LYNN — A complete renovation of the Lynn Memorial City Hall foyer is the city’s way of honoring its veterans.
City officials say the project is part of a larger one to spruce up City Hall. The building itself, including the Auditorium, is dedicated to veterans.
“When it was established as a memorial for WWII veterans and all veterans really in some respects, it was done to honor them in a way that you could see from coming in here,” said Mayor Thomas M. McGee. “When it was brand new, it must have been shiny and we’re starting to see the shine come back through lots of elbow grease and scrubbing.”
Some of the renovations include restoring the gold lettering for the engravings in the foyer, buffing up and restoring the brass in areas, including the railing, putting in new rugs and two new flags. Work was also done to refurbish the plaques honoring the fallen from past wars, according to Michael Sweeney, director of veterans services for the city.
The project will also include two new museum-quality cabinets, replacing the two outdated cabinets that house military items and the names of city war veterans. The display cases, paid for with a $13,460 state grant and matching grant from the city, are expected to arrive by the winter, Sweeney said.
The project has been a collaborative effort among the mayor’s office, the Department of Veterans Services, the Downtown Lynn Cultural District and the Public Arts Commission.
It is part of an initiative set in motion after the mayor came into office in January and noticed that the building could use some art and sprucing up a bit. The idea was for people who come to City Hall to have an experience rather than just a visit.
“Scrubbing down that brass is just one of those examples of enhancing the beauty we already have,” said Carolyn Cole, director of the Downtown Lynn Cultural District. “It really brings that history to life.”
The decision to start those efforts with the veterans foyer was threefold — city officials had a target date of Veterans Day to work with, City Hall turns 70 years old next year and it would serve as a kickoff to a larger project in 2019, and Veterans Day this year marks the centennial anniversary of the end of WWI, according to Robin Ennis, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff.
The work and securing the funds for the project has been an eight-month process.
“I think this effort just reaffirms the commitment to veterans the city has to keep this a living monument to them and reaffirms that commitment from the very first day that it was built, the intent of it,” said Ennis. “(Veterans) are very quiet and humble about their service. This project is a quiet way of thanking them.”
The changes to the foyer will be unveiled during the Veterans Day ceremonies Sunday. When people walk in, they’re going to see the changes, but there will also be an announcement made during the Veterans Day breakfast at 8:30 a.m.
The Veterans Day ceremony starts at 10 a.m. in the Auditorium. It will be an opportunity for veterans to come up and be recognized for their service. Veterans will have a chance to say a few words if they so choose, usually an emotional experience for those in attendance. Last year, 115 veterans participated, according to Sweeney.
“It’s a real beautiful, beautiful ceremony,” Sweeney said. “A lot of times veterans want to be acknowledged, but they don’t want to get into (it). No one wants to make it about them, but they’re proud of their service and I think it’s a nice way to do that.”
At 11 a.m., the ceremony will pause to participate in a nationwide event marking the armistice, or the time World War I ended, Nov. 11, 1918 at 11 a.m., the 11th hour of the 11th day.
Nationwide, church bells will ring 21 times at that hour, with several Lynn churches taking part. The bell ringing is an initiative of the United States WWI Centennial Commission and is meant to honor the fallen and those who served in the war.
“I think our Veterans Day program and the way the city is refurbishing this living memorial to veterans, I think it speaks highly of the city of Lynn,” Sweeney said. “People always tell you that they’re never going to forget your service, but when we talked about veterans that died 100 years ago, that’s kind of where the rubber hits the road.
“If you don’t honor those men who died 100 years ago, what are you telling the guy who’s serving today? In a very real way, by honoring those who fell before, you’re honoring the service of those who are overseas, because they’re going to believe you when you tell them you’re never going to forget their service.”