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Historic Commission asks for bids on windows

Date: 2/1/2012

Feb. 1, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE — The Historic Commission met with Mayor Alex Morse on Jan. 25 to update him on the status of the stained glass windows in City Hall, which they explained are in dire need of repair.

Penni Martorell, curator of the Wistariahurst Museum, said of the damaged windows, “If there is a big wind, there’s a big risk.”

The commission would like to see the city prepare a Request for Proposals for the repair of the windows to gauge what an actual cost would be.

Members of the commission told the mayor the frames of the windows are damaged and the glass pieces themselves can be seen moving by the wind.

Noted stained glass artist Samuel West created the windows in 1876 when the building was constructed. Some of the windows have a patriotic theme — it was the nation’s centennial in 1876 — and some are artistic depictions of the values shaping the young city.

Stained glass expert Julie Sloan noted in her report commissioned by the city last year, “We strongly recommend that all windows be removed as soon as possible and stored, if restoration cannot be commenced immediately. All of the windows will require complete releading. There is great deal of missing glass, especially in window eight, ‘Music,’ in which a whole section is missing. Some of the missing glass has been replaced with poorly matched and sometimes unpainted glass. Other areas, including the large section of window eight, have been blocked with plywood, cardboard, duct tape, or painters’ blue tape. None of these repairs is appropriate.”

Sloan’s report carried an estimate of $613,410 to remove the windows, store them as they as being repaired and installing them. The commission members had questions about that report and its estimate of cost.

Associate Commission member Vitek Kruta said, “There are a lot of unanswered questions about the whole project. Everything stopped at the evaluation of the windows.”

Kruta added how the windows would be removed and where they would be stored has not been addressed. He proposed seeking bids from five companies to assess a cost.

The City Council had voted to allocate $40,000 to the project, $30,000 of which was used for Sloan’s report. Part of a renovation plan could include the installation of Lexan reproductions of the windows, while the real windows were being repaired.

Martorell said the commission “needs someone to find time to spend with a data base to see which grants are applicable [for the repairs].”

Douglas Fountain, a contractor who attended the meeting, told the commission his firm had completed a renovation of a church in Warren, which included the repairs of 10 stained glass windows. The cost for those repairs was $175,000.

Commission Vice Chair James Sheehan suggested that funding be sought to repair one window to “get some momentum going.”

Complicating any repair effort might be the relocation of the Holyoke Public Library to the City Hall Auditorium where most of the windows are located. Commission members believe there has been adequate space saved in the layout of the library for access to the windows.

“It could still be done while the library is there,” Commission member Glen Sullivan said.

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