HARVARD — Work will begin this fall on a face-lift for Town Hall, minus a decision on what color to paint the grand old building.
At Harvard Historical Commission meeting on Aug. 3, Town Administrator Tim Bragan made the pitch in favor of “option 4,” the preferred approach of four outlined for the town by architects Menders, Torrey & Spencer on behalf of the Municipal Building Committee.
Under any of the four approaches outlined, there was $77,000 worth of work identified, with an $8,000 contingency and $15,000 in architectural fees. The total project would weigh in at $100,000.
The first three elements of option 4 were embraced by the commission. A fourth component, paint, was put on the back burner.
Option 4 calls for:
* Removal and reinstallation of wood quoins (the mock bricklike decoration on the four corners of the building) at the southeast corner of Town Hall. Work will include sheathing repairs and replacement of approximately a quarter of the quoins.
* Repair of wooden window hoods and sills with epoxies and the installation of metal flashing over the hoods; and
* Repair of wood siding, wood cornices, and wood post braces.
There’s no plan to address the roof at this time. Bragan said it will be handled through the later stages of the renovation process.
“My goal on this is to get the facade on the front of the building stabilized, preserved and brought to a point so that it will be there, ready to be painted.”
Option 4 also called for the removal of the exterior paint down to the bare wood, followed by priming and painting within a historically accurate color palate. What color?
“If you want to know the paint color, I’m wearing it here today,” smiled Bragan, who was bedazzling in a day-glow hot pink polo shirt. No one bought it.
No, for the time being “the color will remain the same,” said Bragan. “As at this moment?” asked Historical Commission Chairman Roseanne Saalfield.
Bragan explained the painting will follow at another point in the process. “At that point you can deal with them, not me.” But as far as the other exterior work, Bragan characterized it as “all replacement in kind.”
And that means “wood for wood,” said Bragan. “I tried to convince them that PVC would work or some other nice material, but they said I probably wouldn’t get far with the Historical Commission.”
On the quoins, for example, the replacement wood is to be either American mahogany or Spanish cedar, both hardwoods more likely to bear the brunt of the New England seasons.
But Bragan planted the seed, which prompted a discussion over the cost and durability of the materials used in the historic-renovation project. Saalfield asked her peers– “I’m asking you as a taxpayer” — whether they’d prefer extruded PVC over wood.
“As a taxpayer?” mused commission member Chris Cutler. “In some application, you absolutely cannot tell.” Cutler offered that’s especially true in the case of soffit replacement.
“I agree,” said Commissioner Jared Wollaston. He said that’s especially the case when the surface is to be painted. But he was steadfast that all the quoins should be replaced at the same time for uniform aging and that they all be replaced with the same hearty material, not PVC.
“Paint may still fail,” said Cutler. “It’s just the PVC won’t rot.”
“Pine will fail,” said Wollaston. “Mahogany is a very dense material and I’m very pleased that’s the material that’s being used. When that mahogany’s painted, it’s going to absorb the paint better than pine. If you’re going to do the restoration, you do it right. When this is finished, it’s supposed to be in pristine condition. Having done so many projects, when you do it piecemeal like this, you’re looking for problems down the line. It’s far more cost-effective to replace them all now.”
John Martin said that was a suggestion that could be offered, but was not a condition that would be enforceable against the applicant, which in this case is the town.
“We can’t spend the money,” agreed Commissioner Doug Coots. “Our power is to review an application and not do the architect’s work or determine where they spend their money.”
And as far as the budgeting goes, Coots asked if the architect felt comfortable the work could be satisfactorily performed within the budget constraints.
“That’s my main question: Will this fit the money we have?” said Bragan. “He felt that in all honesty it would.”
How do you put the paint color on hold, yet still repair the exterior surfaces? Bragan said the timing is still unclear.
“I’m not painting the front of this building to have it scraped off to have it Rhino-shielded,” said Bragan. Paint isn’t in the cards at the moment. “Not if I’m going to be taking it off in two years.” To find the original historical color of the building, paint analysis will be performed. But for the time being, the façade will be stabilized.
“Trust me, ‘ve been struggling with this one,” said Bragan. He said the end result will be uniform. “I’m not going to let Town Hall look like a circus,” he laughed. “People may think we act like clowns inside.”
The commission voted to proceed. Bids for the work are due by Aug. 25. The timeline is for the external work to be complete by Nov. 15 before snow flies.
The Harvard Historic Commission meets again on Sept. 7.