May 19. 2013 10:14PM

Goffstown artisan gives new face to Wolfeboro tower

Special to the Union Leader

Philip D'Avanza of D'Avanza Clock Repair displays the 23 karat gold leaf pieces that will be used on the numerals on the newly refurbished clock tower at the historic Wolfeboro Town Hall. (LARISSA MULKERN)

WOLFEBORO -- The weathered and worn clock faces at the Brewster Memorial Hall clock tower are getting a $34,000 facelift.

The four, 8-foot diameter clock faces, believed to be original to the 1890 building, also called Wolfeboro Town Hall, will be replaced with four new ones in the project headed up by Philip D'Avanza of D'Avanza Clock Repair, LLC, of Goffstown under the direction of town Planning and Development Director Rob Houseman.

The west-facing clock face was removed last November and taken to D'Avanza's shop to make templates of the face, hands and numbers. Late last week, the remaining old clock faces were removed and replaced with new ones made from African mahogany. New hour and minute hands are made of rot-resistant redwood, and the numerals and hands themselves will be gilded in a new coat of 23-karat gold leaf.

D'Avanza said the goal is to complete renovations by Memorial Day weekend.

Under bright blue skies last Thursday, workers tied off and lowered the faces with the help of a new bucket lift that D'Avanza had rented, and a crane from Andy's Crane Service. Jim Doherty of Target New England Historical Renovations did the trim and woodwork around the clock faces. By mid-afternoon, the winds had picked up. Crews took extra care by securing the clock faces with straps and ropes as they were lowered to the street.

"It's a little windy, so we have to rope them off," said D'Avanza, who has been restoring clocks of all sizes since 1977. His company credits include restoration or replacement of clock faces on towers in Wakefield, Plaistow, Hillsborough, in Durham on Thompson Hall at the University of New Hampshire, in Exeter at Phillips Exeter Academy, Lebanon, Pembroke, Amherst, New London, Farmington, Mont Vernon, Conway and many other communities.

Public, private funding

Houseman said the town tapped into the Division of Historical Resources Conservation License Plate Grant Program (also known as the Moose Plate). The program pays for preservation projects for publicly owned historic buildings, bridges, cemeteries and other historically significant resources that are eligible for or listed to the state Register of Historic Places or the National Register of Historic Places. Brewster Memorial Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The state's $10,000 grant was supplemented by a $24,000 donation by the Friends of the Wolfeboro Town Hall. Houseman said the town may apply for a similar grant to repair the aging arched doorways on the front and side of the building.

Repairs to the front and rear town hall parking lot will be funded through an approved warrant article for $100,000. The repair/reconstruction of the lot will be done in part to make the lots compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Wear and tear

From a distance of 65 feet up, the old clock faces at the tower appear in adequate condition. Seen up close after being lowered to the ground, however, the wear and tear on the clocks is as evident as wrinkles on an aging person.

"Up close, these don't look so good," said Houseman as the faces were lowered. The back of one of the old faces had been signed over the decades when painted or gilded. Dates included 1920, 1925, 1932, 1948, and 1978.

On Friday, windy conditions delayed somewhat the portion of the renovation project where D'Avanza would apply the gold leaf over the numerals and the clock hands. But the painting of the woodwork and trim just below the clock faces proceeded on schedule.