PEPPERELL — Since Sept. 13, drivers passing through Prescott Street have slowed down to wave and provide thumbs up of encouragement to Rob Duncan and the Charter Communications bucket truck he had parked by the Farrar Flagpole on Prescott Street.
For the past three weeks, Charter has been volunteering equipment and manpower to restore the antique relic on behalf of the Historical Commission. Now, with the exception of a few minor touches, the project is complete. The flag finally flew again on Oct. 3.
Dean Johnson, operations manager at Charter, is also a member of the Historical Commission. When the project came up, he brought the job to Duncan, a Charter employee who also owns his own restoration business.
“It was a joint effort between Charter Communications and Yankee Restoration,” said Johnson.
Charter provided the bucket truck and the other necessary equipment, and Duncan provided his carpentry skills.
“Restoring history is a big thing for me,” said Duncan. “It’s just a passion.”
The project officially began on Aug. 6, when the Board of Selectmen authorized the disbursement of $107.38 for the restoration materials. The money came from a trust fund that was set up in 1919, when the flagpole was first erected. The money was left by Edmund P. Farrar for maintenance of the flagpole, said Historical Commission Chairwoman Diane Cronin. The original amount was for $150; according to the stipulations left by Farrar, the fund was never to drop below that amount and was to be disbursed at the discretion of the Board of Selectmen. Based on inflation rates, according to Cronin, the amount at the time would be worth about $2,000 today.
“That was a lot of money to come with in 1919 for a flagpole,” she said. “By today’s standards it was a really generous donation.”
The funds went towards paint, primer and the necessary hardware. The rest of the tools and testing were donated by Charter.
After an initial telephone pole test as well as an evaluation by Duncan, the pole was deemed safe and to only require routine maintenance. After sanding and priming the wood, Duncan weatherproofed the pole and caulked the cracks.
“(I filled) anywhere where water could get in and crack the pole some more,” he said.
Duncan, who still had to get his regular workload done during the day, was at the site about two to three days a week for several hours of his own time. But it was worth it, he said.
“It came out very nice. I’m very happy with it,” he said.
The only things left to do are to recreate a hand-carved cap that sits atop the pole and to paint the cement base; the work is not necessary but will serve as a few nice final touches.
“We just want to dress up the bottom of it,” said Duncan.
Pending inclement weather, Johnson said he hopes to have the base done by the end of the week, but there is no rush.
“You don’t want to paint the cement and have the rain ruin it. It’s a weather thing; once the weather cooperates, we can paint the base and be done,” he said. “If we’re going to do the job, we’re going to do it as right as possible.”
Following the restoration, Johnson expects the pole to have a long life expectancy.
“If it’s maintained and painted on an ongoing basis, it’ll be good to go for a long time,” he said.
The site is historical not only because of its longevity but because of its proximity to the house of Col. William Prescott.
“It’s a very symbolic area for Pepperell and our country,” said Cronin. “It’s our intent to promote the history of the location and its vicinity … I think it’s something that needs to stay there for all of time and be maintained.”