BOSTON (AP) –The National Park Service will spend $3.1 million, including a $500,000 gift from the Massachusetts Grand Lodge of Freemasons, to rehabilitate the Bunker Hill Monument and Bunker Hill Museum.

“It’s a project that’s long overdue,” said Sean Hennessey, spokesman for Boston National Historical Park, which maintains the monument and planned to formally announce the project Monday. “We haven’t done a major restoration since we took over the site from the Metropolitan District Commission in the 1970s.”

The monument is poorly ventilated in summer, and the 294 steps that lead to the top ice over in winter due to moisture leaks.

The $500,000 donation will be used to redesign museum exhibits to better bring to life the Battle of Bunker Hill, which was fought June 17, 1775 on Breed’s Hill in Charlestown.

Both sides suffered heavy casualties in the battle, which the British won after the outnumbered colonists successfully defended two frontal assaults but ran out of ammunition.

Construction will probably begin in 2004, with a target completion date of 2006, Hennessey told The Boston Globe.

Scaffolding will be erected around the monument in stages to allow workers to reseal joints between its granite blocks, but the site is expected to remain open to the public. More than 200,000 visitors tour the monument annually.

The museum, housed in a former branch of the Boston Public Library, will include interactive exhibits, more extensive displays of historical artifacts, a bookstore and a community meeting space. It will continue to house the Charlestown Historical Society.

A marble statue of Revolutionary hero Joseph Warren, who was killed during the battle, will remain in the visitors center.

, known as the Bunker Hill Lodge. The first monument to the battle was erected by the Freemasons to honor Warren, their Masonic brother, in 1794 on the spot where he was presumed to have died.

AP-ES-09-28-03 1553EDT

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