The area which became the town of Boxborough, Massachusetts, was first inhabited by the Native Americans of the Nipmuc and Pennacook tribes. Land in Boxborough was not settled by colonists until the beginning of the eighteenth century by farmers looking for fertile land to establish farms, who branched out from nearby Acton. Boxborough was formed from Harvard, Littleton, and Stow in 1783 and was incorporated as its own town. With the exception of small local industries including gristmills, sawmills, and cooperages as well as some minor boot and shoemaking, comb-making, and a lime quarry and kiln, Boxborough’s economy remained almost entirely agricultural through the 19th century. The town grew steadily and a Town Hall building was funded by the turn of the 20th century. This Queen Anne/Colonial Revival Town Hall building was constructed in 1901, atop the foundation which was constructed of locally gathered cobblestone by local volunteer farmers. Today, the town retains much of its agricultural heritage, but it is definitely under threat by subdivisions and Neo-Colonial mansions further contributing to Bostons suburban sprawl.
In 1886, when the Town of Hopedale was incorporated, George Draper (who basically created the town for his company) bankrolled $40,000 for the design and construction of a town hall building for the new town. This Richardsonian Romanesque building was built of local Milford granite with brownstone trim. The town hall building was designed by architect Frederick Swasey and was intended to always house two commercial spaces at the ground floor. To the right of the storefronts is the entry to the town hall, which is framed by an entry arch with engaged colonettes. Before the building was completed, George Draper died, and the building was officially donated to the town by his heirs.
Rye, New Hampshire sits on the short coast of the state, between the busy towns of Portsmouth and Hampton, and provides a respite from the swarms of tourists and beach-goers alike. Modern-day Rye was the first settlement in New Hampshire by Europeans, and was originally named Pannaway Plantation, established in 1623 at Odiorne’s Point (more on that later). The settlement was eventually abandoned for Strawbery Banke, which became Portsmouth, the historic port town we know today. The town was later a village of New Castle, and was known as Sandy Beach Village, before it was called “Rye”, for Rye in Sussex, England, and incorporated as its own town in 1785. The town met in a Meeting House until it purchased an old 1839 Methodist church in town. In 1873, the building was purchased by the town of Rye for $1000, with an additional $2658 spent on renovations, which added a new ground floor to increase the height from 1.5 stories to 2.5 stories, added 10 feet in depth to the building, and the two-stage tower and belfry. The Greek Revival building has long been a landmark in town, hosting dances, concerts, whist parties, singing schools, oyster parties and immunization clinics, beyond the typical governmental functions. There were calls to demolish the building for a modern town hall, which saw resistance (thankfully) and now the town has agreed on a land-swap with a bank, demolishing an old house to take over the bank building, turning it into some town offices.
The town of Tewksbury, Massachusetts was colonized in 1637 and was officially incorporated in 1734 from the town of Billerica. The town was historically home to at least two raids by native peoples during the infamous King Phillip’s War, which killed dozens of men, women and children settlers. The town is named after Tewkesbury, England, likely inspired by some of the original settlers. The town grew as a rural village until it became a suburb of adjacent Lowell and Andover, Massachusetts. The town’s older Town Hall building burned in 1918, and funding was quickly acquired to erect a new, suitable building for the town. The Boston-based architectural firm of Kilham & Hopkins was hired and they designed this gorgeous Colonial Revival building. The symmetrical building features a main two-story block with a rear and side wings. The facade features three entrances with recessed fanlights above. A slate roof is capped by a towering cupola, which adds an additional flair to the building. The structure was so well-designed, it was featured in the Architectural Record in 1919, a national publication.
The Reading Town Hall in Reading, Vermont is an imposing shingle-clad, gambrel roof building which sits in the village of Felchville. The hall was built in 1911 as a gift to the citizens of Reading by Wallace F. Robinson. Wallace Robinson was born in Reading in 1832. He went to Boston as a young man and entered into the provisions (groceries) market, and became quite successful, expanding into the wholesale provisions business and meat packing. He was active in civic and business affairs of Boston, most notably as the President of the Boston Chamber of Commerce and as a State Representative in the Legislature for two terms. By around 1900, Robinson had retired and had taken up a life of philanthropy, spending much of his wealth on memorial buildings and to places that had a lasting impact on him, including Robinson Hall at Dartmouth College and renovations at UVM. The design for the Reading Town Hall is especially notable for the fact that it was designed to resemble historic gambrel roofed barns found in the state.
Originally part of Salem, the area we now know as Beverly, was first colonized in 1626 by Roger Conant who came down from Gloucester, Massachusetts. They decided to settle in what was then called Naumkeag, part of the Agawam Native Territory. Two years later, a new wave of English colonists arrived, led by John Endicott, who was sent by the Massachusetts Bay Company to govern the tiny settlement, replacing Conant. In 1635, a few settlers petitioned the town of Salem for a land grant on the other side of the river. This grant was approved and each man was allotted 200 acres of farmland, totaling 1000 acres in all. These men and their families soon settled the new region, building homesteads in what eventually became Beverly. The town’s population grew slightly until after the Revolutionary War, when Beverly became an important seaport, with vessels trading all over the world. In 1839, the railroad arrived in Beverly, which brought more people and allowed parts of town to develop into a summer colony for wealthy families to construct large summer estates on the waterfront.
This stunning brick building, now the Beverly Town Hall, was built in 1783 for Andrew Cabot (1750-1791). Cabot was a merchant who owned many ships, trading between the colonies, Caribbean and Europe. After Cabot’s death at the age of 41, the mansion was purchased by Israel Thorndike, merchant and privateer who made his fortune during and soon after the Revolutionary War by being a legal pirate, looting British ships along the coast and in the Indies, selling the goods back in Massachusetts. After his death, the home was acquired by the town for use as a town hall, opening as such in 1841. It has operated as the Beverly Town Hall for almost 200 years. The home originally featured a hipped roof, which was altered into a mansard roof in the 1870s, and was eventually removed for a flat roof.
The Town of Stockbridge, MA was incorporated on June 22, 1739. After that time the town held meetings and conducted business in the First Congregational Meeting House until 1840 when this Greek Revival town hall building was erected on the church’s property as a gift. A stipulation was made that if the Town government constructed or moved to a new town hall building, the property ownership would revert to the Church. The town outgrew the building and constructed a new building toward the center of town, but named it Town Offices, a cheeky way to retain ownership of this building. Eventually, that building too was outgrown, and the town hired Pittsfield-based architect Harry E. Weeks to modify and enlarge the building in 1903, in the Neo-Classical style to compliment the original Greek detailing. As expected, the town moved again in the 2000s to a former school, on Main Street, but again retained the building.
In 1824, the Town of Brookline voted to build a two story “Town House” to accommodate many functions including schooling, town meetings, religious services, and temperance lectures to serve the growing town. The structure was to replace an older brick schoolhouse which served as a school and housed some town functions. The structure was built in the manner of earlier European town or market halls, with a meeting room on the second floor and other public functions (in this case a school) on the first. Its location near the former town green was later deemed unfit for the town’s population center, which shifted closer towards Boston before the Civil War. Brookline built a second town hall in the 1840s, and the original structure was converted to the high school (the current building was constructed in 1965). Eventually, the former town hall was purchased by the First Parish Church in 1890, eventually connected to it by 1906.
Constructed in 1886, the Hollis Town Hall in New Hampshire is a distinctive example of Queen Anne civic architecture showcasing an asymmetrical design and a variety of forms, textures and materials. The building was designed from plans by Manchester-based architect William Butterfield. As originally constructed the building was painted in dark tints to harmonize with the roof which was covered with shingles and painted dark red. In 1902, the clocks were added atop the tower with a clock designed by George M. Stevens of Boston. Sadly, the buildings’ original polychromatic paint scheme which highlighted the architectural details was updated with a solid white color.
In the small town of Tunbridge, Vermont, it is impossible to not be impressed by the rustic landscape, historic architecture, and vast farmland. The town was established in 1761 and today has a population of under 1,200. In rural Vermont towns, small one room schools were often scattered all over to service the dispersed students who mostly lived on farms or in small villages. By the turn of the 20th-century, the town center began growing larger and the need for a slightly larger consolidated school was apparent. The Market School was the first Tunbridge two-roomed schoolhouse. Built in 1904 at a cost of $2,600, the facility consolidated two school districts and was used as a school until 1954 when Tunbridge Central School was built. It is now occupied by the Town Offices and a meeting room for town boards and commissions. The school can be classified as Classical Revival with a hipped roof, paneled corner pilasters, and a recessed central entrance under a gable with a lunette window.