1) Astronomical cost. The bottom line was $6.8 million. Add the $0.5 million for the architects and the result would have been a total cost of $7.3 million. Millions more than even the opponents thought it would be. Yet the BOS and Budget Committee put on a full court press to try and pass it.
2) The project did virtually nothing to make the building energy efficient. In fact, the only substantial insulation that was specified under the roof was later advised against by Building Science Corporation because it could have caused the roof decking to rot out over time. The heating engineer hired by the architects estimated that the building would average 8,000 gallons of oil per year. That’s would have been $32,000 last winter. Air conditioning would also have been costly. The annual energy bill could easily have been $50,000 within a few years.
3) The basement was to be finished as office space, adding a lot of cost to the project. The nearly identical building in Merrimack, MA that BMH was modeled after, was restored with plans from the same architects. That building has ongoing mold issues with their similarly finished basement.
4) Modern materials were not specified to upgrade the roof and windows. These major exterior elements would be costly to maintain and otherwise would result in recurring problems within several decades. Slate and copper were the best materials two decades after the Civil War. Since then, copper clad stainless steel is available that looks the same, yet is stronger and more durable. Slate doesn’t last forever. It gets brittle and eventually needs to be replaced. BMH had the best slate, but it won’t last 200 years. There are modern asphalt and synthetic products that look nearly the same, yet are inexpensive and can be installed and maintained by local tradesman. Rebuilding the rotted windows in place with new mahogany parts is just silly. Custom clad windows are available that would be architecturally correct, require no maintenance, and be energy efficient.