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EPPING, New Hampshire — It’s the color of royalty, richness, grapes and wine. And in Epping, it’s the color of controversy.
The lilac Victorian house on the corner of Main and Academy streets is raising eyebrows and chuckles. The home of Creative Community Space, an art studio and art education facility, it is fulfilling founder Vandy Leigh’s vision.
Leigh was open about her plans to paint the house purple, as far back as the Planning Board stage.
“She asked for the color when the Planning Board approved the site plan, and we said, ‘Go for it,’” board Chairman Joe Foley recalled. “At this stage, we no longer have any purview over it.”
Foley said he doesn’t find the colors jarring.
“Is it attention-getting? Yes. But I don’t find it offensive,” Foley said.
Mark Vallone has owned Victorians and said, “The extravagant colors are not that unusual in old Victorians.”
The house stood in disrepair for years, Vallone noted. “Now all of a sudden it’s become an icon.”
The former principal of Epping Elementary School also said, “Back when I was principal, it would have been easier for me to give directions to the school with a purple house.”
The colors also fit the building’s mission, according to Vallone. “If you’re making your living teaching art to the community, it’s appropriate,” he said, adding, “Go for it.”
Joy True, president of the Epping Historical Society, said, “It’s an artists’ place. It fits in with her mission. I like it.”
The house was built by True’s husband Forrest’s ancestors, Sarah True and her husband William Brown. True thinks Sarah, who is buried in the cemetery across the street, “would have approved.”
Resident Paul Gatchell once painted his house, also on Main Street, with polka dots, True said, adding, “People got over it.”
But resident Madelyn Williamson, former chair of the Historic District Commission, isn’t so sure the purple house fits with the neighborhood.
“I was very surprised when I first saw it,” Williamson said. “It looks very out of place, like a sore thumb in that old neighborhood.”
While the arts center isn’t in the actual Historic District, it is in an older neighborhood.
Williamson owns a Victorian, but keeps its color subdued. The Creative Community Space house reminds her of the “Painted Ladies” on the Jersey Shore, whose owners often went to extremes.
“Everybody gets used to everything in time,” Williamson said, “but people who buy old Victorians should respect them.”
Leigh said she made her color choice clear in her meetings with the land-use boards and they had no objections. The time to object was in the planning stage, she said.
Leigh said she has seen the negative comments about the color of the house on Epping Squawks, a popular Facebook page.
“I respond to the positive comments and I let the others go,” Leigh said.
The colors, in two shades of lilac, were chosen deliberately, according to Leigh.
“I wanted to let people know, ‘This is not a house anymore,’” she said. “It’s a business.”
The purple matches her business cards and other promotional materials and is part of the branding she studied in business courses at the University of New Hampshire, she said.
Leigh is philosophical about the reactions, noting her purple house has brought the community together.
“People are having flashbacks to the polka-dot house,” she said, referring to the Gatchell house. “Some of them say, ‘Remember how fun it was,’ and others say, ‘Remember how awful it was.’ A lot of people are sharing their history with each other — it’s produced bonding.”
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