Custom House to Undergo Next Phase of Restoration

U.S. Customshouse (Barnstable) Photo copyright Dave and Elaine Doolittle of, used with permission

U.S. Customshouse (Barnstable)
Photo copyright Dave and Elaine Doolittle of, used with permission

BARNSTABLE VILLAGE – The Town of Barnstable’s historic Custom House will be undergoing phase 3 in a long term restoration project on the structure.

Barnstable Town Council President Jessica Rapp-Grassetti says the building plays an important role in the town’s history.

“It’s part of our history, part of the maritime history, as well as the historical significance with regard to the architecture of the building. It stands prominently there on the Old King’s Highway,” she said.

The 1856 building on Route 6A was known for many years as the Trayser Museum and now serves as the Coast Guard Heritage Museum.

When it was first built, it served the maritime trades that operated out of the nearby Barnstable Harbor.

John Juros, an architect who is the town’s project manager for the restoration, said, the building is on the Register of Historic Places. That means the town has to meet federal historic standards in the renovation. The goal in this phase of the project is to return the building to having its original brick finishes.

He said looking at the rear of the building where the masonry has been stripped off gives a preview of what is in store for the building in this phase of the restoration.

Barnstable’s Community Preservation Act is supplying more than $200,000 towards this next phase of the project. The work will focus on the brick work on the exterior of the building.

“We’re making progress,” Juros said.

Lindsey Counsell, chairman of the Town of Barnstable’s Community Preservation Committee, said this third phase of the project is the last major phase for the exterior of the building.

Community Preservation Act funds come from a three percent surtax on property taxes in towns. The funds are reserved for historic preservation, affordable housing, open space and recreation.

The first phase, Counsell, said, was a $135,000 historic assessment of the building, paid for with Community Preservation Act funds. Those funds were also used to contribute $217,000 for phase two work on the windows.

For phase three, about $225,000 in Community Preservation Act funds are being used.

Besides Community Preservation Act funds, money for the work is coming from the Town of Barnstable’s capital improvement program funds, and two grants from the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

Rapp-Grassetti said it is a good use of Community Preservation funds.

“We don’t want years to go by without doing some repairs so every little bit goes to the continued conservation of what a beautiful landmark that is,” Rapp-Grassetti said.

Phase two of the project, which was completed about two years ago, repaired the building’s unique wooden windows, stabilized the structure and repaired the railing on the balcony, Juros said.

“Just like everyone’s home, every year you have to do something to keep it tight to the weather. That’s been standing close to 200 years, that building and it’s part of our history,” Rapp-Grassetti said.

A pre-bid walk through at the project site is scheduled for Monday, November 17, Juros said. Bids from constractors interested in doing the job are due in two weeks and the work is expected to start this winter.

The Custom House site also includes a working blacksmith shop, which is in a carriage house that is the same year as the Custom House, and the oldest wooden jail in North America, which dates to the 17th century. There are future restoration plans for both of those buildings as well, according to Juros.

The next phase, Juros said, is to work on the interior of the building, including ridding the building of mold and replacing and painting damaged plaster.
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