HOLLIS - A month ago, town officials and members of the heritage commission agreed to save, rather than replace, the iconic Ice House in the Woodmont Orchards, town-owned conservation land off Route 122.
Now, they've decided, based on the recommendation of a local contractor who specializes in historic preservation, that history and the public would be better served if the building is demolished and rebuilt."There was nothing left to save," Nashua contractor David R. Tremblay told the selectmen Monday night. "You can put a pencil through everything. It's not safe."
Months ago, Honi Glover, chairman of the heritage commission, suggested just that, maintaining the structure had "too much badness to it" and also would pose a danger to construction workers.
Glover, who has building experience, said the structure was falling into a nearby pond. She also argued that restoration rather than replacement would invite future problems and expenses.
"I knew it didn't make sense to repair the parts that were in the worse shape," Glover said Tuesday, the day after she and other commission members met with selectmen.
She said shoring up the structure, one of the options the town was considering, "wasn't even a Band-Aid."
Earlier, selectmen argued the historic landmark should be preserved as long as possible.
"We have two approaches," Town Administrator Troy Brown said last month after meeting at the site with Glover, two contractors and Selectman Frank Cadwell, the selectmen's representative to the heritage commission.
The commission has set aside about $4,500, including a $2,000 grant from the Marie LeDoux Foundation, a project of Selectman Mark LeDoux's mother, and $2,000 from local artist Stephen Previte.
Previte donated a portion of the proceeds from sales of his prints of the Ice House.
The commission has additional funds available it may use for the project.
On Tuesday night, the commission was expected to vote to hire Tremblay, the Nashua contractor, to tear down the 61-year-old building and rebuild it using materials and tools similar to the ones employed by the original builders.
Tremblay was one of two contractors who toured the site with town officials last month and the only one to make a bid.
A second contracting firm, Innovative Paving Concepts, visited the site, offering to brace the structure for $1,150.
In the end, however, the firm did not make a formal offer.
Hollis contractor Chris Cahill, who only recently expressed interest, said he would replace the building and charge only for materials, about half of Tremblay's bid.
Cahill, however, said he was unable to take on the project until next spring, not soon enough, selectmen agreed Monday.
"We need to do it immediately," board Chairman Vahrij Manoukian said, reminding the board and audience members that the LeDoux grant stipulates the funds be used right away.
Mark LeDoux agreed.
"We don't want to go through winter and have it fall in the water," he said.
Tremblay will charge the heritage commission $10,847 to remove the rickety structure and build a replica. He said he plans to use rough pine, cut nails and other materials to produce a replica that is as close as possible to the original.
"This is a project not many people get a chance to do, an icon in the center of Hollis," Tremblay said, adding that he has taken many photographs of the building.
Indeed, the Ice House has for years been the subject of photographs and paintings, and local officials are hoping it continues to draw artists and visitors.
The project is expected to begin in several weeks, following a public hearing and approval by the selectmen, steps some described as a formality.
"I can't see where anyone would object to it," Glover said.