Physical restoration efforts are about to begin on the GAR Hall at 8 Dane Street, as the City has contracted with Campbell Construction Group to complete the physical restoration of the front and side façades of the historic building.
“We are very excited to begin the first phase of restoration for one of Beverly’s historic landmark buildings,” said Mayor Michael Cahill. “It is important to find ways to preserve Beverly’s historically significant structures and architectural assets.”
Preservation work began in January of 2017, when the architectural firm Adams & Smith completed the Building Assessment, Preservation and Reuse Plan for the GAR Hall. The preservation plan laid out a framework to preserve this important historic resource in the heart of Beverly’s cultural district, established the GAR Hall’s current condition, and provided extensive recommendations for preserving the historic building, including proposed designs and construction costs. With the preservation plan as a guide, the City has moved to begin restoration, and Adams & Smith was again contracted to complete design and construction documents for the GAR Hall. Adams & Smith will oversee the physical restoration of the front and side façades of the GAR Hall, set to begin in December.
The Ward 2 Civic Association (W2CA) began advocating to restore the GAR Hall in 2014 when they held their monthly meetings in the building. W2CA submitted a joint application with the City for funds from the Community Preservation Act (CPA) for a preservation plan in 2016, and advocated for the physical restoration once the preservation plan was completed. Stefano Basso, W2CA President, emphasized the importance of the GAR Hall to the Beverly community, stating: “The building holds such a unique place in our architectural and civic history and has the potential to serve as a model for future projects. It has been great to see citizens working alongside the Mayor’s Office and Planning Department towards a common goal.”
Funding for the restoration of the GAR Hall has mainly come in the form of CPA funds, although restoration efforts have recently been buoyed by a $50,000 earmark from Governor Baker’s supplemental budget passed earlier this calendar year. The earmark was added to the CPA funding approved by City Council to complete design services and restoration of the building’s front and side façades. In early 2016 the W2CA entered the GAR Hall in the Bernzomatic “Find Your Fire” community grants program, a national fund raising competition and won $1,500 for the project as a finalist. The City also received $7,500 from the Beverly Main Streets 2018 Façade and Sign Improvement Program to allocate to the restoration of the building.
The GAR Hall at 8 Dane Street demonstrates a significant aspect of Beverly’s history. Built in 1863 at 248½ Cabot Street, the GAR Hall was originally designed to be a church chapel, but after only a few years was converted to be used as Beverly’s high school until 1875. When the high school moved to the Briscoe Building, veterans’ groups took over the use of the building to provide meeting space for veterans of both the War of 1812 and the Civil War. During that time, the building was officially named the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Hall. In 1941, the City moved the GAR Hall to its current location at 8 Dane Street. Having been a meeting space for civic organizations, specifically veterans’ groups, for 85 years, the GAR Hall was converted into municipal office space in 2015 to be used by the City as offices for the Municipal Inspections/Building Department.
Although the building has received continuous use, the exterior has fallen into disrepair, and the interior is also in need of renovation. In spite of the work needed to restore the GAR Hall, the building is recognized as a representation of Beverly’s military history as well as an architectural asset. The Beverly Planning Department is working with the Beverly Historic District Commission to pursue the GAR Hall’s listing on the National Register, which will create additional funding opportunities for future restoration work and will emphasize the building’s historic significance for years to come. Upon completion of the multi-phased restoration project the building will be converted to once again serve its traditional role as a community meeting space.
First image: GAR Hall at 248-1/2 Cabot Street, 1905-1907. Second image: GAR Hall at 8 Dane Street, 2016.