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Abbot Hall Makeover Approved

Historic Commission renovating walls, stained glass windows and historic paintings in 1876 town hall.

The Marblehead Historical Commission is spearheading several renovation projects at Abbot Hall, including repairing the horsehair plaster in the Selectmen's Meeting Room and cleaning, repairing and protecting the stained glass on the second floor of the south entry of the historic building.

The total renovations to the town hall built in 1876, will cost more than $125,000, funded primarily by the Harold B. and Elizabeth L. Shattuck Memorial Fund.

Chris Johnson, the commission chairman, said the plaster on the walls of the Selectmen's Meeting Room is falling off. The town proposed to patch and paint the walls, but "We want to restore the plaster, not just patch it," he said.

The Shattuck Fund had already agreed to fund the restoration of the large painting of "Washington Crossing the Delaware" that hangs in the Selectmen's Meeting Room. The restoration of the painting by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze commemorating the heroic crossing by General John Glover's Marblehead Regiment on Christmas 1776 will cost about $5,000.

Johnson said some of the cost of the plastering project will be in moving and storing the several large paintings, including Archibald Willard's "The Spirit of '76," housed in the museum-like Selectmen's Meeting Room.

The restoration project is planned for this fall after the tourist season ends.

The commission is restoring the stained glass on the second floor of the building, which is original to the building.  It is not because the stained glass is "falling apart, but it looks bad," Johnson said. A new protective shield is also being added on the exterior of the glass. The stained glass on the third floor has already been restored.

The restoration will cost up to $60,695, almost 40 percent more than was originally estimated because state law requires that any town government project pay labor costs that are the equivalent to a "prevailing wage" for the Marblehead area. The commission approved the funds, which depletes the Shattuck Fund gifts to the commission for this year, but Johnson said he is hopeful that the total cost can be less since much of the work will be done at the William Murray Studio in the western Massachusetts town of Alford, not in Marblehead where the prevailing wage is believed to be higher.

In other renovations, the commission is painting the basement of Abbot Hall as a step toward establishing a permanent museum for Marblehead shop signs. The new museum will be "A great way to tell the commercial story of Marblehead," Johnson said.

Several shop signs have been donated for the new museum. "There is no problem filling up the room," said Wayne Butler, a former commission member, who is overseeing the project.

The commission is not renovating the old basement restrooms, which the commission members joked are truly "historic."

The historic commission is also installing new windows on the third floor of Abbot Hall. The new windows, which will cost almost $23,000 to purchase and install, are needed to seal the building. The old windows and rotted sills need to be replaced, Johnson said.   

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