O ne of Whitehall’s premier cultural attractions will soon undergo renovations that will give the museum a new lease on life.
The Skenesborough Museum, which has stood beside the Champlain Canal since 1917, will receive a new roof that members of the historical society say will address and eliminate the degradation of the building’s historic artifacts.
Construction of a new roof is slated to begin later this month and will replace a concrete rooftop that has lasted less than 30 years.
“The roof was put on in 1990 through the insistence of the state and funded by a grant but it started to pulverize after only 10 years,” said Jim Aiken.
“When I discovered the warranty on the concrete slabs was for only five years I almost fainted,” said Carol Greenough, director of the Whitehall Heritage Area.
The sudden deterioration of the roof created a number of leaks that damaged contents inside the museum.
“A display has been damaged and you can’t replace and can’t insure the artifacts,” said Greenough.
A sealant bought the roof some time but didn’t address the underlying problem.
So for the last three years, the Whitehall Historical Society has been exploring ways to address the problem. But with a limited budget, the town unable to provide funding, and little technical assistance from the state, early efforts failed to gain traction.
But last fall, the historical society discovered it was the recipient of a $164,580 endowment made by former Whitehall resident Ed Scott, who left more than $822,000 to six nonprofit organizations in Whitehall.
“Never in the world did we know that he was watching and paying attention. I take it as a great compliment that Mr. Scott left these organizations that money and I believe he trusted to use the money to the best benefit of Whitehall.”
Greenough also was able to finally begin a conversation with people within the state’s historic preservation department who had a working knowledge of the type of restoration work the historical society was hoping to complete.
One thing she discovered from those conversations was that a new roof did not have to be concrete as long as it resembled period-appropriate roofing materials. She also learned of a cast-steel roofing material that looks like clay tile, was affordable and came with a 50-year warranty.
“You couldn’t imagine how quickly everything fell into place,” Greenough said.
The cost of the new roof, which will be replaced by Scott Eckhard, is estimated around $70,000.
The historical society will cover the up-front costs of the project but will be paid back by the town.
The town agreed earlier this month, going so far as to pass a resolution, to reimburse the historical society at a rate of $10,000 per year until the project was paid off so it has the money it needs to support other historical buildings in town.
The latest project is a continuation of a string of improvements the historical society has made over the course of the last year.
It spent nearly $8,000 to repair the rear roof of the library and another $12,000 to renovate the historic bandstand in Riverside Veterans Memorial Park.
And Aiken said a new roof should allow the organization to eventually improve the interior of the museum, which has been open since 1959 and was formerly a canal terminal.
A timetable for completion of the roof hasn’t been determined but officials are hopeful it will be complete before the snow falls.