Metro

GET SMART

This is why there’s scaffolding on the Old State House

The Old State House is the oldest surviving public building anywhere in the former British colonies in North America.

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/File 2008

The Old State House is the oldest surviving public building anywhere in the former British colonies in North America.

At more than 300 years old, is it any surprise that the Old State House is in need of a face lift from time to time?

The building needs to be repaired frequently, not only because of its age, but also because of its proximity to Boston Harbor and susceptibility to weather damage, said Nathaniel Sheidley, executive director of the Bostonian Society, the group that oversees the building.

Advertisement

“It sits in the middle of a wind tunnel, so it takes a lot of wind damage,” he said.

That’s why you might have noticed scaffolding surrounding the building since just after Labor Day.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

In this year’s round of maintenance, the windows on the south facade of the building will be restored, other windows will be reglazed, cracked glass will be replaced, wood that has rotted over time will be renewed, and woodwork will be repainted.

These improvements will keep the aged building standing and also make it more energy efficient, Sheidley said.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll be done in the next two weeks,” he said.

Advertisement

The building has been standing since 1713, before the American Revolution, making it the oldest surviving public building anywhere in the former British colonies in North America.

“It was the focal point for the protest movement that took shape in the movement leading up to American independence,” Sheidley said.

The Boston Massacre took place in the square beneath the balcony on March 5, 1770.

Later, the building served as the Massachusetts State House for the newly independent Commonwealth until the current state house opened in the 1790s.

It was converted to a commercial space briefly and then became Boston’s first city hall when the city was incorporated in 1822.

“After that, it fell on hard times,” Sheidley said. “It had fallen into disrepair, and there were some in Boston who wanted to tear it down and make room for new development.”

When the Bostonian Society was founded in 1881 to preserve the historic building, it became the museum of Boston history. The Old State House is owned by the city, but the Bostonian Society is responsible for preserving it.

“This is a place where people can come to feel connected to the past and to feel its ongoing relevance in the lives we live today,” Sheidley said.

Alyssa Meyers can be reached at alyssa.meyers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ameyers_.
Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.