Editor's note: This story has been corrected. The correction runs below
Hamilton Hall’s majestic eagle has watched the city since 1805 from his perch on Chestnut Street in Salem.
After two centuries, however, the eagle may soon be retiring.
Preserving the eagle and replacing him with a replica is one of several goals of a recently launched fundraising campaign for Hamilton Hall.
The eagle and his perch — the three-story Federalist landmark — were designed by noted architect Samuel McIntire and erected in 1805. Named in honor of Alexander Hamilton, the building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971.
"It's a gem. It really is," said Pamela Jendrysik, president of Hamilton Hall's board of directors.
This winter, the directors designed a fundraising campaign to focus on "the four E's," Jendrysik said: restoring the eagle, purchasing energy-efficient windows, enhancing the hall's endowment and upgrading its electricity to 400-amp service.
They are applying for grants and reaching out to donors, hoping to raise several hundred thousand dollars over the next few years, she said.
The hall's current wiring won't support two wish-list items: an elevator and air conditioning, Jendrysik said. Without an elevator, only the first floor of the building is handicapped-accessible.
The eagle, one of several in Salem carved by McIntire, would be preserved and displayed somewhere inside Hamilton Hall, and a replica would take its place atop the building. Over the years, the wooden eagle has had only minor restorations, Jendrysik said.
The cost to restore the eagle has been estimated at $30,000 and the electricity upgrade at between $8,000 and $15,000. Estimates for energy-efficient window upgrades have been "astronomical," Jendrysik said.
A labor of love
Hamilton Hall was built as an assembly hall and continues with that use 207 years later.
The Hamilton Hall Ladies Committee's popular lecture series, which focuses on current events, is in its 66th year. Held through February and March, the series draws 350 people for each lecture and sells out within a few weeks, Jendrysik said.
The hall is also rented for events and hosts 15 to 25 weddings a year, as well as an annual Christmas dance — which many neighbors walk to, dressed in formal wear, from their Chestnut Street homes.
The building was designed to host dinners and balls, and the original brick hearth is an impressive focal point of a room on the first floor. Modernized kitchens are now located on the top floor.
The Marquis de Lafayette, the Revolutionary war hero, dined at Hamilton Hall twice, Jendrysik said.
Recent fundraisers paid for a new roof, granite work, railings and other capital improvements. Danversbank gave $2,500 to repaint the ceiling of the ballroom, which covered about half the cost of the much-needed project, she said.
Jendrysik moved to Salem 15 years ago, drawn to the city because she loves architecture and history and wanted to live by the ocean.
Getting involved at Hamilton Hall was simply "a natural," she said.
Staff writer Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.
9 Chestnut St., Salem
Open for self-guided tours 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday
Mark your calendars: May 5 afternoon house tours on Chestnut Street, followed by tea in the Hamilton Hall ballroom
For more information, call 978-744-0805 or visit www.hamiltonhall.org.
A March 14 front-page story, "Preserving 'a gem'" requires a correction. A grant from Danversbank to repaint the ceiling of the ballroom at Hamilton Hall was for the amount of $2,500.