$1.8 M in funds sought to fix Mount Greylock's Veterans War Memorial Tower
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ADAMS -- Help could soon be on the way for the beleaguered, granite-sided Veterans War Memorial Tower at the summit of Mount Greylock.
The plan to fix moisture issues plaguing the tower has been completed, but funding is still being sought before the $1.8 million project can begin.
The work includes repairing and upgrading the ventilation fans at the top of the tower, which haven't been functioning for some time, and the installation of a dehumidifier system. In combination with a new series of sealants applied to the spaces between the granite stones that comprise the tower's exterior, officials hope moisture inside the tower will be significantly reduced, preventing further long-term moisture damage.
"We'll definitely be moving a step forward in improving ventilation systems and abating most of the moisture that gets into the tower's interior," said Jeffrey Harris, a preservation planner for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. "Now it's a matter of finding the funding to do the work."
The tower was closed in the spring of 2013 when it was determined that water damage had caused parts of the interior to fall off, posing a potential hazard to visitors.
Since it was completed in 1932, the tower has been plagued by moisture problems caused by the endless freezing, thawing and condensation that comes with extreme weather and temperature changes.
Every winter, the south side of the tower is completely coated by ice, or hard rime frost, and that kind of natural freezing and thawing cycle is hard to protect against. Moisture creeps into the cracks in the granite stonework and freezes, causing the smaller cracks to grow.
The repair plan was devised in an engineering study of the tower that was conducted for the state by DHK Architects. It was the least expensive of two options.
The second option, at $3.8 million, would have required the granite exterior of the tower to be disassembled, and a waterproof seal applied to the brick-and-concrete core of the tower. But experts weren't sure how such a seal would handle the extremes in thawing and freezing that wreak such havoc on any structure at the summit.
Some money for the project would be set aside for work at Bascom Lodge, the inn and restaurant at the summit, Harris said.
If the work can begin this coming spring, Harris noted. The project could be complete and the tower reopened by August 2016. But for that to happen, bids would have to be let soon. And that would require state officials to come up with the money.
"We are at a critical juncture for that if we are to get started in the spring," Harris said.
DCR Commissioner Jack Murray said the tower is culturally and economically important, and that funding for such an important project will be found.
"As the highest natural point in our state, DCR's Mount Greylock State Reservation is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Massachusetts," Murray said. "It attracts thousands of visitors to Berkshires annually, which in turn energizes the economy and promotes job creation. As a monument, the Veterans War Memorial Tower serves an important tribute to those Massachusetts residents who have served and sacrificed on behalf of our country. The Patrick administration is fully committed to identifying funding to rehabilitate this beautiful monument to honor those who have served and to stand as a reminder of their sacrifice."
Local veterans are in support of preserving the tower as a reminder of the sacrifices men and women in uniform have made for this country, said Louis Beberaggi, post commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 996 in North Adams.
"From my experience in talking to some of the older vets, the [tower] plays a role in serving as a reminder," he said. "It does have an impact."
Beberaggi noted that annually, veterans attend a memorial ceremony honoring service men and women lost in war.
"It's very meaningful," he said.
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At a glance ...
Some facts about the Veterans War Memorial Tower:
n The 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.
n 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.
n Since the tower was completed in 1932, there have been three major renovations. In 1973, the state disassembled and totally reconstructed it. There were also drainage and ventilation improvement projects completed in both 1987 and 1997.
n The beacon itself, originally meant to perpetually shine in memory of men and women lost in World War I (and since then all other U.S. military personnel losses), is now powered by three 1,500-watt bulbs and can be seen up to 70 miles away.
n The summit of Mount Greylock is 3,491 feet above sea level and the tower -- overlooking five states on a clear day -- rises 93 feet above that. From the top of the tower, when it is open, visitors have a 360-degree view up to 90 miles away.
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