Highlighting the Brown Company and the North Country

July 15th, 2011 by Adam

PLYMOUTH, N.H.-
The rich history of the Brown Company in Berlin, New Hampshire and surrounding communities is coming to life thanks to a unique partnership between the Center for Rural Partnerships at Plymouth State University (PSU), Tri-County Community Action Program (CAP), White Mountain Lumber and the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. The highlight of the partnership is a group of 24 murals created by PSU students displayed on the side of a Brown Company building in Berlin that depict key aspects of Berlin’s cultural history and heritage.

PSU-produced murals being installed on Brown Co. R & D building in Berlin, N.H.
Murals produced by Plymouth State University students being installed on the Brown Co. R & D building in Berlin, N.H. The murals depict key aspects of Berlin’s cultural history and heritage. Photo courtesy Dick Huot

“The individual panels painted by Art Department students at Plymouth State University created a beautiful mural for everyone to enjoy and act as a reminder that these once proud and important buildings have not been forgotten,” said former paper company executive James Wagner. “Looking towards the future we hope to see a completely renovated property that will serve the city proudly.”

The Brown Company Research and Development building on Riverside Drive in Berlin is nationally significant as one of the earliest privately owned industrial R&D facilities in the United States. The idea of a forest products laboratory was conceived as a means of developing methods to conserve wood in the production of forest products. The building opened in 1915, and over the next 50 years the company’s scientists pioneered innovations in the wood pulp and paper industries, transformed the use of forest products and enhanced the value and productivity of forests across New England and the world.

In recent years, Wagner has worked tirelessly to preserve this historically prominent building. In partnership with the board of directors of the Northern Forest Heritage Park, Tri-County CAP and the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, cleanup and rehabilitation began on the property funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. PSU’s Center for Rural Partnership’s Coös County Outreach Initiative (supported by the Neil & Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation) brought together individuals from the public and private sectors to contribute to this project while creating educational opportunities for PSU students and faculty.

One of the first goals for Wagner was to halt ongoing weather damage by installing protective coverings over 24 of the R & D building windows with multi-paneled murals, which will become a permanent display inside the building when its restoration is complete. Wagner first discussed the mural idea with Thad Guldbrandsen, Director of the Center for Rural Partnerships at PSU, who helped arrange for grant funding to pay for a 768 square foot mural, composed of 4’ by 8’ sheets of plywood designed and produced by PSU art students, with content direction from Wagner.

PSU Art professor Tom Driscoll oversaw the mural design and painting, calling it a valuable and engaging project for the students.

“The students learned about the complex technical aspects of creating a mural, time management and working against a deadline,” said Driscoll. “I conservatively estimate that we put in at least 1200 hours. Despite the enormity of the project the students never lost enthusiasm or energy. They are very proud of their accomplishment, as am I.”

Joe Costello, CEO for Tri-County CAP, said the mural art is a link between Berlin’s past and present.

“The individual panels painted by the Arts Department Students at Plymouth State University will create a beautiful mural for everyone to enjoy and act as a reminder that these once proud and important buildings have not been forgotten,” said Costello. “Looking towards the future we hope to see a completely renovated property that will serve the City proudly.”

In addition to the mural project, other PSU students and faculty also contributed a documentary film about the research, design, and production of the mural panels and a traveling educational exhibit about Brown Company’s Research and Development history, Industrial Explorers.

For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or blyndes@plymouth.edu

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