One of the truly rewarding aspects of our work here at the Historical Society, and in particular for the team that is working to catalog and put our collection online, is the connections that we are helping others make – with families and with people who share interests in things historical.
One of those came to light last week when I received a call from Chris Hadsel in Burlington, VT who was asking about the Parker Street Hall — she had come across a photograph in our online collection. It turns out she is part of a group that restores theatrical backdrops/curtains called “Curtains Without Borders” and she knew who the artist was who painted the curtain in Parker Street Hall! (She was calling hoping that it existed so they could consider restoring it.)
Chris told us that the Parker Street curtain was painted by Helen Tooker. Chris provided this short biography: Helen Tooker was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts in 1906. In the 1920’s, she studied art for a year at the Boston Museum, then married and moved to Taunton, MA, where she set up her “Bay State Studio” and taught art as part of the WPA. In the mid-1930’s, she and her sister and her best friend added theater curtains to the wide variety of art, calligraphy and sign painting that provided her with a living. The three young ladies would set out together and persuade local businesses to buy ads that were then painted on a muslin rolldrop. Although she produced theater curtains throughout northern New England, the only known surviving examples are this one at the West Windsor Historical Society at the former Ascutney Mountain Grange Hall, and two similar curtains in Maine. Helen passed away in 1997.
We will continue to look for more photographs of the backdrop for Chris’s records, and while the Parker Street Hall curtain is almost certainly gone you can visit some of the places where Helen’s work is still on display and get a sense of what it was like to be in our hall in the 1930s…
You can see more on our photo of the Parker Street Hall in our online collection.
Please visit the Curtains Without Borders website to learn more about their wonderful work restoring these beautiful works of art across New England (and they are looking to expand across the nation).