It turns out that repairing a brick building constructed over a hundred years ago is complicated. The Stewart Library Building was built with some materials and techniques that are no longer commonly used. Fixing it with modern mortar and modern methods would actually damage the structure and cause it to break down more quickly. Crumbling bricks would lead to a crumbling building. If you want it to last, repairs on an old brick building must be done by companies and workers who have experience with masonry restoration and historic preservation.
In March of 2014, the voters of Corinna authorized the Town to borrow up to $180,000 to fix the tower. This was an important expression of support for the preservation of the building from the people of Corinna.
The first plan devised to fix the tower did not fully recognize the need for special construction techniques. The bids that came in were too high and the plan did not gain approval from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. That approval is necessary to keep the building on the National Registry of Historic Places. Using that plan to repair the tower would have made it difficult to get any grants to help pay for other work on the building.
The committee I chair, the Building Preservation Group, then began work with architects and the Selectmen to have a new plan prepared by a structural engineer who has experience working on historic brick buildings. He and a mason working with him are shown here taking a close look at the outside of the tower. His final estimates of the work should be available next week. His preliminary estimate is very close to what the voters authorized. Plus, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission gave the Town a grant of $15,000 to pay for the development and construction monitoring of this new plan.
All of this has caused months of delay, but we have now made progress. The new plan will be completed soon. Work on the tower should begin soon after the Selectmen approve the project.
In the meantime, the Building Preservation Group has been applying for other grants, funds that could be used to help pay for the other work needed to restore, upgrade, and preserve the Stewart Library Building for the future. I’ll write more about this in my next post.
Disclaimer: This post does not represent either the Town of Corinna, the Building Preservation Group or any other group. These comments are entirely mine.