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Fundraiser to Help Town Repaint Historic Building

Thursday, September 7, 2023

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Proceeds from a recently held “paintbrush fundraiser” in the town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, will reportedly go towards repainting the town’s historic Legion Memorial Building.

According to reporting from the Gloucester Daily Times, the fundraiser, held by the American Legion Capt. Lester S. Wass Post 3, raised more than $33,000 to put toward exterior work on the city-owned building at Washington and Middle streets.

Paul Bilodeau, Gloucester Daily Times

Proceeds from a recently held “paintbrush fundraiser” in the town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, will reportedly go towards repainting the town’s historic Legion Memorial Building.

The Greek Revival-style building was reportedly built in 1844, originally serving as Gloucester’s Town House and later the Forbes School, before it became a Legion post a few years after World War I.

The building is reportedly subject to the weather coming off the Gloucester Harbor and has displayed peeling paint and rotting wood. According to the Legion’s commander Mark Nestor, the building was last painted in 2001 or 2002.

On Aug. 30, a check-passing ceremony was held in front the building, with Nestor; Legion Chaplain Paul Krueger and his wife, Adjutant Debbie Krueger; and Gloucester Mayor Greg Verga all present.

Nestor, a local attorney, reportedly decided to hold the fundraiser last October, selling brushes to pay to paint the building. Nestor said the idea would be to first fix, patch and paint the two public-facing exterior sides of the building. The Kruegers and other volunteers reportedly repainted the interior of the building during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Sons of the American Legion “kicked in” and redid the kitchen, Nestor said.

According to Mayor Verga, the money raised by the sale of paintbrushes and donations will help pay for the first step of a process to figure out the scope of the work needed and how much it would cost so that the project can be put out to bid.

“Once we get the number, then we figure out where we go from there,” Verga said.

While the work is reportedly not anticipated to be completed in time for Gloucester’s 400th anniversary celebration later this year, Verga said he is hopeful the planning and funding parts of the project can be done over the winter in time for work to start in the spring.

While the Legion is the building’s current tenant, the city is reportedly responsible for maintenance and repair of the elevator, the outside and any capital improvements. The post has reportedly been raising concerns about the state of the building since at least 2017.

But now, Nestor commented on the project, “It’s finally moving.”

Other Historic Building Painting

In June, global abrasive blasting media and related equipment manufacturer Sponge-Jet (Newington, New Hampshire) performed work on a restoration project of the University of Iowa’s Old Capitol building dome.

The “Old Cap” reportedly once served as the state capitol and is a National Historic Landmark. However, in 2001, a fire destroyed the cupola, dome and bell.

Described as “one of the most recognizable images and landmarks in the state of Iowa,” the Old Capitol building was built in 1840. It once served as the state capitol before housing the entire campus of the university.

An accidental fire caused by a contractor using a heat gun during renovations in 2001 destroyed the cupola, dome and bell, requiring four and half years of repairs and renovations before reopening to the public.

Midwest-based firm OPN Architects had first worked on the restoration of the building following the blaze. Then, in 2022, they oversaw the latest restoration and provided guidance throughout the gilding removal and re-gilding process.

“Working on a historical building with a copper dome meant we had to minimize potential warping of the substrate while still achieving an anchor profile for the gold application,” said Bill Hansen of Allen Blasting and Coating.

“Blasting with sponge media made the most sense for this job. It was gentle enough for use on the substrate, but removed all the existing layers of primer, sizing and gilding on the 550 square feet (50 square meters) dome and left the specified 1 to 2 mil (50 micron) profile.”

According to Sponge-Jet, the Allen Blasting and Coating crew began surface preparation using Silver 120 Sponge Media after the scaffolding and containment was in place.

The company reports that sponge media blasting was selected because of its built-in dust suppression. This was considered especially important on the Old Capitol, as there was reportedly a lead layer below the existing primer, sizing and gilding.

“We were able to minimize the exposure to any airborne lead during the process,” said Hansen.

The sponge media blasting reportedly took 17 hours, with a production rate of 0.5 square feet per minute. The project, which began in the summer, was completed on schedule for Evergreen Architectural Arts to apply the primer, intermediate coating, sizing and roll out the sheets of gold leaf.

Additionally, the museum within the building was open to the public throughout the project. Because of this, crews only had about 200 square feet to stage equipment.

Hansen said that this included the blasting system, which was one blast unit or Feed Unit and one Sponge Media Recycler. Sponge-Jet noted that crews were working nearly 100 feet in the air on scaffolding that was erected around the dome, safety was the top priority, including fall protection with full body harnesses.