WATERFORD — Work is nearing completion to stabilize the historic archway entrance to the Elmvale Cemetery and apparently none too soon.
“There was only one post attached,” said James Long of James M. Long and Sons of Waterford who, along with his sons Eric and Darin, has been working to stabilize the entrance way on Sweden Road for more than a month.
“I told them it wouldn’t make it through the winter,” said Long of his initial review to town officials of the archway’s condition.
The project was necessary to repair rotted bases on the south entrance, one of two archways marking the entrance to the cemetery. While it was unclear how much rot was actually there, once the base was unearthed the damage was evident. The only attached post was the one on the furthest left of the four-post structure.
Long and his crew excavated the ground last month after putting wooden cribbing up for support, and then poured cement footings using a piece of steel with corrugated exterior to grip into the cement. Eight-inch steel plates were welded into the rebar and set in the concrete, which was poured on Friday, and bolted to the eight-by-eight beam holding up the side structures.
One of the posts still had the original cedar tree that had been cut into the post at an angle, said Long.
The posts have now been reinforced with steel and a three-quarter-inch threaded rod bolted on each end. There were four placed on each post.
To repair the post some of the original wood had to be cut, Long said.
Now the town must decide whether it wants to reconstruct the base using wood or a solid vinyl, which Long said he would favor because of its durability and the fact that it looks exactly like wood.
Funds must be appropriated by town meeting to continue the renovation work. Last year, voters approved no more than $12,142 to pay for the stabilization project.
Long said the northern entrance way was repaired about 12 years ago, and, although it leans slightly, is in fairly good shape. The identical southern archway, which is about 23 to 28 feet tall and 24 feet wide, is the newer of the two marking the entrance.
The cemetery is known as the the resting ground for Charles Farrar Brown, better known as Artemus Ward, the 19th century humorist and contemporary of Mark Twain. Brown passed away in England in 1867 and was moved to Maine in a soldered metallic casket that was put on a horse-drawn, two-seated spring wagon to bring to the cemetery, according to a 1915 newspaper story about Brown.