PITTSFIELD -- A $4.3 million, stone-by-stone rehabilitation of the James A. Bowes Building off Park Square is expected to reach the construction stage in May.
William Gillen, of Ford Gillen Architects of Amherst, on Monday updated the city Historical Commission on a settlement that had been reached on design of handicap access ramps for the front of the historic building. The Massachusetts Historical Commission earlier had objected to ramps planned on either side of the front entrance as likely to have "an adverse effect" on the Park Square Historic District.
However, Gillen said the plan now will include a mural-size color image of the building as it is today and historic photos of what is known as the Old Athenaeum building at 44 Bank Row in a prominent permanent display inside the building.
The access ramps, he said, will have stainless steel handles with internal lighting aiming down toward the ramp.
Reconstruction of the building, which houses the Berkshire County Probate and Family Court and Middle Berkshire District Registry of Deeds, will take about 18 months, Gillen said. Because sections of the stone walls are bulging out, he said, many stones will have to be taken down and re-assembled during the state-funded restoration.
During an earlier project, in 1979-80, when the court moved into the building, steel bands were added to the outside of the building in an attempt to brace up the stonework.
The Old Athenaeum building was
In addition, stained glass windows will be removed, restored and replaced in the project. Other work will include renovations throughout the offices and rest rooms, a ventilation system upgrade, modifications to the elevator, interior door replacements and installation of an emergency generator.
The building is described as High Victorian Gothic style and was designed by New York architect William A. Potter. The masonry stone was of blue limestone, Longmeadow freestone and red Missouri granite.
The building replaced the city's first library in 1876 and itself was replaced by the new Berkshire Athenaeum on Wendell Avenue in 1976.
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