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Local News

October 2, 2013

Salem arch repair gaining momentum

SALEM — The Washington Arch on Salem Common may soon be getting much-needed TLC.

A group of locals have put together a plan for some urgent repairs to the wooden arch, a 37-year old replica of a 19th-century archway designed by Samuel McIntire, Salem’s famed architect and wood carver.

Organizers say they’ll do the repairs without any municipal funding. The Salem Common Neighborhood Association has already started fundraising; this fall, Salem Boy Scout Troop 24 has pledged to contribute some of the revenue from their annual holiday wreath sales toward the project.

“I am so excited that we do have this plan and are going to move forward,” said Peter Lachapelle, who said he’s been working on the project since 2009.

Last night, city councilors voted 6-0 to give the group an initial OK to move forward. The issue will need a second approval from the full council at its next regular meeting.

The more-than-20-foot-tall arch is on Salem Common, near Winter Street. The repair project needs the city council’s blessing because it is city property.

“We want to bite off what we can chew,” Mark Meche, an architect involved with the project and one of the leaders of Scout troop 24, said to councilors last night.

Meche said their first focus will be to stabilize the arch’s carvings before winter sets in.

The carvings, including a profile of George Washington that is missing a large piece, are “in tough shape,” Meche said.

While the arch has begun to deteriorate in spots and some pieces are missing, “it’s better than you think,” Meche said. “... What we think this is, is a carpentry job.”

Meche said more in-depth repairs are being considered for the spring. The repairs — such as replacing, rebuilding and repainting some of the wood — would make the arch “a place to be,” instead of something to simply pass through.

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