Norwich And CCHS Partner To Restore Historic Train Watchtower
Published: April 21st, 2023
By: Sarah Genter

Norwich and CCHS partner to restore historic train watchtower The watchmen tower is a featured site of “Historic Architecture in Norwich, the Seat of Chenango County,” a series of walking tours hosted by CCHS which take place throughout the city during the annual ColorScape Chenango Festival. (Submitted photo)

NORWICH — The City of Norwich has partnered with the Chenango County Historical Society (CCHS) to restore the historic watchmen tower that stands in front of City Hall at One City Plaza in Norwich.

Owned by CCHS, the watchtower was originally located on Front Street in Norwich, and was moved to City Hall in the 1980s. Historically, it was used to signal when trains were approaching the station.

As it's a symbol of the city, City of Norwich Mayor Brian Doliver said he had a keen interest in restoring the structure and was aiming to get the project started this year.

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"It was a big effort by the historical society to get it moved. They actually own the watchtower, so I reached out to the historical society to say, you know, ‘we have a vested interest, it’s our city symbol, and I had a concern that it’s going to be in disrepair. We need to continue to maintain that,’ and they agreed. So they have a restoration in process," said Doliver.

CCHS Executive Director Jessica Moquin said restoring the watchtower had been a goal of the organization for several years.

"Restoration of the Watchmen Tower has been on our minds at CCHS for a few years. A potential collaboration with the city was initially considered when DRI proposals were being solicited. Mayor Brian Doliver and City Historian Agnes Eaton have helped bring new energy to our efforts," she said.

Currently, the watchtower windows are being refurbished thanks to a grant from Riegel Restoration, whose program "allowed for a full restoration of two pre-1940 windows in any historic building owned by a 501c3 nonprofit organization located within Chenango, Delaware, or Otsego Counties."

Renovation efforts will continue on the watchtower in the future such as painting and minor repairs, as funding allows. Doliver said the goal is to have the entire project completed by this time next year.

"The structure is historically and architecturally significant because it is the only known surviving railroad watch tower in Chenango County," said Moquin. "As funding allows, additional preservation projects will be planned for the Watchmen Tower to ensure that it remains a symbol of our shared community heritage."

"We are extremely grateful that the Watchmen Tower was an award recipient this year," she continued. "Riegel Restoration has already begun work on the project, and we appreciate their expertise and support in preserving this local landmark."

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Doliver said restoring the watchtower was one of his main goals for this year, including other preservation projects such as repointing the bricks at City Hall and the City of Norwich Fire Department.

"Our goal last year was to create a city historian position. We didn’t have one for a long time, and Agnes [Eaton] volunteered," said Doliver. "That was my main goal for last year. This year was to start to identify the issues with the watchtower [and] the buildings."

"The people of Norwich want us to be in these buildings, they’re historic and on the historic registry. But they need to continue to be worked on. They’ve kind of gone into a little disrepair, so we’ve been working on things," he added. "We are repointing the brick this year. That is something that was needing to get done. And also here at city hall we’ve been working on replacing the doors."

Brick repointing is needed when the mortar used to secure bricks begins to crumble away. The process simply replaces the lost mortar to prevent bricks from falling out of the wall.

"It’s kind of one of those trades where not a lot of people do it. But it was one of the things we really needed to get after," said Doliver.

City Hall is also in the process of getting new doors installed. As the building was formerly a railroad station, Doliver said there are some quirks to the building that have made replacing the doors a little more challenging.

"They were just not your standard six-foot-eight door. And they’re going to take some time to put it together because some of the threshold is stone," he said. "It’s an old building and it makes it a challenge at times to have offices in an old railroad station. But we’re making it work."