William Gillen of Ford Gillen Architects Inc. presented the plans Thursday night.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The facade at the Berkshire Probate & Family Court Building will be hidden by a covering of green fabric for year while contractors renovate the historic building.
Engineers and contractors on Thursday outlined the progress of the state's $2.8 million undertaking. In two weeks time, Allegrone Construction hopes to begin installing wheelchair ramps outside and will then plunge head first into pulling down every single stone on the front facade.
"As soon as we can get that established, we will scaffold the building," Michael Mucci, project supervisor for Allegrone, said at the public information hearing in Courtroom 1.
A green fabric will cover the outside of the building while workers pull down the stones. Each stone will be numbered and correspond with a grid so that they will all go back in the same place afterward. Meanwhile, all of the massive stained-glass windows will be removed and sent to a glass company for restoration.
"As soon as the weather breaks in the spring, we will start to rebuild," Mucci said.
Other than the scaffolding, there will be little impact on the court. The building will be open but access will be somewhat more difficult because the lawn of the neighboring property will be used as staging. Those coming from Wendell Avenue will need to follow the sidewalk around instead of cutting through the other courts.
Some of the current parking area in front of the building will be used but the spots will just be moved closer to the roadway around Park Square.
The main target of the renovation will be to fix stone work that is bowing out because the exterior walls are not strong enough to support the arches cut into the gables. An interior wall will be replaced, eliminating the problem from reoccurring.
Michael Mucci of Allegrone says the building will be covered with a green fabric for about a year.
"Those stones have been bulging since the 1940s," said William Gillen, principal of Ford Gillen Architects Inc. of Amherst, adding that they are five inches out in some places.
The stones will receive a cleaning based on requirements put in place by the state Historical Commission.
While the exterior will receive most of the attention, the project also calls for elevator upgrades, installation of a gas-powered generator, renovated bathrooms, rebuilding the stairs in the rear and a new fire alarm system (though no sprinklers are to be installed).
The entire project is expected to take 18 months but Mucci said that time table is tricky because there is only one construction season.
The building dates to 1876 and is now home of the court and the Middle Berkshire Registry of Deeds. It was the library before being transformed into the court in 1980. In 2000, the building had a major roof replacement.
The building is owned by the state and the project is being overseen by the the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance.
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