Volunteers work to save historic pump house

ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) — Mark Ethier gets up at 4 a.m. for his job as a bricklayer in Boston, but when he drags himself home from work he heads over to the city water department for volunteer work.

There, he and other volunteers are fixing up an old pump house built in the early 1900s.

The cone-shaped building off West Street (Route 123) near Orr’s Pond looks a little like a brick-and-wood mushroom cap sprouting out of the ground.

It was the city’s first water pumping house and historical commission Chairwoman Marian Wrightington said it is worth saving.

Volunteers with the Attleboro Historical Commission, from left, Mark Ethier, Mike Hurder and Brian French, pitch in to re-roof a water pump house dating from the early 1900s at the Attleboro Water Department Saturday.

“It’s very much a part of Attleboro’s history. It was called well house number 1 and it’s a nice piece of our history from the early 1900s,” Wrightington said.

Ethier was hard at work on the structure Monday afternoon.

The old shingles were stripped, plywood nailed into place for a new roof, and new shingles were being attached.

He said others are replacing the woodwork and a cupola had to be shored up because the structure supporting it was sagging.

It was the sight of the visibly leaning cupola that first alerted Brian French as he was driving by the water department, but the decision was made to leave the cupola at its tilt in order to preserve the character of the pump house. The cupola is not in danger of falling, he said.

French said that caused “a big sigh of relief” upon his first inspection of the building, when he discovered his initial worry of the leaning cupola signifying further damage was disproved.

“It’s tight; it’s solid in there,” he said. “The wood was dry; the construction was totally solid. They don’t build like that anymore. And when we realized it was all dry in there, we realized, ‘We’ve got to save this building.'”

French is a commission member and volunteer on the project. He said it’s a lot of work, but he has so much respect for Wrightington that he couldn’t say no.

“We’re trying to save this for future generations.”

Saturday morning, Ethier and French were joined by fellow tradesman Mike Hurder of Attleboro, tirelessly nailing shingles even as a cold rain began to fall.

The rain was hardly a deterrent to Ethier, who braved last Thursday’s torrential downpours to do his work.

“This is a piece of Attleboro’s history we’re trying to save,” Ethier said. “This could either sit here and look ugly, or we can doll it up.”

There is no definite timeline for when the reconstruction will be finished, as this is mostly a weekend activity for the volunteers, but it is not so much a hobby as a “passion,” as Hurder said.

“You’re putting your mark on the world for the next generation,” he said.

As Saturday morning’s rain began to fall harder, French worked just as steadily as Ethier and Hurder.

“These guys work really hard,” French said.

(Copyright (c) 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)