Boys & Girls Club demolition stirs up dust, history and memories

Executive Director Brian Theirrien explaining renderings of the Boys & Girls Club renovations. (Marianne Salza)

LYNN — Derrick Smith is traveling back in time to his boyhood as he swings a hammer and pries a crowbar to strip the Boys & Girls Club down to bare bones in preparation for renovation work. 

Smith was 15 years old when he hung out at the North Common Street club with twin brother, Eric. He remembers the club common room filled with shouts and laughter as kids played snooker and foosball in 1997. 

Smith, a foreman with Flannery’s Handymen, is helping to demolish the club’s interior in preparation for the first phase of a $13.6 million renovation project scheduled to extend into 2022.

“It was very nostalgic for me removing the pool tables. We always hung out playing pool. We enjoyed our childhood here,” said Smith. 

Smith and coworkers aren’t just stirring up memories as they haul 50 tons of plaster and piles of metal wall mesh from the three floors on the club’s North Common Street side. 

They have carefully preserved the stone fireplace with the crossed anchor and sword, the symbol of the Knights of Columbus who erected the building in 1923. 

They also saved the large “living memorials” plaque commemorating honorees who created “… opportunities … for the future manhood of greater Lynn.” Even some of the demolition debris will be repurposed.

“We recycle all the metal,” said Flannery’s owner Todd Flannery.

The club’s three-lane bowling alley still outfitted with balls and pins will be demolished to make space for a teen program focused, said Club Executive Director Brian Theirrien, on “college preparation, club and community service.”

Creating the center is part of the club’s first-phase renovation that includes expanding the club’s licensed daycare from 77 to 125 seats. The main floor on the club’s North Common Street side will be renovated with glass walls to “improve visibility,” said Theirrien, and a new learning center. 

Lynn contractor DeIulis Brothers Construction will oversee the $6.3 million first-phase renovation with work slated to be completed by February 2020. Theirrien said $500,000 needs to be raised to round off funding for the phase. 

He said the second phase is scheduled to start in March 2021 and take about a year. Work will be concentrated in the section of the club that includes the swimming pool and gymnasium.

A third floor will be added for a learning center and second gymnasium will be built after the swimming pool is demolished. Theirrien said the club’s Middleton facility has a pool. 

He said plans call for a full-size cafeteria and a commercial kitchen will be outfitted to prepare breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner.

“We see these kids sometimes 10 hours a day. Adding nutrition is important,” Theirrien said.

Once completed, the renovation will increase the club’s capacity from 400 to 600 children a day and boost its size from 35,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet.

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