Officials begin restoration of City Hall Tower, dome

While a lot of Chelsea City Hall has been modernized or upgraded in the last 10 years, the tower and dome have literally remained a time capsule – though the time may not have always been right on the tower clock.

Nevertheless, this month the City’s Department of Public Works began a complete restoration project for the tower – getting rid of 100-year-old rickety stairs, fixing leaks, repointing the brickwork, righting the clock and even applying a new layer of gilding to the Hall’s golden dome.

Looking out over Chelsea from the height of the clocks on the City Hall Tower, one can see Boston and beyond. The vista from the tower is incredible, and this rare view is courtesy of the full restoration of the tower that has started and should be completed by June.

“We’re doing a full restoration of the tower, and that will include gilding the entire dome,” said DPW Director Fidel Maltez. “That will be done later this summer and when it’s done, it will really look awesome.”

The impetus for the restoration comes from many directions.

Eddie Doyle of CSI talks with the DPW’s Fidel Maltez about the right color of masonry for the brickwork.

First and foremost, the leaks in the tower had become expensive and disruptive. The tower sits right above the Council’s Conference Room, and more than a few storms had brought water into the tower, where it stood in puddles and leaked down into the Conference Room. That caused extensive damage and lots of repairs.

“What happens is on the north side of the tower, we had a lot of water coming in and would destroy the Conference Room,” he said. “In my four years here, we’ve re-done that roof four times. That was the driving force of this project. Once we started that, we pushed the Council for a holistic project that restored the entire Tower. We believe after this we won’t have to tackle the Tower for another 100 years.”

No, this isn’t a giant Lego man, but rather an extensive scaffolding network and red netting around the City Hall Tower, which is now being restored and will be done in June.

That part of City Hall was built in 1909, and it does show. 

Right now, Contracting Specialists Inc. (CSI) are working on the brick work and the masonry to stop all the leaks. They are also repairing all four faces of the clock, and the clock will be computerized so that it looks historic, but also keeps good time and resets itself automatically. In fact, all four faces of the clock were to be removed on Tuesday of this week.

They will also be installing new stairs on the inside of the tower, and, of course, the new gilding on the dome – along with some other smaller repairs.

Maltez said the plan is to have the restoration complete in June, and he hopes that upon completion, residents could be invited up to the tower to see the inner workings of the clock.

The Mystic/Tobin Bridge as seen from the City Hall Tower on Monday.

The Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places, and so the renovations are being held to historic standards.

The project costs a total of $1.8 million, with the City getting a $150,000 boost from the Community Preservation Committee.

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