School of Arts due for a facelift as works get underway

Man at work: Local builder Dave Brown and crew won the tender for the project.
Man at work: Local builder Dave Brown and crew won the tender for the project.

The scaffolding's up and the grand old lady who is the Sir Henry Parkes Memorial School of Arts is getting a bit of a facelift, with work expected to continue for the remainder of this year.

Council's property, building & landscape coordinator Heidi Ford has been driving the project and said the work is being funded by a $110,000 grant from the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage, designed to look after important buildings such as the School of Arts. The complex last received any cosmetic attention back in 2001 as part of federation centenary celebrations.

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This project kicked off with a tender process to assign a special heritage consultant, who documented the work needed and will manage the refurbishment. Armidale-based Magoffin & Deakin won the tender with company principal, heritage architect Tony Deakin, having intimate knowledge of this complex and with heritage building construction in general.

Mrs Ford said Mr Deakin has had major input into the project, to ensure the work doesn't compromise the authenticity of the building.

Calls then went out for businesses interested in undertaking the work. Four initial expressions of interest resulted in two quotes submitted, and Dave Brown Builders was awarded the job.

Blaike Brims has 41 double-hung windows ahead of him to remove, refurbish and replace between now and Christmas.

Blaike Brims has 41 double-hung windows ahead of him to remove, refurbish and replace between now and Christmas.

Mr Brown and his crew are now busy on the project, which includes some painting (no colour changes), repointing of brickwork, refurbishing each of the 41 double-hung windows (removing them, replacing the cord, polishing the brass fittings, repainting them and ensuring they slide freely on reinstallation), and fixing some significant leaks.

Mrs Ford said the lack of rain is making it difficult to gauge the success of the roof repairs, and to determine where water is moving. School of Arts boss Harry Bolton said water penetration through the western facade has been an ongoing issue probably since the hall was first built, thanks to the porous nature of the Tenterfield bricks, but the bricks will be treated as part of the process to address the problem.

The more-exposed northern and western facades of the complex are receiving the most attention. There'll also be some interior painting, paid out of council's capital works budget for the School of Arts.

Council's Heidi Ford and Harry Bolton said disruptions to School of Arts operations will be minimised as much as possible.

Council's Heidi Ford and Harry Bolton said disruptions to School of Arts operations will be minimised as much as possible.

Meanwhile it's business as usual throughout the complex as work continues, apart from the reading rooms which are off the tour for the time being. Mr Bolton said it may be necessary to suspend library and cinema operations for up to a week when the project progresses to those areas, but this will be advertised well in advance.