Next phase of West Stockbridge Old Town Hall restoration awaits warmer weather

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WEST STOCKBRIDGE — It seems everyone in the county is waiting for warmer weather, but none might be hoping and praying for it as hard as the West Stockbridge Historical Society.

Over the last 10 years, the society has worked diligently to revitalize the Old Town Hall, holding concerts and events at the space and taking on a major fundraising campaign — that raised more than $475,000 through donations as well as state and private grants — to substantially renovate the building.

Now, construction is set to begin on Phase 5 of the restoration project, the largest and most critical step of the rebirth, Historical Society Chairman Robert Salerno said: putting an addition on the back of the Town Hall to make the building accessible to people with disabilities.

But first, the construction crew needs a few days in a row of 40-degree temperatures to break ground, Salerno said.

"We're praying, lighting candles," he said with a laugh. "Hopefully, in the first couple weeks of March, we'll be able to get moving."

The scope of the project is to build an extension onto the historic building that will contain an elevator and two new bathrooms. It will provide ground-level access to the second floor from the upper parking lot and will include upgrades to some of the building's old plumbing and electrical infrastructure. The Old Town Hall, which is owned by the Historical Society, already has bathrooms, but they're not ideal, Salerno said.

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"The bathrooms that are there were put in the late 1970s and they work, but let's put it this way: they're not luxurious, certainly, and they're not handicapped accessible," he said. "We had some work done before there, and the contractors wanted us to put up Porta-Potties outside; they'd rather use that."

The work being done will not only improve the building, but it will allow for it to be used more often. Government regulations put safety requirements and restrictions on how an old and/or public building can be used. If a building does not meet the Americans With Disabilities Act standards for access, its use is even further limited. Once completed, probably around June, work on the Old Town Hall will bring the building into compliance with the ADA, which will allow the Historical Society to hold more events there.

The society's goal with the Old Town Hall, Salerno said, is to return it to its place as a center for community activity in West Stockbridge.

Construction is expected to be completed over the summer and scheduled events will go on as planned, Salerno said. After construction, interior work will begin, he said, including painting.

"We'll be able to have events there, particularly at night, when [contractors] aren't working," he said. "We're all very excited about this."

Kristin Palpini can be reached at kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com, @kristinpalpini on Twitter, and 413-629- 4621.


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