Restoration of the David Damon Tavern, c. 1817

Toward the end of the 1950's, the town purchased the former David Damon Tavern at 21 Bow Street. Extensive renovations were implemented to transform the first floor into a library. The Historical Society was permitted to use an area on the second floor for storage of artifacts and meeting space. Investigation indicated that some small rooms on the south side of the building appeared to have paintings under wallpaper. Further investigation indicated that the small rooms had once been part of one large room. Volunteers from the Society, with permission from the town, carefully removed the partitions and for many weeks, painstakingly peeled the wallpaper from the walls. Consultations with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and with the foremost authority on the art of Rufus Porter, confirmed these were indeed authentic Porter murals.

Application was made by the Historical Society to the Massachusetts Council for the Arts, and a grant was awarded to assist in the repair and delicate retouching of the murals. Society members built benches against the walls, reproducing a small piece of the original bench found intact at one end of the room. Draperies, lighting, and carpeting were added. Thus The town came to own the valuable Rufus Porter murals.

In 1958 the Tavern became the town's library and was renamed to the Weeks Memorial Library .  Unfortunately in the late 1980's the building was condemned and closed.  The building structure had been severely damaged by the weight of  the books and the poor design of the 1950's addition.  In 1991 the library moved across the street to the newly renovated Flint Memorial Hall and the Tavern remained vacant.

In the mid 1990's, the NR Historical Commission and the Weeks Building/town Owned Land Reuse Committee (now dissolved) recommended that the Weeks Building/Damon Tavern, be renovated.  The Tavern would have some commercial office space and the remainder would be museum and cultural center. While the North Reading Historical Society was interested in the building, it was clear that the Society could not possibly finance such a project. The building needed massive structural repair. installation of complete systems, such as sprinklers, air-conditioning, and required a new lift to the second floor for handicapped access .

The Town Meeting voted to spend the funds necessary to create rental office space, which would in turn provide income to help support and maintain the building. The Historical Commission also applied to the Massachusetts Historical Commission for a grant from the Massachusetts Preservation Project Funds which was awarded. The grant of $ 130,000 was given to the town after the town spent $ 260,000 on the Tavern. The project, using funds authorized by town Meeting, was under the direction of the Department of Public Works. A Damon Tavern Restoration Committee was appointed by the Board of Selectmen to advise the Public Works Department on matters relating to the historical aspects of the project.

History of the Tavern
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vlm 2001 Updated BJJ April 2009