler was removing a section of the portico roof, he saw an opening and crawled into the area under the roof structure to assess damage. There he found a scrap of an old newspaper nailed to the side of the building, perhaps left by the last carpenter who worked on the building. Using the zoom lens on his camera, Bressler snapped a photograph of it.
“It’s a political advertisement from the 1800s for a prohibition candidate by the name of Alfred Chadsey,” Bressler said.
“One of the neat things about working on old buildings is that you occasionally find keepsakes and time capsules left by people who worked there before you,” said Bressler, a Stonington native who makes his home in Shannock. “They often tend to be creative or ironic.”
“He used four nails so I’m pretty confident that it was a carpenter and that it was left intentionally for the next guy to find,” he said. “And we found it.”
Curious, Bressler looked up Alfred Chadsey on the Internet and discovered several mentions of a person from North Kingstown with the same name who ran for Congress in 1884 as a prohibition candidate.
“So either the carpenter was a teetotaler or he felt that Mr. Chadsey was best left sealed inside of a roof for the next 130 years,” chuckled Bressler. “My inclination is to suggest to the owners, the Renaissance City Theater, that we leave this in place and add something to it.”
The opening play for the 2014 theater season, meanwhile, is neither a mystery nor a political thriller, but a romantic comedy, “Same Time, Next Year,” by Bernard Slade. The play ran on Broadway for three years and was then adapted for a 1978 movie with the same title. It opens at the Granite Theatre on March 7 and runs though March 30.