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Wilton 'silent cop' to be restored

Union Leader Correspondent

May 26. 2014 11:12PM
Wilton's historic “silent police officer” has been located at the entrance to Main Street safe for about 90 years and is in need of restoration. Residents know it as “the dummy.” (Kathleen Baglio Humphreys/Union Leader Correspondent)

WILTON — The historic “silent police officer” that has graced the busy intersection of Main Street and Route 31 for about 90 years is due for another facelift.

The metal, four-sided traffic light sits at the end of Main Street. It is about 10 feet tall and is affectionately known as “the dummy” by residents. Its old-fashioned hands have fingers pointing in various directions and black lettering that reads, “Wilton Main Street,” “Peterboro Rt. 31 S Rout 101” and “Lyndeboro Rt. 31 N.” With its blinking red and yellow light, officials say it might be the last such signal still in use in America.

“It’s a historic marker and an expert from Nevada we talked to thinks it is the last one in the country,” Patsy Belt from the Wilton Main Street Design Committee said. “It’s important to fix it up.”

The restoration, expected to cost a few hundred dollars, will be discussed at tonight’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting.

The design committee, Wilton Main Street Association, Highway Department, Selectman and individuals are working on the best way to restore the iconic signal.

“I like it. I would like it to stay as a directional and it helps with traffic control,” Wilton Road Agent Steve Elliott said.

Eight years ago, Chuck Crawford, owner of Kimball Physics in Wilton, donated materials, machinery and company time to replace the signal’s light and rewire it to the tune of $10,000.

This time, Andy Roeper from Winn Mountain Restorations has volunteered to sandblast the signal.

“Depending on which method we go with, it will be dismantled and moved to a shop for sandblasting,” Alison Meltzer of the WMSA Design Committee said.

Photographs from the 1930s show the sign’s black lettering once read, “Slow down, keep right.”

The wording was changed eight years ago.

“We are going to determine if we are comfortable going forward keeping it that way, or to restore it to how it was,” Meltzer said.

The intersection can’t support traffic lights due to how close the buildings are to the road, according to the town’s road agent and Wilton Police Chief Brent Hautanen.

“I think to some extent it helps with traffic and defines that intersection,” Hautanen said. “Especially now with the traffic light working it does help with traffic control because that side of Main Street is wider and it defines where traffic should be and to an extent it helps drivers recognize the stop sign.”

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