ADAMS — The mild winter has yielded to an early spring, and opened a possibility that work could begin on the Veterans War Memorial tower at the summit of Mount Greylock earlier than expected.
But access to the summit is still weather dependent so nothing has been set in stone yet.
According to Kevin O'Shea, spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, because of the mild weather, contractors have been able to get early access to the work site using light vehicles. But no construction work can resume on the $2.2 million project until the thaw is progressed enough to allow access by heavy construction vehicles and equipment.
O'Shea noted that before contractors wrapped up their 2015 work in October, they were able to complete removal of interior finishes needing replacement, the masonry repointing on terrace walls, cleaning of the exterior masonry on the tower, and set new concrete on the terrace for the new multi-ability access to the front door.
The tower, which was closed in 2013, is expected to reopen in May 2017. Once access to the summit is achieved, work will continue through the summer and fall by Allegrone Construction of Pittsfield.
The $2.2 million repair effort is designed to remedy the tower's long-standing issues with water infiltration.
The tower has been plagued by chronic moisture problems caused by the endless freezing, expanding, thawing, contracting and condensation that comes with extreme weather and temperature changes.
The elevation at the summit of Mount Greylock is 3,491 feet — the highest point in the state. Mount Greylock's summit is the only subarctic, or boreal, climate in southern New England.
Every winter, the south side of the tower is completely coated by ice, or hard rime frost, in a natural freezing and thawing cycle that is hard to protect against. Moisture creeps into the cracks in the granite stonework and freezes, causing the smaller cracks to grow and allowing moisture through to the interior.
The schedule calls for on-site work to begin again in May, with the first step being the construction of scaffolding around the tower. Work will continue through the summer and fall until construction is complete in November. The tower will reopen to the public in the following May of 2017.
The 93-foot-tall granite stone tower was constructed in 1932. The water infiltration issues prompted a total reconstruction in the 1970s and major repairs in the 1990s.
This round of repairs includes the resealing of the exterior, repair of ventilation fans, and the installation of a new dehumidification system. In combination with sealants developed specifically for this project and applied between the exterior granite stones, moisture inside the tower will be significantly reduced, hopefully preventing further long-term moisture damage.
There also will be a cap put on the railing of the spiral stairway leading to the observation deck at the top of the tower, new lighting in the memorial and the stairwell, and 12 new LED fixtures in the beacon globe itself.
The project is funded through an $800,000 federal grant, a $1.4 million commitment from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and nearly $400,000 from the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Not including the tower repairs, Mount Greylock has seen $22.5 in improvements since 2006, including the rehabilitation of its historic parkways, the rehabilitation of its visitor center, and interpretive development.
The tower repair project will result in limited public access to the terrace around the tower during construction.
The War Memorial Tower was built with granite blocks in 1931-32 for about $200,000. It was designed by Boston-based architects Maginnis & Walsh, and built by contractors J.G. Roy & Son of Springfield.
The dedication of the tower in 1933 was performed by then-Gov. Joseph P. Ely with about 1,500 people in attendance, and was broadcast nationally on the NBC radio network.