WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — When the town acquired the former Spruces Mobile Home Park, it got more than just the 100-plus acres of land.
It also got the lions.
The two sculptured sentries who guarded the entrance to the former mobile home park, which opened in 1954, have become something of a Williamstown institution.
But they also had fallen on some hard times over the years.
The peeling paint led the town to investigate what else might be needed to restore the statues, and it consulted with the art conservators at the Clark Art Institute to see what needed to be done.
The work began this week.
“They’re a symbol of the park and sort of the last vestige of it,” Town Manager Jason Hoch said Thursday. “And in some ways, they’re a symbol of the community. How do you know you’re in Williamstown? When you see the lions.”
“We here at Town Hall felt very strongly they should be preserved.”
The Lions Gate was added to the Spruces in 1965 by owner Al Bachand, who claimed they were made in Albany, N.Y., in 1905 in preparation of the 100th anniversary of the first steamship trip up the Hudson River.
The plaster lions were rebuilt with cement and weigh about a ton each. Each lion is about 5 feet high and 8 feet long.
At the moment, the lions are “caged” — shrouded in nylon netting in case any of the current layers of paint contain lead that would be disturbed during restoration.
A crew from Pittsfield’s Quality Traditional Painting and Taping will strip the paint and replace it with the appropriate masonry paint, Hoch said.The contract, not to exceed $10,500, is being financed from the closure project funds — not money from the Hazard Mitigation Grant and not general taxation funds.
The town waited to address the lions after other work was completed on the property to ensure that sufficient funds were available.
Hoch said the town did not check with the park’s former owner to see when the lions were last painted, but it did have to make sure the Federal Emergency Management Agency was OK with leaving the statues in place.
“For a while, we weren’t sure whether they would be able to be retained,” Hoch said. “We all wanted them to be retained.”