Hatch Shell Restoration Project Set to Wrap Up Next Month

The $2.4 million restoration project entailing the replacement of the exterior panels on the dome of the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River Esplanade is expected to wrap up in early June, according to Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Leo Roy.

Before this work began, however, two laser scans of the dome were conducted to pinpoint the dome’s imperfections while Folan Waterproofing & Construction Co. of South Easton was tasked with cleaning and waterproofing the band shell. BPDL Precast Concrete – a company based in Quebec, Canada, and one of only two firms in North America that handles this type of specialized work – then used the laser renderings to craft a total of 673 panels in 91 different shapes from the composite material terrazzo that fit together to completely encase the dome.

Roy likens the process to completing a jigsaw puzzle and said as of last Thursday, May 17, 483 pieces had been installed. This is no easy task, either, considering each weighs between 400 and 150 pounds while the panels on top tip the scales at 500 pounds a piece.

When the dome was last restored in 1989, Roy said the technology to accurately estimate the size of each panel didn’t exist, so the pieces fit together more loosely, allowing water to seep into the dome and gradually damage the structure’s interior.

“The purpose of this project is to protect it, both structurally and aesthetically,” he said, adding that interior restoration of the dome will follow the panel-replacement project. “We really want to be good stewards of this historic landmark.”

The granite shell that stands on the site today dates back to 1940 and is the structure’s third incarnation. It was designed by venerable Boston architect Richard J. Shaw and underwritten by Maria Hatch, who died in 1926 and bequeathed a $300,000 gift in her will to build a memorial to her brother, Edward A. Hatch.

Edward Hatch, who died in 1889, served as a general in the Union Army during the Civil War before becoming the first commander of the 9th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, a Buffalo soldier regiment with African-American troops commanded by white officers.

.In 1928, the original, wooden shell was erected on the site as a temporary venue for the Boston Pops, and an inaugural concert was held there July 4, 1929.  A second, more permanent shell was built of metal at the location in 1934, but it was irreparably damaged in the 1938 New England hurricane.

Roy said the project is particularly timely now not only because May is Preservation Month in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but also since this year marks the 125th anniversary of DCR, which manages 3,000 properties statewide.

“This is a good example of DCR’s work saving our cultural and historic resources,” Roy said. “There’s nothing better than to be here on a warm summer evening when the sun sets over the Charles while enjoying symphonic music. It really is a treasure.”

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