Founded in 1966 by Gibbs Murray and the late Tom Haas, the Weathervane continued the tradition of live, professional summer entertainment in Whitefield that began at the Chase Barn Theatre (shown in photos now and then).
The Chase opened in 1934 in a barn on the Chase Farm property. William Chase, arts critic at the New York Times, began importing New York actors, singers, and dancers during the summer to the delight of North Country residents and vacationers. For decades, the rafters rang at the Chase Barn with noted performers from Broadway, the Met, and beyond. Chase family members and local folks served as staff and audiences flocked there from grand hotels and country roads until 1962 when the Chase went dark.
Enter two young men with vision, energy, talent, and enthusiasm for northern New Hampshire . . . and the Weathervane Theatre was born. Lucy Chase Sparks introduced them to a property on Route 3 that offered two conjoined antique barns just begging to be transformed into a new stage space. For 36 Summers, the old – circa 1860s – barn served generations of theatre-goers.
In the winter of 2001, an assessment of structural issues made it impossible to continue to use the original Weathervane for performances. Quickly, the Board and staff began plans to erect a new Theatre, adjacent to the first.
A flurry of activity, a massive amount of fundraising, and a 37th Season that began on the borrowed stage space at the White Mountains Regional all culminated in the opening of the “new” Weathervane in August 2002.
The old space, shored up for workshop use, still housed dressing rooms, major storage and work space, and the necessary accumulated inventory of the past decades. The ‘old barn’ was a major asset and continual reminder of the history of the Weathervane.
But in October 2011, a devastating fire took down the original Weathervane with its valuable contents and space. Quick, professional work by the Whitefield Fire Department and departments from nine other towns limited the destruction to the public wing and stage right area of the directly adjacent ‘new’ Theatre. All told, when the smoke cleared, the loss and damages would amount to over $1 million . . . only about a third covered by insurance.
Once again, the Board and staff began to make replacement, repair, and rebuilding plans. While the insurance claims would begin to replace the “stuff” and fix the public/restroom wing, it was the value of that space that provided the greatest challenge. In all the fire took literally thousands of square feet of work space, dressing room space, and production storage both for inventory and working our alternating schedule. All that, as well as repairs to the extant Theatre, had to be addressed if the Mainstage was to open for Season 47. And it did, with much fanfare, and with some additional work (the removal of Birch Hill, for one thing) scheduled for and completed by 2013.
The result, we hope, will welcome you for decades to come. The financial obligations continue, and offer multiple opportunities to show your support and help us financially complete the work that you see: please visit our Support section to learn how you can help complete the rebuilding and restoration of the Weathervane.
Pictured: February 2011 Groundbreaking to Restore – Rebuild – Rededicate.
Find out how you can contribute to our future at Your Gift Now