Citizens’ petition asks for TM approval
A Hull Historical Commission virtual public forum this week drew strong participation as well as strong support for the restoration of the town’s historic Fort Revere Water Tower.
Many of those participating spoke in favor of such an effort, asked questions, and offered suggestions for how to communicate to fellow Hull residents the importance of the project and how to engage them in the rehabilitation effort.
Last month, the commission urged that an article be included in this year’s town meeting warrant asking voters to approve bonding the necessary funds to rehabilitate the water tower, which was built in 1903 but closed in 2012 because it was deemed unsafe for visitors.
The fort, also of historical significance, had been used to protect Boston Harbor, beginning with the American Revolution through World War II.
“We would like to work with the selectmen and town manager” to get an article on the warrant, said HHC member Fulvia Quilici. “They are in charge of the next step.” (The deadline for submitting warrant articles is Feb. 8.)
In the meantime, resident Patrick Finn submitted a citizens’ petition that he and 11 other residents signed, asking town meeting to appropriate $899,000 for Fort Revere water tower repairs and restoration, including planning, engineering costs, construction, and related expenses, and to authorize the selectmen and town manager to seek state and federal funding opportunities.
The historical commission does not have the ability to put forth a warrant article on its own because the Board of Selectmen and town manager are the custodians of the water tower.
Quilici encouraged the 43 citizens who participated in the forum and others in support of the proposal to write or email the selectmen and Town Manager Philip Lemnios to encourage them to put such an article on the warrant. “Those who support the restoration need to be heard,” she said.
She also noted that the main purpose of the forum was to not only gauge support for restoring the water tower but also to “get an idea of whether citizens have the desire to commit $1.5 million to the project.”
A firm known as CBI Consulting recently completed an assessment that evaluated the condition of the 85-foot water tower and came up with an estimated price tag of $1.5 million to rehabilitate the structure. The study was paid for with Community Preservation Act funds.
Finn, who participated in the forum, said he believes that the necessary repairs could be done for less money. “The $1.5 million [price tag] is way over the top. We need to get another engineering assessment,” he said.
Board of Selectmen member Donna Pursel and Chairwoman Jennifer Constable were also on the call. Pursel said she fully supports the restoration effort.
“It’s important to hear from the community about this particular project,” Constable said.
Jason McCann, who is not an HHC member but supports the restoration, stressed that the time to get the project underway is now, especially with interest rates so low.
“The water tower is a unique landmark that serves as a beacon of patriotism and democracy, offering magnificent 360-degree unobstructed views above the tree line,” he said. “I know these are difficult times and there are a lot of needs within the town, but I’m hoping we can get away from what about-ism and work toward projects when it makes sense to do them. There will always be diverse opinions about what the priorities should be. So many people want this. Look at all the people who have remained on this call. How great is that!”
“It is time to honor our history, not just allow it to deteriorate,” said resident Steven Greenberg.
Nancy Curtis also supports the restoration. “Children who go [up to the observation deck] get a taste of United States history. This is basically where it all started,” she said. “From the top, you can see the landscape and waterways that were used in the development of our country and relive history. The water tower is something that can’t be replaced” if it were left to deteriorate.
Proposed improvements would involve: replacing the deteriorated windows to reduce water infiltration to the interior of the tower; removing and replacing the existing slate roof and copper work; removing and rebuilding the deteriorated bricks; repairing the water tank walls; removing and rebuilding the concrete stairs with new metal stairs and metal railings; repairing the observatory beams; mortar and observation deck work; constructing a new code-compliant egress stair for public access to the observation deck; and repairing the base of the tower and the decorative bands, among several other improvements.
It is anticipated that the handicapped-accessible requirements could be waived through the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board because the cost of installing an elevator to the observation deck would be cost-prohibitive.
An alternative would be to provide space on the ground floor where those with disabilities could watch a livestream of the view from the observation deck and learn other information about the fort and the water tower.
HHC Chairman Dennis Riley said the Massachusetts Historical Commission would like to see the tower restored, including the spiral staircase that winds around the tank to the platform above.
Dennis Zaia described the water tower as one of Hull’s most important landmarks, along with the Paragon Carousel, the Hull Lifesaving Museum, and Fort Revere itself. “Let’s turn it into a monument instead of letting it go to ruin,” he said.
Community Preservation Committee member James Ianiri wondered what the appetite is for such a large expenditure and suggested that
Community Preservation Act money might be available to fund part of the proposed project.
Finn explained why Fort Revere and the water tower have such significance for him personally.
“As a child we knew the head of the historical commission at that time. She had a key to the tower, and we had access to it,” he recalled. “It’s a shame that a whole generation of kids growing up in this town have never experienced those winding stairs and the view from the top.”
He went on to say: “The people of this town and the historical commission need to take the necessary steps to keep this moving forward and to keep it in the public domain.”
Riley suggested naming a committee or an individual to be in charge of the rehab effort “to lead the way.”
Not only are Fort Revere and the water tower historic assets, Quilici noted, they also attract visitors to town who will often extend their time here by dining at local restaurants and shopping at other businesses – all in support of the local economy.