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The wooden gazebo across from Memorial City Hall in Auburn was removed Tuesday to clear the way for construction of the Equal Rights Heritage Center in 2018.

Auburn City Clerk Chuck Mason said the city's Department of Public Works intended to relocate the gazebo to another city park. However, upon starting to remove it, workers determined that the structure had deteriorated too much to be salvaged, Mason said, and so it was scrapped. Work on the $10 million state welcome center that will take its place is expected to begin in March.

The gazebo was built in June 1994, according to The Citizen archives. It was funded by more than 90 city employees as a gift to Auburn for its 1993 bicentennial. Each employee contributed $2 from every paycheck for half a year, and also held sold T-shirts, cookbooks and baked goods to fund the project. It cost about $6,000, and was built by Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES students.

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Sometime in the early 2000s, Mason said, the city had stabilization and other work done on the gazebo. And recently, while working on its landscaping as part of the Auburn Beautification Commission, Mason noticed the wooden structure "needed a lot of work," he said. If the Equal Rights Heritage Center weren't being built where it stood, he continued, the gazebo would have required more repair.

Mason said the gazebo was designed to resemble Memorial City Hall's "Old Wheeler" bell tower. Some people in the community loved it, he continued, while others "didn't care for how it looked." It wasn't commonly used for events, but youth could often be seen gathering there on warm days. Mason noted that the structure is commemorated with a plaque inside Memorial City Hall.

"I always liked the gazebo, but at the same time, I'm realistic about it. It lived its life," he said. "It's pretty logical to people why it's being removed. We're about to embark on a $10 million upgrade to the entire neighborhood."

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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