Chapel renovation moves ahead of schedule, remains on budget
Sometime back in the long history of Bowdoin College, a professor said that the Chapel "has been the pride for each successive generation of Bowdoin students."
Although students here might not realize it, the crew's work is ahead of schedule. Right now, the crew is tearing down the South tower, which overlooks the Appleton dormitory, while building up the North tower at the same time. The bulk of the work on the North should be complete by mid-October, and the South could be halfway rebuilt by the end of the year.
"We should be pretty much wrapped up at the end of July," said Boucher. Finishing touches will still take place after that, but most of the $6 million project should be done.
Consigli Construction has a 15-man crew doing everything from transporting blocks to removing stones to doing masonry on the peak of the North tower. Their task involves nearly 5,000 granite blocks and mammoth pillars. They will completely reconstruct the two towers, which began to crumble after 150 years of harsh Maine winters. Boucher and his crew need to make the new towers structurally sound while changing the historic exterior as little as possible.
To do this, they use modern materials on the inside of the structure, but reuse most of the old granite blocks visible from the outside. When the crew deconstructs a tower, each stone is cataloged. The stones are numbered in accordance with a map, and when the new tower is built, the crew tries to use as many of the old stones as possible.
The North Tower, which is nearing completion, has a total of 2,412 exterior stones. Only about 350 of those stones are new; the rest are the originals. Even the new granite comes from the same quarry that the old stones came from. The exteriors of the new blocks, which are smooth, will be degraded so that they fit in with the rest of the structure.
Inside the towers are huge supports to hold the structure in place. One of the pillars weighs 49,000 pounds. In the old towers, there was simply a layer of sand between the interior supports and the exterior blocks. That is all changing, according to Boucher. In addition to the new supports and blocks, advanced materials will be used to hold everything together.
Elliot Wright, BSG's Vice President of Facilities, said that even though the project will cost $6 million, these changes are absolutely necessary. A few years ago, pieces of granite fell from the tower.
"It would not have taken much to cause disaster," Wright said. "There was an earthquake here at Bowdoin a few years ago which could have easily taken her down, and possibly at the cost of a few lives."
Other students aren't so sure exactly what is happening with the towers.
"All I know is that they are taking a really long time," said Kathleen Callaghy '07, who was studying out on the quad near the chapel.
Joe Adu '07 felt differently. "With all the ancient buildings that they have here, they can take all the time they need to make sure that it stands firm and tall," he said. "The House of God should be built with perfection."
Up on the scaffolding, the crew is treated to a view that few others see on campus. Tuesday, out in the open air next to the top of the North tower, the sun is peeking through the clouds on the horizon behind Boucher. It creates a spectacular landscape, with light radiating over the Walker Art Building and brushing the side of Hubbard Hall. Boucher said that building the two towers is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He said that the recognition belongs to his crew--those guys who are helping to build part of Bowdoin history.
"It's not a project you get to do everyday," Boucher said.
"It feels good."