Town hall’s new top

The cupola on Manassas’ Old Town Hall will rise again by the end of this year, if all goes as planned for a local committee.

For almost three years, members of a special “cupola committee” have been twisting arms, trying to raise the estimated $70,000 needed to restore the white-domed structure to the almost 100-year-old building on Center Street in Old Town.

With about $21,000 raised, Manassas City Council decided Monday night to give the committee $35,000 in city funds, allowing construction of the cupola to begin later this summer.

“I think it’s part of our revival of Old Town to bring the town hall back to its original status,” said Mayor Marvin L. Gillum.

John Gregory, co-chairman of the cupola committee with former Councilman Doug Waldron, said work should begin soon on the cupola’s base at his construction firm.

Carpenters will then build the rest of the wooden structure on the building’s roof, finishing the dome off with copper sheeting.

Gregory, whose firm is organizing the construction free of charge, said the $70,000 will pay for materials, as well as the professional carpenters that will have to be hired to do the detailed work.

“It’s a community effort thing. We’ve had some people donate money and time and labor to it. And we’re just supervising,” he said.

The idea of restoring the cupola in many ways belongs to Waldron, who decided it needed to be done after the City Council voted in 1999 to rename the building Harry J. Parrish Town Hall.

Waldron believed the building needed to be complete if it was going to be named after the 50th District state delegate who has served in various local offices since the 1950s.

“It’s a worthy thing. It’s (the cupola) on our city seal. It’s on our flag. It’s on all the patches you see,” Waldron said.

The cupola structure was part of the Town Hall when it was built 1914. Why the cupola was removed has been a source of debate among Manassas residents. But most agree that deterioration of the cupola led to its removal in the 1950s.

“It was crumbling. And the city government took it off. We don’t know where they put it,” Gregory said.

Manassas became a city in 1975. The city government moved into the new City Hall 10 years later. But the Town Hall, without the cupola, remained on the city seal.

About two years ago, the cupola was restored to the city seal at the urging of former City Councilman Jim Payne.

Some public safety workers in the city, including Police Chief John Skinner, still wear badges without the cupola.

“There is certainly no way I would destroy good, serviceable equipment, just for the purpose of correcting a badge that most people wouldn’t even notice anyway,” Skinner said.

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