LEWISTON — Workers will inspect the foundation of the downtown Kennedy Park gazebo and bandstand Wednesday to see if it can be reused.
“This thing hasn’t moved a whole lot, so we suspect there’s a decent footing and foundation down there,” said Mike Hebert of Hebert Construction. “We want to see what it is. Regardless, we have to shore up the roof. But if we can reuse the foundation, we may be able to keep it in place and restore it.”
City officials and members of a committee formed to save the historic bandstand broke ground on the project Tuesday morning. Lewiston Finance Director Heather Hunter said rebuilding the gazebo would begin in earnest in November.
“My understanding is they are going to leave the roof in place and work around it,” Hunter said.
Hebert said his workers must first strengthen the roof supports to the gazebo, to make sure it can support the tin roof’s weight.
“The first thing we want to do is shore that roof up so it doesn’t fall down, and then we can put in the foundation this fall,” Hebert said. “The structural steel in the main frame will be done over the winter and then late in the winter we can move the roof on to the new structure. The restoration of the roof will happen in the spring, when the temperatures are more conducive.”
Work will continue in place if the foundation is solid, Hebert said. If not, a new foundation will be dug about six feet south of the current structure.
Once the building of the supports is finished, Hebert said the focus will move to the historic tin roof. It will be reconditioned and repainted.
“But the most important thing right now is shoring up the roof,” Hebert said. “We want to shore it up so it doesn’t fall down. We’re concerned about strong winds.”
The plan to build a shorter bandstand will cost about $156,600. According to an agreement with the city, the committee had to raise at least half of the renovation costs to qualify for $75,000 in federal block grant money set aside by the Lewiston City Council.
It’s taken longer than two years to get to this point, said William Clifford, chairman of the Gazebo Restoration Committee. The group is still $15,000 short of its fundraising goal, he said.
“But we are close and we are enthused enough to go ahead while we raise more money,” Clifford said.
According to history of the gazebo written by local historian Douglas Hodgkin, the first bandstand was built in the park in 1868; the current gazebo was built in 1925. Since then, it’s been used for concerts and band performances as well as political rallies for local, Maine and national candidates.
The gazebo has been closed and fenced off since 2010 because of safety concerns, including damage to the concrete floor of the structure, erosion on the brick supports and wear on the wooden columns and the wood structure under the roof.
The new plan calls for building a new structure similar to the park’s 1925 gazebo but shorter: The 1925 gazebo’s floor was about five feet off of the ground and the new gazebo floor will be about two feet off the ground.