NORWAY — Just weeks before the first floor of the Norway Opera House is due to reopen, a leak has sprung in the base of the clock tower.
“It did impact first-floor spaces because it ran across the main roof under the roofing, then fell onto the second floor,” Al Hodson of Resurgence Engineering in Portland said Monday. “Enough leaking would certainly eventually soak through the second floor and damage the first-floor ceiling.”
Hodson was able to patch the worst part of the leak. He said it was discovered at the base of the tower where it abuts the main roof.
For the past several months, a $1.1 million renovation has been ongoing to prepare the five first-floor storefronts to reopen in February. Space is currently leased, and at least two businesses are expected to open their doors next month.
It is unclear what impact the most recent leak may have on those business openings.
Hodson said another area he is concerned about is the pyramid roof where metal tiles are missing. The biggest concern, and likely the biggest cost, will be getting people in the tower to fully assess the problem.
Hodson said he is discussing the situation with Opera House general contractor H.E. Callahan Construction of Auburn and will report to the Board of Selectmen at a meeting later in January.
Town Manager David Holt said he is working with Hodson to get an estimate on repairs.
The building with its imposing clock tower is the centerpiece of the downtown historic district and was listed as one of Maine’s most endangered historic properties.
Concerts, minstrel shows, ballroom dances, plays, movies, high school graduations and town meetings were held on the upper floors, and small businesses operated on the first. It had a succession of private owners after the town sold it in the mid-1970s. The upper floors, which include a stage and balcony, have been unused for about 30 years.
In 2007 the roof partially collapsed, flooding the building. The owner's failure to adequately stabilize the structure led the town to take it by eminent domain in 2010, because it was considered a public safety hazard. The town has since deeded the building to the Norway Opera House Corp.