Tisbury town hall exterior restoration proves a challenge

The clapboards must first be stripped of paint, a laborious process. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Tisbury’s town hall lacks its usual bright white façade right now. A much-needed makeover is underway on the 132-year-old building on Spring Street that was formerly a Congregational church.

Exterior restoration by Alpha Contracting of Dedham will repair and replace the wooden clapboards and then repaint the building.

On Tuesday, the work led to the unexpected closure of town hall for the day, due to fumes that permeated municipal employees’ offices from a chemical used to strip paint.

In order to identify which clapboards must be repaired and which replaced, they must be stripped of paint first, town administrator John Bugbee explained.

“The contractor has been trying to work in between the bad weather, and it’s been difficult,” Mr. Bugbee said on Tuesday afternoon. “The painters were using a chemical to strip the paint on the side of the building close to many employees’ offices this morning, and the fumes made a few of them feel uncomfortable. We asked Tom Pachico, the town health agent, to come down and tell us what he thought. He recommended that we close the building for the day, to be on the safe side.”

Mr. Bugbee said the paint-stripping process would be done in a few more days and that he did not anticipate any more full day or total building closures. Town hall was open for business as usual on Wednesday.

Once the clapboards are stripped of paint, repaired or replaced, the entire building, including the steeple, will be repainted, Mr. Bugbee said. In 2005, Einhorn Yaffe Prescott Architecture and Engineering prepared a report on the town hall building’s condition that identified areas in need of repair and prioritized them.

“We’ve been pecking away at that list, and will continue to do that with the help of the town’s Community Preservation Act funds,” Mr. Bugbee said. “Hopefully at the end we will have a nice-looking town hall and a much improved building that will last longer than it would if we didn’t make these fixes.”

The front steps and landing at the entrance to the Katharine Cornell Theatre were redone in 2009 and second story windows replaced last year. After exterior restoration this year, first floor windows will be replaced next year, Mr. Bugbee said.