Great things behind the curtain


A show is taking place in our midst, but the curtain will only rise when the production is finalized.

It usually happens the other way around. The curtain drops at the end of the show.

In this case, the curtain is the scaffolding that has shrouded Warwick City Hall tower most of the summer. It lifts above the dome to the height of its crowning weather vane.

It should start coming down by the end of this month.

Behind the steel piping and the webbing to catch chunks of deteriorating mortar as they are chipped from between bricks, the exterior of the building is being given the most comprehensive exterior facelift since the cornerstone was laid in 1893. It is a massive undertaking. EF O’Donnell and Sons that specializes in historic restoration is the general contractor. Workers have removed the metal sheathing of columns to find rotted beams; pulled away foam balustrades that were thought to endure the elements in a partial restoration effort more than 25 years ago; and have replaced the copper dome.

Wherever possible, original materials and components are being used. Copper urns are being fabricated to the dimensions of the originals that, like sentinels, stood at corners at each level of the tower. The numerals and hands of the three tower clock faces have been removed and will be gold-leafed before their replacement. Bricks have been sandblasted and re-pointed.

Restoration of City Hall has been a priority for Mayor Scott Avedisian. During his administration, City Council Chambers were restored and extensive interior work was done to the building. Those improvements have brought pride to the city workers who did the job and to the community that recognizes this as its seat of government.

But the exterior of the building has been problematic. In the late ’90s, an assessment found the building required major work. However, funds were lacking so the city took a “Band Aid” approach, patching leaks and doing what else was necessary to ensure the interior work was not damaged.

The administration didn’t give up. The Planning Department pursued grants to do the work. The persistence paid off. The city won a $350,000 Save America’s Treasures grant administered by the National Park Service and another state grant for $50,000. The contract for the job is $772,000.

This is money well spent. The work being done will ensure a future for this historic building. And when the curtain drops, all will see the splendor of the tower as it was built.


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