Repairs begin on historic Epping building three years after earthquake
EPPING — Work has finally begun on repairs to the town’s historic Watson Academy nearly three years after damage was discovered after a 4.0 earthquake.
The building that housed the town’s recreation department until it was forced to close in 2012 is undergoing structural improvements that will address safety concerns found after the quake.
While some of the damage was related to the age of the building, officials said the quake caused its condition to worsen.
Watson Academy was built in 1883 and was once used as a school. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the days after the quake on Oct. 16, 2012, town employees discovered cracks in the building, which appeared to have shifted.
According to Charlie Goodspeed, an Epping resident and civil engineering professor at the University of New Hampshire, the center of the building has settled over time and the quake caused it to settle even more.
The $50,000 project now underway involves pushing a main girder that supports the center back up. The floor joist will also be braced.
Goodspeed said two interior walls also had to be removed before the first floor could be jacked up. The floor work is expected to begin later next week.
Goodspeed is working on the project with UNH civil engineering students.
The entire project should take one to two months to complete, he said. It’s expected to be finished and fully inspected in time for the building to reopen by early November.
“The enthusiasm level on everyone’s part is very, very high. We’re very pleased to have this done by the first of November,’ Goodspeed said.
The recreation department, which had to relocate, will return once it’s ready to be occupied.
Goodspeed said the building will have load limitations that will designate the number of people allowed in a room at one time.