Building at 139 Main Street to come down soon
And the Farwell Block will get an exterior renovation
By BILL CHAISSON
CLAREMONT — On Nov. 8 Claremont’s city building inspector Sean Glasscock appeared before the historic district commission to inform them about the details of an impending demolition in the Lower Village historic district. David Messier, the chair of the commission, thanked Glassock for his visit, especially in light of the fact that there was little the commission could do to save the building at this point; he was glad Glasscock was simply keeping them in the loop.
The building inspector said that for the past couple of years the city had been having discussions with two different owners of the building in an effort to get them to repair it. Both owners have failed to take any action.
“Over this past summer there was an incident when bricks were falling off the building,” said Glasscock. This induced the city to ask the building’s owner for permission to have a structural engineer look it over. The engineer determined that the roof and the third floor were “compromised” and because those structures were holding the front of the building up, there was a danger to public safety. He recommended that the building be demolished; sooner would be better.
Glasscock had come before the historical commission to ask if they wanted to document the building before it was torn down. Messier asked if it was possible for the commission members to enter it. “I would have to ask the owner for permission,” the inspector said, “but there are parts of it that won’t be accessible; the third floor is pretty dangerous.”
It is somewhat unusual for the city to demolish a privately owned building. The city council first approved an order that required the owner to demolish it in the interest of preserving the public safety. The owner, Frank Sargent of Twin State Property, said that he did not have the means to take down the building, so the city will incur the costs.
“How does this affect the adjoining building,” asked Scott Pope, a city councilor and a member of the historic district commission. Glasscock said that the structures share a wall, so with the removal of 139 Main Street there will have to be further work to make the remaining wall weather-proof and structurally sound. The adjacent property is owned by New England Family Housing and is occupied.
Messier noted this would be a great expense to the city and asked if the government had looked into “shoring up what is there in the hopes of finding funds to save the building.” Glasscock told him that shoring up the building in any way would be far more expensive than tearing it down because it would so labor-intensive to do so. He said that simply repairing the roof would cost twice as much as demolition.
The historic survey says that the adjacent buildings were constructed at the same time. Messier was concerned about this because it meant the interior shared wall was unlikely to be dressed and pointed neatly like an exterior wall. “We’ll open a big eyesore there,” he said.
The commission chair asked City Manager Ryan McNutt, who was present at the meeting, what would be done with the vacant lot. “There’s a good chance that New England Family Housing bids on it,” he said, “and they would use it for parking.” Messier urged the city officials to consider adding stepped gables to the roofline that was soon to become the end of the block of rowhouses, because this decorative element is on the building to be taken down. He noted that the metal structure attached to the front of the building had been put up by a previous owner without the permission of the commission. He believed it had contributed to the compromising of the structural integrity of the front wall.
As of this Nov. 8 meeting Glasscock said it would be a matter of weeks before the building was demolished. McNutt believed that the court had already issued a decision to allow the city to go forward.
The Farwell Block
Tom Krebs, the project manager for a renovation project at 46-54 Opera House Square, came before the commission to represent the Claremont Development Authority, which owns the historic building that forms the corner of Tremont Street and the east side of the square next to city hall. Sullivan County (Community) Dental Health has an office on the first floor, facing Tremont Street, and they want to expand to the third floor.
The renovation is founded the Capital Regional Development Council (CRDC) and include replacing existing windows on the north and east side of the building and adding an elevator and stair tower on the back, as there is presently no access to the third floor. The city is to be responsible for overseeing the exterior work, rebuilding the interior shell of the third floor, and providing HVAC access points.
The windows on the west side of the Farwell Block, Krebs said, have already been replaced and the new ones will match those. They are to be aluminum-clad, wood frames and will be white to match the existing windows. The original casing will be preserved, repaired and cleaned. “This is somewhat of a restoration,” Krebs said, “because the existing windows [on the north and east sides] don’t have dividers.” The building is in a late Greek Revival style from the 1860s and the original windows would have been mullioned.
The historic district commission then went through their standard checklist and voted at each stage. They decided that the building did have historic value and that the proposed project finished what had been started with appropriate materials. It was also decided that the change would have a positive effect on the district overall. Vice chair Kristin Kenniston added a comment that she hoped that removed of tar and repointing was done in an appropriate manner.