By Jonathan Phelps
---- — MARBLEHEAD — The $2.4 million project to restore Abbot Hall was overwhelmingly approved during a debt-exclusion vote this week.
The debt-exclusion override was approved, with 3,888 votes in favor to 1,617 against, on Tuesday.
“Anybody who knows Abbot Hall knows it needs major repairs,” said Selectman Harry Christensen, who also serves on the town’s Historical Commission. “I think that is why it overwhelmingly passed at the debt-exclusion vote.”
The hall was built in 1877 to replace the Town House built in 1727. The building is named after Benjamin Abbot, who was born in town in 1795 and became wealthy running a barrel-making business in Boston. He donated $100,000 to the town in his will for the purpose of the public building.
Christensen said the building needs to be protected and preserved or it will cost more in the long run.
“The alternative is to let it fall down, and nobody wants to see that,” he said.
In December 2012, an architect and structural engineer hired by the town determined the work to be done. The project includes resetting brickwork, filling structural cracks and replacing rotted beams. It also includes adding a tension frame in the belfry and additional supports in the attic, according to a report on the building’s condition.
Staging is expected to be erected around the tower in February or March 2014. The work is scheduled to be completed by November 2014, according to a report on the project.
The building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, is now worth about $3.3 million, according to an assessment report.
“It means what Marblehead is,” Christensen said. “Marblehead is the spirit of America, and Abbot Hall is part of that.”
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.