Photography hobby leads Hanover man to restore Templars document
As a child, Chris Howe of Hanover never imagined himself restoring the century-old documents hanging on the walls of the Knights of Pythias building in Hanover.
His first interest was photography, and his goal was simply to earn enough money to buy a camera. He achieved it by selling Christmas cards from a kit he bought through a comic book advertisement.
“Once I sold enough to buy my camera, I threw the rest of the cards away,” he said.
Taking photos wasn’t just a passing fancy of childhood. He’s continued to hone his skills to this day.
During the warmer months, he enjoys taking outdoor photos. But in the winter, he turns his attention toward experimenting with various artistic shots and indoor photography.
“I don’t like the short days this time of year, but it gives me a good opportunity to do a lot of my own work. Like these here,” he said, gesturing toward several artistic prints on display at his Hanover store, Gordie Howe’s.
It was taking photos that led him to document restoration projects.
“It started with photography — improving on the photography end of it, and the framing part too,” he said. “Over time, you find these documents — in frames, out of frames, whatever — and you say, ‘Wow, that’d be nice to fix up.’ So I started researching how to restore documents online.”
Chris’s first restorations were documents and photos belonging to his own family, including a coat-of-arms, his great-grandfather’s birth certificate, a photograph of his great-great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather, and a framed print of Rome predating cars. “I started with my family stuff first. I didn’t want to ruin other people’s stuff,” he said.
Document restoration is a long, multi-step process of using chalk, heat, a mixture of distilled water and specialized bleach, and suction. “You want the chalk to work because it’s non-invasive. If that doesn’t work, each step gets a little more involved and detrimental to the paper because it’s so old and brittle,” he explained. “Then you’ll use heat. You put the document between two pieces of acid-free paper, and use an iron, but you’ve got to be so careful. It’s just a slow process to restore it as best you can.”
After restoring his family’s documents, Chris felt he had gained enough knowledge and experience to tackle another project. “When the Knights of Pythias building sold, I went over with Clem Worcester to remove some objects he thought were important to the town’s history and should be preserved,” Chris said.
One of the items Clem and Chris removed was the 1899 charter for the order of the Hanover chapter of the Good Templars organization — an international temperance group, popular during prohibition. Though the Hanover chapter is no longer in existence, the Good Templars are still around today.
Chris spent approximately 80 hours on the Templars project — 50 hours using chalk and heat to remove the stains from the document and an additional 30 hours on the restoration of the frame.
“I could’ve built the frame, but I wanted it in the original frame,” he said. “Somebody had painted it and there were globs of paint all over it. I used a citrus-based paint remover and chipped away at it, — that’s what took the longest — then used specialized markers to match the original stain. It looks rough, but I wanted it in the original frame because that’s what it came in.”
Chris plans to tackle further document restorations for the town soon, but at the moment he is busy with photography.
Though he finds document restoration interesting, when asked if he might be looking to turn it into a side business, he simply chuckled and said, “It depends on the document. Not to say I wouldn’t do it if I got something else, but for the most part it’s scary as heck.”