Friday, July 16, 2010

Thank You, Durable!

I've been having trouble this year with my car's front left turn signal. The whole part was replaced a little over two years ago after a reckless jerk slammed into my car (which is a whole other story about unsafe intersections that could easily be made safer with a few stop signs).

The bulb went out early this year, and I had it replaced along with a few other maintenance repairs at the dealership. Pretty much everything else they did that day turned out to be bad, and it looks like they couldn't even get a simple bulb replacement done right.

A month or so after they replaced the bulb, it went out again. Since I was still mad at the dealership for the massive incompetence of their mechanic, I didn't take it back to them. I also didn't take it back to them because they had been trying to get me to replace the entire turn signal, even though it is only 2 years old.

This week I finally replaced the bulb again, at Jiffy Lube. The next day, it was out again. So frustrating! But this time I finally got smart and took the car back to Durable, along with the paperwork from when they installed the light.

The mechanic at Durable took one look at my light bulb, saw that it hadn't been screwed in all the way, and saw that there was rust in the socket because the previous bulb also hadn't been installed properly. He sand-blasted the rust, installed the bulb correctly, and was finished in minutes, all for no charge. Fantastic!

After suffering with incompetent mechanics, it is downright exciting to find a mechanic who knows what he's doing and takes pride in his work. I can see why Durable has been in business for a century--they know what they're doing and they do it well.

Monday, July 12, 2010

City Hall Tour

After several years of work, the renovation and restoration of our fabulous and nationally-famed Cass Gilbert Municipal Building (City Hall) is nearing completion. As a volunteer with Main Street Waterbury, I was privileged to go on a sneak-peek tour this past Saturday morning. Below are some of the photos I took, along with some explanations. (For contrast, take a look at the "before" photos in my 2006 blog post.)

As you can see, work is still in progress. The restored spaces, particularly the spectacular decorative walls and ceilings, are absolutely breathtaking. It reminds me of the Palace Theater when it reopened after being restored. Simply spectacular!

The cupola is completed. Constructed of copper laid over wood, with a gilt dome and some gilt details. The original clock movement was removed years ago and was given to the Mattatuck Museum.

Next is a view of the Aldermanic Chamber, with restored walls and ceiling. The mural map of Waterbury which you might remember being in the alcove is still there, under the painting recreating Cass Gilbert's original design. Our tour guide, Andrew Martelli (seen holding his daughter in the photo), explained that the map couldn't be removed without being destroyed, so the restored "original" fresco is designed to be removable without harming the map.

The restored ceiling of the Aldermanic Chambers.

Frescoes over the doorways on the second floor have been revealed and will be restored.

The restored ceiling of what was originally a courtroom on the opposite end of the second floor.

And a view of the wall with an appropriately judicial quote in the alcove--there are additional motifs throughout the room that indicate its original function.

A view of the courtyard.

Part of the fun of taking a tour before the project is completed is getting to see the "bones" of the building. The next shot is on the first floor, in the hallway, showing the marble walls laid over more functional brick.

The ceiling on the first floor. Absolutely amazing. Before it was a hideous yellow with white patchwork.

The main staircase. The original risers will remain, but the steps are so worn down they need to be replaced, after the construction crew are done using it. There are now two new and ugly staircases in the building in order to meet modern fire safety codes.

The restored walls and windows (which had been just about ready to fall out) in the main staircase.

Did anyone ever notice the medallions with Medusa before? Until now, they were covered with so many layers of paint they could barely be seen.

Below is the view towards the main staircase from what was originally the Mayor's Office, on the second floor. The Mayor's Office was relocated across the street after the Chase Companies sold their Cass Gilbert-designed headquarters to the city for one dollar in the late 1960s. As of next year, the Mayor's Office will return to City Hall, with one difference. The front room will be reception, and the Mayor's actual office will be down the hall, a little more difficult to access.

Here's another of the fun surprises revealed during the renovations--the original parquet floor of the Mayor's Office, hidden under layers of linoleum and vinyl.

Here's one of two skylights on the third floor (the other skylight has not been restored), in what was the drafting room. The entire third floor will be Corporation Council. Each of the city's eleven attorneys get their own office. Eleven attorneys! Something about that seems very disturbing. Why do we need eleven attorneys?

And last but not least, a view from the roof of the new bricks and marbles in front of the building. Interestingly, the new marble comes from the same Vermont quarry as the original marble. The main fountain will once again be a fountain, not a flower pot. There are some modifications--there is now going to be a walkway straight across the middle, since pedestrians have been cutting through that way for years. (Finally! The city does something pedestrian-friendly!).

While there were a few things that are too bad (like losing one of the skylights), overall the renovation and restoration are fantastic. I sincerely hope the project includes the creation of a regular plan of maintenance and that the city actually maintains proper care of the building. It is a stunning building, something we can all take pride in.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Tree to a Good Home

When the really bad storm came through on June 24, I wasn't at home, so I can't say if there was a tornado over Wood and Oak Streets. There was one not too far away, over near Bouley Avenue and Wolcott Street (the Rep-Am ran a photo of the funnel cloud the next day).

What I can say is that there was a tree down in front of my house, a tree down to the side of my house, and a tree down in my back yard. By the time I got home that day, the tree in front had been removed (it was blocking the street) except for a 20-foot branch dangling from the power wires. Mysteriously, the tree in my back yard was sawed up into several sections, each about five or six feet in length. All that was left in my yard were small branches and sawdust.

With some help from a friend, I tidied up the tree and its branches into a single pile and waited to see if anyone would come to claim the wood. After all, if someone went to all the trouble of cutting up a tree in my yard, surely they had some interest in taking it for themselves, right?

Two weeks later, and the tree is still out back. I'm not sure what to do with it. Anyone want it? First come, first serve!