Before work could begin, we needed to find funding and a qualified contractor. Funding was once again provided by the Ayer Community Preservation Committee in the form of another generous grant, this time for $108,000 while our contractor search led ius to Gerard O'Doherty of Lincoln, MA, an outstanding partner.
In keeping with the Conditions Assessment recommendations, Phase I focused on work deemed essential to stabilize and preserve the building. The major tasks involved were:
The highest priority item on this list was one of the least visible to the casual observer: repair & stabilization. of the foundation. An easy problem to miss, it was quickly flagged by Stephanie Davis, the structural engineer from the conditions assessment team, who discovered that the southeast corner of the classroom was approximately one and one-half inches lower than the rest of the building.
Stephanie's discovery led to the digging of test wells at the corners of the building to diagnosis the cause of the problem. This exercise revealed that one of the large granite blocks comprising the foundation had partially slipped off its 150 year-old loose stone footing, the top of which lay approximately one foot below the surface of the surrounding soil.
Since further movement of the foundation, no matter how minor, would inevitably lead to further damage to the masonry and classroom ceiling, preventing such movement was the first item tackled when work began in the summer 2019. Today, the only visible evidence of this small but important project is a small gravel area around the perimeter of the classroom building. Installed to improve drainage, it also conceals the trench that provided temporary access to the foundation while the repair work. was in process.
All of the major Phase I work was completed in time for the Schoolhouse's Special 150th Anniversary Celebration & Open House on September 14, 2019. For attendees, it was an opportunity to view first hand the new classroom ceiling, freshly painted classroom and exterior trim, the restored masonry, and marvel at the integrity of their iconic little schoolhouse.
As of late 2019, there was still a small remaining balance from the Phase I grant. Accordingly, our plan for the spring of 2020 was to resume work by applying the leftover monies to several of the remaining tasks listed in the conditions assessment, while simultaneously applying for a new grant to fund Phase II. But Mother Nature had a different plan. It was called COVID-19.
Failing classroom ceiling
The arrival of COVID-19 interrupted our plans for the spring of 2020, but fortunately only temporarily. Construction work resumed, but in June instead of the spring. And the Phase II grant application was submitted, but not until August. By the end of the summer two additional tasks had been completed--replacement and painting of the shutters, and an updating of the electrical system.
With Phase I work essentially completed, our attention turned to Phase II. The purpose of Phase II was, quite simply, to realize our vision for the schoolhouse, a fully restored building that is usable on a year-round basis as a venue for historical education and community events including including lectures, old-fashioned dinner dances, special musical events, meetings, and indoor-outdoor summer activities (ala the September 2019 Open House & 150th anniversary celebration),
As outlined in the Phase II CPC grant application, the project scope includes:
And now, with funding in hand thanks to approval of the Phase II grant application by both DPC and Fall 2020 Ayer Town Meeting, it remains only to do the actual work. Easier said then done, to be sure, but with a little luck, and no more interruptions from Mother Nature,, a restored Sandy Pond Schoolhouse will be open to the public in late 2021 or early 2022. Stay tuned.
Refurbished classroom with new ceiling fixture