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State-funded Weeks Estate restoration project is scaled back

February 05, 2014
LANCASTER — Director Ben Wilson of the Bureau of Historic Sites of the state Division of Parks and Recreation has decided to step back from the larger restoration project that was previously envisioned at the Lodge and other campus features at Weeks State Park. Instead the Bureau is moving forward to plan and put in place "a scaled-back three-contract project that will essentially restore the current exterior building envelope," Wilson reported in an e-mail exchange.

"The first project will restore the south terrace's stone and brick work, now visibly crumbling," Wilson explains. "The second contract will conserve and restore the exterior stucco and finish that is delaminating in various areas. The third and final contract for the 2014 season will be for exterior painting that will include painting the Fire Tower Cab."

The bidding process for this important project has been frustrating, Wilson explained, with little interest and bids coming in at double the estimates. This marketplace reality has forced the state to change its plans. Wilson said that he understands that the scaled-back project includes nearly all the elements that people care most about. Nonetheless, the Bureau had "willingly forged ahead with a project that we hoped would return the building to a state that Senator John W. Weeks would recognize. We desperately want to return the building elements that were removed in an ill-conceived remodeling project carried out in 1964. I still hold on tightly to that vision of restoring the entire campus, but this clearly was too much to bite off at this time."

The scaled back project will provide three major benefits, Wilson writes. "First and foremost, it will show a level of stewardship for the house (atop Mount Prospect) that hasn't been witnessed in more than 40 years.

"Secondly, the project will allow the Weeks State Park Association to continue to host its important and well-received Thursday evening lecture series on site where guests can enjoy and experience one of New Hampshire's most beautiful places.

"Lastly, the project will take into consideration the original larger restoration previously envisioned. Infrastructure, such as future exterior doorways, electrical and plumbing, will be roughed in anticipation of the re-construction of the north terrace, entrance portico, and an exterior elevator in coming years.

"Bid documents for all three contracts are being forged now with the hopes that the masonry project can commence as soon as the Auto Road is passable," Wilson continues. "Stucco work will follow with exterior painting to begin at the end of August. Although this process has been frustrating…, I believe it is absolutely necessary to continue working towards the responsible stewardship for this New Hampshire treasure held in the public trust."

The Mt. Prospect estate was built at the direction of John Wingate Weeks, a Lancaster native who became a Massachusetts congressman and senator for whom the landmark Weeks Act of 1911 is named. Weeks died in the Lodge on July 12, 1926. In 1941, Weeks' adult children, Katherine Weeks Davidge and Sinclair Weeks, gave the 420-acre estate to the state.

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