A major restoratiuon project is about to get underway on the Antietam Lake Valve House, the iconic, octagonal structure that sits in the middle of Antietam Lake in Lower Alsace Township.
The makeover, which gets underway July 23 will be the first for the building in its 132 year history. Contractors will first dismantle the Valve House, piece by piece, before beginning a complete restoration of the structure.
'The condition of the materials, like the brick, is in such poor condition that they can't be reused in the restoration,' explained Clare Adams, Director of The Berks County Department of Parks & Recreation.
The project is a collaborative effort between Lower Alsace Township, The Friends of Antietam Lake (501c3) and The County of Berks. The total cost of the restoration project is $180,000 and is made possible by funding previously earmarked and provided by Lower Alsace Township and The Friends of Antietam Lake. The project is part of the Antietam Lake Park Master Plan, developed in 2010.
The Valve House was constructed in 1880 and originally used inlet valves, strainers and pipes to supply water by gravity flow to the City of Reading. More than a century of weather has taken an irreparable toll on the current structure and its components.
In the months leading up to the project, Berks County and Lower Alsace Township officials and area historians poured over historical photographs and worked closely with architect Peter J. Laucks, of Kleckner Laucks Architects, to finalize restoration plans that meet Federal Historic Preservation Standards.
New bricks will match the original as closely as possible in color, size and shape. The large marble plaque, that currently adorns the structure, will be carefully removed and reinstalled at the completion of the project.
'The restoration will be based on historical conditions,' said Adams. 'The goal is to create an exact replica of the building that was built in 1880.'
Contractors, SMJ Contracting, Inc. and JB Electric, won the bids for the project and anticipate construction will last three months.
During the first few weeks of construction, a portion of Angora Road between Antietam Road and Hill Road will be closed on a limited basis. The road closure will be limited to weekdays between the hours of 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lower Alsace Township Manager Terry Styer explained the closure is needed for public safety reasons and is only necessary as construction crews deliver materials to the site during the early phases of construction.
Historic features of the Valve House, including the original wrought iron bridge and the stone platform on which the Valve House sits, will be cleaned and refurbished during construction. For safety reasons, public access to the Valve House is prohibited and will remain prohibited upon completion of the project.
The Valve House project will restore the landmark as an aesthetic asset to Antietam Lake and is part of the continued commitment to preserve the park for the residents of Lower Alsace Township and Berks County.
'The lake itself is a tremendous asset to the community,' said Styer. 'It's something we've identified in all of our documents. It's a beautiful treasure.'
Antietam Lake Park is Berks County's newest parkland acquisition. Spanning more than 640 acres, Antietam Lake Park is the largest of the county's parks. The vast majority of the park is located in Lower Alsace Township, with a portion in Alsace Township. The park's history dates back to 1865 when the property was purchased by the City of Reading as a water supply. In 2010, the Antietam Lake Master Plan was finalized and promotes the conservation of the natural resources and historic elements at Antietam Lake, while supporting sustainable public use and introducing public accommodations to enhance visitor experiences.