Skene Manor roof gets renovations

D uring its 138-year history, the Skene Manor has undergone a number of renovations, but perhaps none have been more important than the restoration of its roof.

For the past two months, crews have been repairing and restoring the roof of Whitehall’s last remaining “castle” to its original glory.

“It was really a necessary thing,” said Catherine Manuele, member of the Skene Manor Preservation, Inc., the organization that owns the building. “Years ago they patched the roof and that patching has deteriorated and new problems have come up because of the age of the building.

“This was one of our priorities. Without the roof being correct, the rest of the building and the work you put into it would be forgotten.”

Manuele said after factoring in about $35,000 of work that was completed last spring, the total cost to restore the roof comes to approximately $100,000, just under half what the building cost to construct nearly 140 years ago.

The Skene Manor Preservation group was awarded a $25,000 grant for the roof work, but Manuele said Ed Scott was the one most responsible for the restoration project.

Scott, a former resident of Whitehall and a 1954 graduate of Whitehall High School, posthumously donated over $822,000 to six nonprofit organizations within the community. The Skene Manor received the largest single donation at $205,725.

Scott had provided financial assistance to the Skene Manor on several occasions in the past and was responsible for the replacement of the estate’s front wall, and was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Gilly Room which is dedicated to Ambrose Gilligan, the former Whitehall principal and superintendent.

The money Scott donated was to be used strictly for the historical restoration of the manor.

“Mr. Scott visited Skene Manor several times over the years and called it ‘Whitehall’s Jewel’,” Manuele said. “This was one of his wishes. He told us the one thing we needed to take care of was the roof.”

That roof features six dormers and decorative pediments in the peak of the main tower and has been described as a “roofing marvel.”

When complete, the roof should look as it did when the building was constructed in 1874.

Because the project is being completed under the auspices of the New York State Historic Preservation Office, any work that is completed must meet an extensive set of state guidelines for the restoration of historic buildings.

“Basically the work has to be done as it was years ago,” Manuele said.

To meet these guidelines and regulations, members of the Skene Manor Preservation group had to hire the services of a licensed architectural engineer who inspected the roof and drew up a set of plans to be reviewed by the state.

Manuele said previous repairs to the roof had to be removed and replaced with historically accurate methods.

All the slate roofing tiles needed to be of a similar thickness and color, and the flashing, gutter and valleys all need to be historically correct.

After the plans were accepted by the state, work began in earnest in early January. The southernmost portion of the roof, closest to Mountain Street, has already been completed and work will continue on the remainder of the roof through the spring.

The Skene Manor will reopen for luncheon tours on April 20. Cleaning and prep work will being next month and anyone who would like to volunteer is encouraged to call 499-2053 or 747-3735.

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