NEW YORK (WCBS 880 / AP) – It’s the oldest working city hall in the United States and all of that work and the passage of time have taken their toll.
After finding rotten and cracked wooden trusses original to the 1812 construction of City Hall in Manhattan, the overhaul began.
Workers have installed steel braces to shore up the 200-year-old wooden roof beams and fixed overstressed girders and floor joists.
They’ve replaced rain gutters, are installing new elevators, and have pulled 93 miles of new wiring through the building – adding updated life safety equipment, fire alarms, and sprinkler systems.
An electrical vault is also being dug beneath the basement.
There is also a new heating and air conditioning system.
During this $119 million project, workers have found a bayonet that may have belonged to British soldiers during the Revolution, British coins featuring King George II minted before 1754, and pottery, bottles, and pipes dating back to the 1700s and 1800s.
WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb At City Hall
People are expected to move back into the east wing in four months.
The renovations, which started in 2009, were initially slated to cost the city $65 million. But once workers began ripping into the walls and ceilings, they uncovered deep structural problems they said had to be addressed for safety reasons. By last summer, the estimated cost had risen to $106 million. On Thursday, officials placed the figure at $119 million.
The council is expected to move back into the landmark building in October – three months later than had initially been planned. All restoration work is scheduled to be completed by March of 2012.
The City Council Chamber, where some legislators had complained of crumbling plaster falling on their heads, will now display five restored canvas murals that were peeled off the ceiling, rolled and shipped to Virginia at the beginning of the makeover. The paintings’ restoration is being funded by private donors, the mayor’s office said.
When the City Hall was completed in 1812, James Madison was president and there were no electricity, gas or sewer connections included in the plans. The set-up limited the amount of electricity that could be brought into the building, even as the demands of modern office equipment increased. The renovations are bringing new power lines in, along with 22 miles of hidden conduits and 93 miles of wiring.
“They used no steel in the construction. It was built out of hand-hewn brownstone, hand-hewn wood, and the cement of the day,” said Philip J. Kelly, the director of facilities and operations. “It’s a handmade piece of furniture; it’s 200 years old. It just needs some TLC.”
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