By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough – Colonial-era gravestones in the Old Burying Ground directly behind the Unitarian Church in the Howard Street Cemetery are getting some much-needed attention. After almost 300 years, weather, falling tree branches, tree roots and simple aging have caused damage to some of Northborough’s oldest grave markers.
According to Scott D. Charpentier, director of Northborough’s Department of Public Works (DPW), the cemetery’s gravestones underwent a condition assessment in 2013 initiated by the Northborough Historic District Commission.
“The results of this assessment provided a detailed list of conservation work recommended to restore and preserve these stones,” Charpentier explained. “The Community Preservation Committee presented at the 2014 Annual Town Meeting a $78,000 article to fund restoration of the higher-need stones and the residents enthusiastically supported the project.”
Norm Corbin, chair of the Northborough Historic District Commission said that funding for this project is coming from Community Preservation Act funding.
Charpentier further explained that the DPW has been working closely with the Historic District Commission and has procured the services of a stone restoration expert and a conservator experienced in the field of stone restoration.
Mike Gallagher from Westmill Preservation Services went through extensive preparations earlier this year and is now working on several of the stones.
“Some are pretty simple where there has been some delamination where the slate has split,” he said. He provided an example of a stone that was likely hit by a tree branch and shattered in three places on which he used restoration grade mortars and grouts to fill in the cracks.
The scope of restoration involves roughly 81 historic grave stones. It includes bonding and patching broken stones, sealing the edges of delaminating stones, resetting head and foot stones, and cleaning etched surfaces.
“The work is slow and meticulous, but the finished product will be something Northborough can enjoy and be proud of,” Charpentier noted.
The project began in July and is expected to be completed in late September.