Construction began this week on the exterior of the , another step in a long-term plan to turn the 138-year-old building into a meeting space for Braintree residents and organizations.
"This will be a beautiful building once again," Mayor Joseph Sullivan said in a press release announcing the work.
This phase of the project includes the replacement of the original slate roof, restoration of copper portions of the hip roof, new copper gutters and downspouts, and exterior brick and masonry cleaning and repointing.
Future work on the inside of the building is further down the line, Planning & Economic Development Director Christine Stickney said.
"The critical path is to have the building stabilized," she said. "You have to work from the outside in."
Additional outside phases will include doors and windows and a small addition, likely in the rear of the building, to allow for handicapp access, Stickney said. The town is expecting to hear from the Massachusetts Historical Society in June on a grant for the second phase.
The first phase ongoing now will cost $315,000, which comes from a combination of Braintree's Community Preservation Act, administered by the Community Preservation Committee and , along with the state commission.
The CPA appropration amounts to $233,000, the state has provided a $45,000 grant, to be reimbursed when $90,000 worth of work has been completed, and the town is also utilizing $90,000 in funds approved at Town Meeting in 2005. Any extra money will revert back to that previous meeting article or the CPA reserves, Stickney said.
The library, between and , was dedicated in 1874 after being funded by an endowent from General Sylvanus Thayer and money from the town.
It served as Braintree's public library until 1953 when a new facility was built across the street and the water and sewer department moved in. In 1978, the building was named to the National Register of Historic Places by the federal government on its educational, social and architectural merits.
Over the years, the building has been singled out not just for its contribution to community space and architecture – such as its high, arched windows with granite trim and the original marble mantel – but also for its historical significance.
"This building, together with Thayer Academy on adjacent corner," the Massachusetts Historical Commission noted in a review of the structure, "remain as the only tangible evidence in Braintree of the munificense of General Thayer."
Stickney, the historical commission and CPC "care deeply about the history of Braintree and they work hard to preserve our past," Sullivan said.
Architectural firm Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype Inc. designed the project and provides oversight. T. Cooney, Inc. was chosen as the general contractor, with NER Construction Management, Inc. and Meadows Construction Company, LLC as subcontractors.
"This is the start of a long-term project that may take years to complete," Sullivan said. "The interior work is extensive and we are still working with Congressman Lynch to secure some Federal monies to restore the entire building."