Thursday, June 08, 2006

Restoration Underway on St. Dom’s Bell Tower

The demolition team working on the collapsed bell tower inside St. Dominic’s Cathedral is completing the second of a three-phase repair and restoration process, according to John O’Dea, Executive Director of the Maine Irish Heritage Center, owners of the building since June 3, 2002.
Phase one included stabilization of the structure for safety, removal of exterior rubble, and hazard protection. The second phase, now almost complete, entails demolition and removal of debris inside the tower in preparation for phase three, which is the actual repair. The bell, which collapsed halfway down the tower, remains undamaged.

O’Dea, who was about to step down as Executive Director when the bell collapsed in May, voluntarily stayed in the position to assist and focus on repairs. He says that monetary donations, and support from several City departments – from Planning, to City Manager, to the Fire Department – have been “outstanding” during repairs. Historic preservation, he says, is “very much a goal.”

Currently, the only space used in the Cathedral is the office. The Irish-American Club has a lifelong lease on the building in exchange for a $50,000 loan it forgave the Center in 2005. IAC Vice-President Robert O’Brien said that, thankfully, the months of the collapse and repair are slower for the group, resulting in no injuries or major re-scheduling of events for its approximate 500 members. The Center, he says, is lucky to have Linda Hogan, its first-ever Director, acting as pro bono fundraiser.

However, the building is covered by insurance, and there is also an ongoing grant for construction activity from the City’s Housing and Development Department. Aaron Shapiro, Housing and Neighborhood Services Division Director, says that no additional funds have been granted by that department, nor has there been a meeting between the IHC and the Housing and Development Department.


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