The 1870 Town Hall will be closed during construction of the new elevator addition. Weekly classes and monthly Contra Dances have been relocated next door at First Parish Church.
Berlin Country Orchestra Contra Dance
with Caller Rich Sbardella
Saturday, March 3, 7:30pm
Parish Hall Gym, 24 Central Street, Berlin
Click on "Contra Dances" on the left for additional details
BERLIN – Work continues to elevate the ability to reach the second floor of the 1870 Town Hall, including the stage area.
“My big thing about this is this is a historic preservation project,” Barry Eager said. “It made it possible to use the building in the same way it had through its life.” Eager serves as town moderator, but also on the historical commission.
Accessibility issues were part of what drove the town to leave the building after the 1995 town meeting and hold meetings elsewhere. The elevator would make it possible to use it for town or board meetings once again, Eager said. “A number of events decided not to come here” because of access, Eager said.
The elevator project adds to the building but behind, where it will have the least visual impact on the look of the building. “Without the addition, we would have had to ruin inside rooms,” Evy Dueck said.
The newly-accessible building “takes care of a variety of new needs,” Eager said. “Since it is a major cultural resource of the town, it makes sense to spend (mitgation funds) here.”
The town has “been nudged for years to make it ADA compliant,” Dueck said. In 2008, the effort to renovate started again, Pat Smith said. After 20 years, it is no longer an idea, but becoming reality. The access to the elevator allows people to get directly to the second floor without going through interior rooms. The renovated kitchen will reuse existing appliances, but add functionality.
Once reaching the stage level, a ramp will bring people down a couple feet to the second floor level. That arrangement avoided a two-stop elevator with two doors and greater expense.
As work progresses, Smith noted that, “It’s on schedule to be done by the end of November.”
The contractor and architect “work good together; we appreciate that,” Dueck said, noting suggestions as work progressed helped improve the project or save money.
The last town meeting in the building was in 1995, Eager said, when the town voted to buy the Bullard Building next door, which gave the 1870 Town Hall additional land and made possible some parking.
The project will also construct a new curatorial building for historical use; the old one was demolished during the elevator project.
Work by the Planning Board has “made sure the center stays the center of activity in town,” Smith said. “Many town centers cease to be active,” Eager said, adding that Berlin’s center remains a vital part of town with the 1987 town hall, library, 19 Carter and a general store.
Mike Lapomardo, of Antonelli Construction Co, said he has a special affinity for the project. “I’ve been involved in many local theater groups over 45 years,” including six productions in which he played Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.” He has helped with highlighting questions on the stage, as part of the work that would help Tevye get, if not to the roof, at least to the stage.
“We are most honored to have Tom Chalmers on our team, as well as the Antonelli crew. It’s been a pleasure to have these professionals work openly with us in making this project come to fruition," Dueck said.
The project has not been cheap, but was made possible by using a variety of funding sources: a Mass. Cultural Facilities Fund Grant of $242,000; Highland Commons Cultural Fund (mitigation money allocated to Berlin) of $556,000; and Berlin taxpayers contributed $100,000.
Since work on the concept began in 2009, Dueck said, $130,443 in funds were appropriated to cover costs for schematic designs to determine the best placement options for the elevator, geotechnical survey and site plans to determine possibilities for parking and site location for an elevator addition, bidding documents to hire an architect to create the construction documents, and then the creation of construction documents for the contractor bidding process.
“We are most grateful for all who have worked on the project in the past – including Dan Barton, of Maugel Architects, who came up with the brilliant solution for how to place the elevator in order to meet the very challenging situation of the three levels of accessibility, historical considerations, steep and small site, and practical usage requirements,” Dueck said.
“We are also pleased to have coordinated with the Planning Board in fulfilling their Long Range Plan for the renovation and use of this historic building in our town center,” she said.
Berlin's 1870 Town Hall