Haverhill City Hall Getting ‘Long-Needed’ Facelift and New Rear Retaining Wall

New retaining wall under construction behind Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News photograph.)

Additional photograph below.

Parking around Haverhill City Hall has been a bit tight, but Purchasing Director Steven S. Bucuzzo says the building and surrounding land are “getting some long-needed work.”

As WHAV reported last February, Haverhill city councilors voted to authorize borrowing $1.2 million to replace a retaining wall, between city hall and parking lot. The project also includes installation of new guardrails and railings, removal and disposal of an underground oil tank, demolition of an old wooden coal shed and infilling the below grade vault, foundation waterproofing and Pavement restoration.

Bucuzzo says a construction contract was awarded to low bidder George R. Cairns and Sons of Windham, N.H. He adds another benefit of the project is resolving a water migration problem in city hall, thought to be related to a crack in the old retaining wall.

“A lot more is needed,” says Bucuzzo. He explains electrical service and fire alarm upgrades to comply with updated codes are on the horizon.

Another $430,000 was approved last fall by Mayor James J. Fiorentini for significant repairs to city hall’s exterior white terracotta, including its ornamental columns and lentils at the front entrance. Chapman Waterproofing Co. of Holbrook is taking on the project. “Both projects are moving along nicely and are on schedule,” Bucuzzo says.

Added to all this, Bucuzzo has already overseen installation of a generator paid for with COVID-19 relief money last year, construction of granite-edged steps to the Newcomb Street parking lot, removal of old boilers, installation of additional security cameras and other work.

The building last received a major overhaul in 1973 when the 1910-era Haverhill High School was converted into city hall following the demolition of the original City Hall during urban renewal. Although windows were changed and there were substantial interior renovations, many exterior features have been virtually untouched in the last century or so.

The retaining wall dates back to the construction of the former high school and provided steps to the then-YMCA and its 45-foot-long swimming pool, according to David Goudsward, author of “H. P. Lovecraft in the Merrimack Valley.” The YMCA bought the former Second Empire mansion of Haverhill philanthropist Ezekiel James Madison Hale in 1897. Hale’s original granite posts at the Main Street entrance are the only surviving elements.

Old retaining wall behind Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News photograph.)

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