Preservation Month at the Old State House (Part II)

May is Preservation Month, a chance to celebrate the historic buildings that make up our cultural landscape, and to honor the continued work that is done to maintain this building. At the Old State House, we are taking this opportunity to look back on some of the preservation and restoration projects that the Society has completed in the last decade. Follow along as Matt Ottinger, our Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation, highlights four of our most important projects to maintain this iconic 300+ year old building. Catch up by reading Matt's first post here.

Restoration of the Tower 2008


Old State House with tower scaffolding
During the 18th century, the Old State House tower was one of the highest spots in Boston and an excellent place to watch the ships come and go in the harbor. Eight years ago it was an excellent place to get wet during a nor-easter. Much of the tower’s wood siding had become so rotted that water streamed inside during bad storms, then seeped down to the lower floors of the building. The damage also threatened the still-functioning 1831 Simon Willard clock, the face of which is located in between the lion and unicorn statues on the east façade.

The Tower Restoration Project took place from April to July 2008, and included replacement of wood siding on all four faces, repair and reglazing of the tower windows, installation of new flat-seam copper roofing, and selective repair or replacement of wood balusters and other deteriorated architectural features.

The last piece of new siding is installed on the tower
Over the course of the project, I was up on the scaffolding every day, coordinating the work with the preservation crew and investigating the tower’s history. The architectural elements that make up the tower do not all date to the same time period; some are as old as 1748 and others are as new as 1990. Dating these elements and determining how they fit together was an important part of the project. The crew made some interesting discoveries, including: an intricate system of angled beams, dating to 1748, which serve as framing for the dome; what are likely to be 18th-century boards, held in place with hand-wrought nails, underneath the tower's copper flashing; and charred wood from the building's last major fire, in 1921.

To find out what else was discovered, see more pictures, and learn more details about the tower project, visit the project blog.

By Matt Ottinger, Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation