Now a vibrant arts and cultural center, more than a century ago the Tillotson Center was known as “the Balsams Barn.” The original building housed the horses and carriages that carried guests from the Colebrook train station to Dixville Notch and what is now The Balsams resort. During the 1920s it served as a meeting hall and community center for the Colebrook Grange, and by the mid-‘60s it became the repository of historical artifacts collected by a local family.
A generous $50,000 donation from benefactor Louise Tillotson in 2006 spurred its development as center for community heritage and visual and performing arts. Additional donations from grants and the 500 founding members made the dream of a northern New Hampshire arts facility a reality. The community, in thanks, named the center after Mrs. Tillotson, because of her commitment to the project and her love for the arts.
Today, the Tillotson Center, designed by distinguished architect John Kaufmann, presents a full roster of activities, year-round, with concerts and other performances staged in its 171-seat theater, rotating shows by local and regional artists in the art gallery, and a Historical Society annex with displays that gives visitors a glimpse into the past.
The Kaufmann Theatre features both orchestra and balcony seating and is well-used by the community for everything from live stage performances, concerts and movies to guest speakers, school plays and community meetings.
2017 summer concert performances include:
June 17: Alan Epstein’s “Sunset on Meriden Hill” with Jim Prendergast. The concert debuts Alan Epstein’s CD, “Sunset on Meriden Hill,” and features Alan on mandolin accompanied by Jim on guitar.
June 24: Belle of the Fall. Tracy Walton and Julie Autumn Ford are multi-instrumentalists who creature folksy but contemporary music.
June 29: “Treasure Island” presented by University of New Hampshire Little Red Wagon Touring Company. Join the children’s theater troupe as they perform the classic tale of the pirate who buried his booty on Treasure Island before he died.
July 8: Comfort County. Four friends have joined forces to present the best in county music, with some bluegrass and gospel mixed in.
August 5: The Heather Pierson Trio. Folk ballads, blues and New Orleans traditional jazz are the forte of these talented musicians, whose intricate instrumental arrangements and three-part vocal harmonies will delight the evening’s audience.
August 23: Lux. A quartet of musicians who have been described as “funky, jazzy, quirky, entertaining (and) engaging,” performing covers and original tunes.
Visitors will want to check out the Historical Society Annex with its thoughtful displays of artifacts that illustrate everyday life during the region’s different eras. Of particular note is the display of firefighting equipment, including a soda-acid wagon that was used by the Colebrook Fire Department in the 1880s.
The talented artists of the Connecticut River Artisan Group (CRAG) keeps the art gallery filled with a rotating display of work, from paintings and ceramics to photographs and wood carvings. All work is for sale, and a piece of locally created art makes a nice gift to take home for yourself or a special friend. The gallery is open Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m. and during all events. Admission is free.
The Tillotson Center is located at 14 Carriage Lane, Colebrook. Learn more at www.tillotsoncenter.org.