Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2015 Preservation Award Winners
Gloucester City Hall

Gloucester City Hall

Rehabilitation & Restoration

Constructed in 1870, Gloucester City Hall's prominent siting overlooking the harbor makes it a dominant feature of the city's skyline. Listed individually in the National Register of Historic Places and a contributing element of the Central Gloucester Historic District, the grand brick structure shows characteristics of the Second Empire and Italianate styles and boasts a 148-foot tower. The prominent Boston architectural firm of Gridley J. F. Bryant and Louis P. Rogers designed the building, which, since its construction, has served continuously as the city's center of government, housing administrative offices and a second-floor auditorium, the latter a gathering place for civic purposes, entertainment, and cultural events. The building also houses a number of the community's treasures, including civic archival records dating to 1642, Works Progress Administration (WPA) murals in their original settings, and a hand-lettered list of the names of all Gloucester fishermen lost at sea.

The recently completed rehabilitation and restoration of Gloucester City Hall is the result of a ten-year effort, begun in 2004 when former Mayor John Bell and the City Council established the City Hall Restoration Commission. The initial focus was on the building's roof and tower. However, during the planning phase, the team discovered two seriously deteriorated roof trusses, forcing the city to vacate the building for a year for repairs, funded in part by an emergency Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund (MPPF) grant. After the completion of truss and roof repairs, further building assessment uncovered potentially dangerous deterioration in the visibly leaning tower. In 2006, emergency shoring repairs, followed by a new steel support system, stabilized the tower, and replacement of the copper roofing and flashing stopped water infiltration. Multiple layers of paint were stripped from all wood siding, trim, and ornamental tower elements, which were repaired or replaced as needed. Historic paint analysis informed exterior repainting in a buff color to match the building's Nova Scotia sandstone trim. Phase I ended with critical structural repairs completed, but still much work needed to be performed. In 2009, the Gloucester Fund financed restoration of the clockworks and bell, and in 2012, shortly after the city adopted the Community Preservation Act, Phase II continued restoration of the tower, the building's four corner-mounted ventilator structures, and its cornice. Historic photographs led to the replacement of missing roof cresting on the ventilators. Windows were restored one elevation at a time as funds were raised, until all windows were repaired, operational, and returned to the original paint scheme of black sash and sandstone-colored frames and moldings. Accessibility was improved. A 2012 National Endowment for the Humanities grant financed an assessment of the WPA murals painted by Charles Allan Winter and other local artists, which depict Gloucester's origins, its renowned fishing industry, and themes of the arts and education. Funding from the Community Preservation Committee and the Bruce J. Anderson Foundation financed the murals' cleaning and restoration. Completion of this complex restoration project has saved a prominent part of Gloucester's historic downtown and skyline, allowing it to continue serving the community and providing a source of pride for the city.

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