Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Irish Heritage Center Shut Down for Foreseeable Future

Because of the ongoing construction following the bell tower collapse at St Dominic's Church, along with related issues of air quality, the Maine Irish Heritage Center has essentially been shut down for the foreseeable future, according to the Center’s website. The IHC Board of Directors have also had to cancel all programming in the facility, including their annual auction, as well as all rentals. They do not anticipate being open until sometime next spring.

In early May, the church's 5,000-pound bell broke from its linchpin and crashed through two floors of the tower. No one was injured, but the accident added thousands of dollars worth of damage to a building that already needed major work. It also opened the building up to outside elements and this, combined with the heavy rain and high levels of humidity this summer, has significantly impacted the building’s air quality.

Engineers, contractors, city officials and insurance representatives, along with John O'Dea, the Acting CEO, and the members of the IHC Board have been studying the damage done by the falling bell, according to the webpage. Repair work is now scheduled to begin very soon with the installation of scaffolding on the building at the corner of State and Gray streets. Engineers told the IHC that the tower is structurally sound.

The collapse forced the IHC to make the decision as to whether to try to keep the center open and conduct the repairs in piecemeal fashion, or cancel programs and get all the work done at once. Ultimately, the Board decided on the latter.

The cost for the Irish Heritage Center's repair project will be paid for with a combination of insurance money, grants and private donations. The IHC has a $50,000 grant from 2005 for exterior repairs set aside in the City’s Housing and Community Development fund. It is still not certain how much the insurance will cover, and the full scope of work will not be known until scaffolding has been erected and the engineers can safely get a good look at the damage.

The IHC conducted a fundraising concert featuring Eugene Byrne on June 17th at St Patrick's Church, and will hold another fundraiser in support of the restoration project, featuring Schooner Fare, on Friday evening September 15th at the First Parish Church on Congress Street. Tickets are $20.00 General Admission, $18.00 for Senior Citizens and Friends of the Irish. Tickets are available at the door and at Bull Moose Music stores.


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