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Houghton Hardware Captured on Ornament by Dining Services Cook

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
December 2, 2009

Many years ago, Tim Taylor was looking around downtown Durham and thinking about how it might change over time. There were places he wanted to make sure were not forgotten. One of them was Houghton Ace Hardware.

Sure enough, the longtime business moved out of town a couple of years ago. In recent weeks, the building was demolished. But the memory of what was there will live on in this year’s Durham Business Association’s Christmas ornament, which bears an image of the hardware store painted by Taylor in 1998.

“I knew downtown was going to change,” says Taylor, a cook at Philbrook Dining Hall, “so, I thought I’d paint a few of the buildings to create a sort of historical record and see if the business owners wanted them.”

He started with Houghton’s, a place he frequented often. Then-owner Dick Houghton bought the watercolor from Taylor for about $35. After that, Taylor got busy with his job at UNH and other art projects he was doing for the Red Cross and local churches. He didn’t give the hardware store painting another thought.

This year, when the Durham Business Association learned the old hardware store building was being torn down, they contacted Houghton to see if he had a photograph from which a drawing, and then the ornament, could be made. He did them one better, presenting Taylor’s painting.

And that’s when the group set out to find him.

Houghton didn’t know Taylor personally. He didn’t know where he lived or worked. No one could even read the artist’s signature on the painting clearly.

“There was some confusion for a while because someone thought my name was Jim,” Taylor says of the search to find him and get permission to use his artwork.

Someone else thought he was the grandson of a woman who used to work in town. Her daughter in Arizona was contacted. No, Jarry Stearns had not had any grandchildren, the daughter said. But she knew Taylor and told the caller he worked at UNH.

They located his name in the UNH directory and learned he was with Dining Services. This was in July, when he fills in with housekeeping because the dining hall is closed. Jon Plodzik, director of Dining, was contacted. He made the connection with a housekeeping manager who got in touch with Taylor, who was happy to have his painting made into an ornament.

During the town’s tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 4, the DBA will present Houghton with the ornament and the original painting, newly framed. Taylor will be there.

In the meantime, the interest in his artwork has inspired him. A watercolor of Young’s Restaurant recently done by Taylor now hangs on the wall near kitchen doors. A customer who has seen one he just finished of the Durham Village Garage has asked him to do one for her.

“I’m going to do the Durham (Oyster River Dam) dam; who knows how long that will be there?” Taylor says.

He is also working on a second painting of Young’s for the owners. And he’s been looking at other businesses around town with a new eye.

“Right now this is just a hobby but who knows where it’s going to lead?” Taylor says. “It’s something I really like to do.

The ornaments are for sale at several area businesses for $20.

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