Water has washed away mortar in the sandstone walls of Amherst city hall, built in 1884.
A huge lift raised workers this week to the top of the bell tower for repairs that will stop rain from trickling into the building.
“Some of the voids you could actually put your hand into,” explained Paul Berry of Custom Masonry & Design in Broadview Heights. “The building itself is in really good shape. It’s just over the years that the mortar’s just deteriorated.”
Berry, who hails from Yorkshire, England, and has lived in the United States for 20 years, has experience restoring the exteriors of historical buildings. His company has also done extensive work on downtown Cleveland’s theaters and the grand old ladies of East 4th Street.
His expert opinion: Amherst city hall’s problem, once examined closely, was worse than expected by Custom Masonry’s four-man crew.
Another surprise — while making the fixes, workers found a huge colony of yellow jackets. An enormous nest had grown in the walls over the course of five to 10 years and an exterminator was called to destroy it.
Custom Masonry’s work cost less than $10,000. But more work will likely have to be done, said Berry, who has been working with building inspector David Macartney to map out the repairs.
That’s especially true if the long-vacant auditorium on the top floor of the building is ever to be restored, said mayor Mark Costilow.
Roofers are now set to examine shingles and replace a few that have come loose. Costilow said officials need to be sure the building is fully protected from the elements before committing to significant renovations.
He’s expressed interest in reviving the old auditorium. Resisting the urge to tackle the project in his first year in office was difficult in the face of other priorities, Costilow said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times The front sidewalk and entrance at Amherst city hall were closed as workers from Custom Masonry & Design used a huge lift to make repairs atop the building’s bell tower. City hall remained accessible from the back via a seldom-used elevator.