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Longfellow’s last two ‘salt and pepper’ towers coming off

Two of the towers were removed last year.
Two of the towers were removed last year.David L Ryan/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The iconic “salt and pepper” towers will soon be missing from the center of the Longfellow Bridge.

Crews will get to work this weekend setting up scaffolding to remove the two towers that remain on the historic Charles River span. Two others were removed last March as part of the ongoing repair.

All the towers will eventually come back, but this spring and summer, the bridge will present a very different face.

The structures need to be taken apart block by block and cataloged, cleaned, and repaired, before crews put them back together and set them in place again.

Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said they will begin the dismantling by shifting pedestrian and cyclist access along the bridge, then setting up a work zone and scaffolding.

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“Once the shared space is created and scaffolding is installed, MassDOT will begin removing the tower stones for storage, cleaning, and repair,” officials said in a blog post Friday.

That portion of the work should begin in April, depending on the weather. The restoration is part of an estimated $255 million overhaul to address the bridge’s structural deficiencies.

The four towers originally cost $100,000 each to build and were placed on the bridge as the “crowning achievement” in 1907, when the connection between Boston and Cambridge was completed. Each 58-foot tower is made up of 515 granite stones, which vary in size and can weigh as much as 3 tons apiece, according to MassDOT.

The granite stones will be carefully lowered to the sidewalk level by a barge-mounted crane.

The first two upstream towers were taken apart for restoration last March. It took crews weeks to dislodge the granite blocks that make up the prominent structures. They will be reassembled later this year, officials said.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com.