Group launches new effort to restore ‘Green Dome’

by | Oct 20, 2021

The ‘Green Dome’ that was salvaged from the original Auburn High School has been through its share of trials. From the controversial proposal, funding, siting and building of the new Auburn High School – ultimately on the same site of the original school – to the question of how to honor and remember the original building, the Dome has found itself clinging to life more than once.

Originally, a small group of Auburn residents fought successfully to save the iconic Dome when it became apparent the old Auburn high building was to be torn down, not renovated. Unable to integrate the Dome into the new building architecture, the goal became to fix up the Dome and make it the centerpiece of a public space or memorial. Ultimately, the question became “what do we do with it now’?

The Dome lived at the former Fuller Automotive company parking lot, directly across the street from the high school, for several years. Fuller Automotive eventually consolidated and relocated all of its service to its current location at 505 Washington St. (at Rt. 20 and South St.), and the Dome was again relocated across Auburn St., where it sits today sort of in the outfield of the baseball field and along the edge of Auburn St.

Some have declared the Dome an eyesore, a danger, or both. Groups have petitioned Town Meeting to allocate funding toward the restoration of the Dome. Groups have also attempted some fundraising to cover – or at least supplement – the costs of restoring the Dome. Originally, the Auburn Historical Commission was given oversight of the Dome. The plan was to have Sheriff’s Community Outreach Program paint the Dome. Additionally, some money had been donated to purchase the supplies to paint and care for to the Dome.

Unfortunately, once the Commission was ready to have work begin, they found that the Dome had been moved to the oversight of the Town during the Town Charter changes. The group ran into difficulty accessing the money that had been set aside, and several new issues cropped up at that point. The Dome sort of got lost in red tape around that time.

One of the biggest obstacles to preserving the Dome has been the presence of lead paint which needs to be remediated. In 2017, Town Manager Julie Jacobson announced that the Town was looking to have several Department of Public Works employees certified in lead paint removal which, in addition to being valuable in other projects among Auburn’s aging municipal buildings, would allow the Dome to be treated for about a quarter of the cost of using outside services. Ultimately, the plan was to remediate the lead paint, provide fresh paint, and turn responsibility for the Dome over to the Historical Commission which would work with the Sheriff’s Community Outreach Program to spruce up the piece every couple years at little or no cost.

Enter the “Green Dome Restoration/Preservation Group.” Spokesperson Christine Miller says this newly organized group is hoping to bring some formality to the preservation and maintenance of the Dome.

Miller, a 1966 graduate of Auburn High School who now lives in Millbury believes a different approach to saving the Dome may be the key.

“This Dome or cupola is significant” says Miller. “Of course, there is some emotional attachment. Preserving the Dome shows respect for those who came before us. But the Dome is also historically significant as an architectural piece.”

In her research, Miller found that the former Auburn High School was designed by noted Worcester architect Lucius Wallace Briggs. At the time of Briggs’ death in 1940, Briggs was widely acknowledged as Worcester’s best known and most accomplished architect, according to his profile on Wikipedia.

Briggs is also credited with the design of the Worcester War Memorial Auditorium (Worcester Aud), the Slater Building, the Greendale (Worcester) Library, Leicester Town Hall, and the Worcester Country Club clubhouse, among many other properties.

Coupled with the importance of the Dome as an important local icon, The preservation group believes the dome needs to be considered an historical artifact.

The group decided early on that they would not be seeking any public funds for this initiative. In addition to seeking voluntary donations, the group plans some fundraisers.

“We have some [fundraising] ideas” says Miller. “We wanted to get some support and traction first, though.”

In addition to Miller, other members of the group include Shirley McMillan Hill, Jackie Varg Walsh, Diane Stone Moore, Judy Cantwell Turcotte, Steve Widen, and Christine Anderson Rudman. The group placed petitions at businesses and locations around town, simply asking residents to indicate if they are supportive of the efforts, and making clear that this is a 100% privately funded initiative. They have collected over 200 signatures to date.

The Group also approached several Selectmen and School Superintendent Casey Handfield with their plans, who were also supportive according to Miller.

Last week, the group presented their ideas, research and support thus far to Town Manager Julie Jacobson, who also threw her support behind the efforts.

“It was great to meet with a group of Auburn High School graduates who are committed to and passionate about restoring the Green Dome ( cupola)”  said Jacobson. “These alumni are dedicated to fundraising the dollars necessary to restoring this structure which symbolizes local history and has special meaning to many Auburn High School graduates. As the necessary funds are raised, Town administration looks forward to working with this group and other donors to facilitate this project and guide it through the process at no cost to the taxpayers.”

According to Miller, the group is encouraged and ready to move on to the fundraising activity. Anyone willing to make a donation in any amount can send a check payable to:

Auburn Historical Society
41 South St.
Auburn, MA 01501
Checks should state on memo line “Green Dome Preservation.”