OSWEGO — Port City officials are moving forward with the roughly $2.2 million restoration and renovation of Oswego City Hall and expect work to start next summer that includes the installation of new gutters, a partial rebuild of a deteriorating wall and repairs to the roof and elevator tower.
The city was awarded $500,000 in 2017 from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to pay for a portion of the roughly $1.5 million in repairs and restoration for the 19th century structure, with another $820,000 needed to stabilize the elevator tower. The Oswego Common Council is expected to accept the $500,000 in funding Monday and enter into a master contract for the project.
Built in 1870 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, the structure once housed police officers and jail cells. In recent years, the City Hall has developed a leaky roof and a gutter system that no longer functions properly and city leaders have said the important structure is badly in need of repairs.
Mayor Billy Barlow said in February the city needed to act fast to ensure the structure was preserved for future generations, adding the restoration project would be expensive and labor-intensive but worthwhile to protect what he called an important asset to the community.
“Our City Hall is an amazing building with awesome historical features that we cannot lose,” Barlow said. “We sometimes take it for granted. The building has badly needed attention for many years as visible signs of neglect are beginning to show, primarily in the masonry and façade.”
The Oswego Common Council in January approved a contract with Albany-based Mesick, Cohen, Wilson, Baker Architects for engineering and design work to repair and restore the building and stabilize the elevator tower. City officials paid the firm roughly $5,500 in July 2017 to update a 2013 report on the condition of the building, which was used to secure the $500,000 grant.
The 2013 report identified a number of problems with the building, including a weakened gutter system, water damage and wall deterioration. Minor problems and safety issues have been addressed since that time, officials have said, but many of the problems identified still exist.
The initial scope of work for the project was expected to include masonry repair and restoration, cornice and gutter replacement, painting, roofing and insulation. Officials later added the elevator tower to the project, noting earlier this year the elevator shaft was crumbling.
With the engineering and design work nearing completion, city officials said the final scope of work and construction documents are being finalized. Officials expect the project to be put out to bid in early 2020 and said construction would likely start next summer.
Barlow called the structure “a real treasure,” and said preserving the building and securing funding to do so has been a personal priority. He expressed excited about moving closer to construction and vowed to continue providing the building with “the appropriate attention it needs and deserves.”
Councilor John Gosek Jr., R-5th Ward, called the building “near and dear” to his heart, and noted the architect who designed City Hall, Horatio Nelson White, was “one of the most prominent architects in central New York” and also designed the Syracuse University Hall of Languages and the Oswego County Courthouse.
“I’m really excited about this moving forward,” he said. “We’re approaching the 150-year anniversary of this building so in two years hopefully we can say that we’ve preserved it for another 50 to 100 years for posterity. It’s a really significant piece of art and architecture in our downtown.”
The full Common Council is expected to approve the master contract and accept the grant funding Monday.