$42-Million Facelift Underway at State House

If you're planning on seeing the State House in all its splendor, you might want to wait a year or three.

It's being renovated. Cost estimates now are at $42 million, up from $33 million at the beginning of the year, with a 28 month timeline.

Every day something different happens. Staging is going up, trees removed, plazas torn up, statues moved, sod skimmed off, new loam delivered. And, what's left of the lawn is being fenced in.

By the end of this month, a three story shroud will cover the building, although contractors say they'll let the familiar Gold Dome peak through.

The shroud will be decorated, believe it or not, with murals. The first scene will be the original three hills upon which Colonial Boston was built. Why the murals? Who knows.

Now, you can't just cover up a dirty building, so workers began hot-water washing the facade earlier this month. Washing is supposed to be finished today. Trivia for you: They set up a counter-clockwise schedule, from the west to the south, and going from first to fourth floors.

On the West Lawn, storage boxes as big as trailers dot the grounds. That's also where they have to fully protect the Spanish War Cannon. And the JFK statue is moved to the East Lawn, over by Henry Cabot Lodge, to facilitate construction of a new sidewalk and curb.

Earth removal equipment is on the front lawn, which is being leveled, and crushed stone is being placed to support the equipment that will be used.

The famous Japanese cherry trees took a a big hit. Basically, they're gone. Unable to return, due to age and fragility. But all work in relation to trees was done with an arborist's recommendations.

Everything, of course, has to be surveyed and examined and excavated and explored, to be sure all possible defects and problems are found. Test pits are dug to see where pilings have to be installed.

You'll find a lot of Jersey barriers around! And scaffolding on the Bulfinch, East and West Wings. And don't plan on finding the same doors accessible every day.

And all that's before you even get inside! Upcoming work includes window restoration. A consultant will come in to survey all the windows in the building. Take the HVAC system. It's been erratic, at best. Meanwhile, no heat or air conditioning. We've been advised to "dress appropriately."

And that's just for starters. Why? As I wrote here in January, it's been "demolition by neglect." The fact is, your State House is crumbling and we have to save it from extinction.

The legislature and executive departments have been working in the current State House for more than two centuries. Since 1798. The original cost of the building, when Governor Sam Adams, assisted by Paul Revere, laid the cornerstone? Just $133,333.33.

The building has changed over its 200 years. At one time its red bricks were painted white. The dome, originally plain, was first coppered to prevent water leakage, and then covered with gold leaf, for example.

It is the still the oldest building on Beacon Hill, covering almost seven acres or about two city blocks. Tourists come from around the world to walk the halls.

Yes, it is still, at the least, shabby. Faded. The marble is cracked in places, and there's always a need to paint. A lot of what were beautiful spaces have been subdivided into little offices. But the major damage has been hidden among the cement blocks and behind walls. Out of the sight of most of our visitors and people who work there.

Until now.

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