Lancaster Town Hall // 1908

In 1643, Lancaster, Massachusetts, was first settled by colonists as “Nashaway” (named after the local Nashaway Native American tribe). The Nashaway’s principal settlement was a piece of land in what is now Sterling that was located between two ponds, their land occupied much of the land in north-central Massachusetts. The Nashaway Tribe comprised of an estimated 200 individuals, with was reduced in numbers by smallpox and the Mohawk Wars. The town was officially incorporated and renamed Lancaster in 1653, after Lancaster, England, where some of the earlier colonists were from. During Metacom’s War in 1676, which was fought partially in Lancaster, a group of Native Americans pillaged the entire town of Lancaster in response to English colonial brutality against them, a series of bloody raids and attacks left dozens dead. The town was abandoned until the 18th century.

Fast-forward to the 1900s… Lancaster had become a proper town, with a growing population, including some very wealthy residents. In 1906, the three living sons of Nathaniel Thayer (a Boston-area banker, who spent much of his later life in town to get away from the woes of city life) donated funds to the Town of Lancaster to erect a suitable memorial to their late father. The 1848 Town Hall was cramped and not suitable for the town, so it was decided a new town hall building would be constructed in his name. Boston architect Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow (one of my favorites) was hired to design the building, which took 13 months to complete. The Colonial Revival building was built using brick laid in Flemish bond with marble trim. A massive portico with pediment supported by four monumental Doric columns, strict symmetry, and the ocular windows with wreath and other detailing really caught my eye.

Chester Town Hall // 1884

The town of Chester, Vermont, was originally chartered by New Hampshire Governor Benning Wentworth as Flamstead, in 1754. The terms of the charter were not met and the town was re-chartered as New Flamstead in 1761. In 1766, a patent was issued by New York that changed the name of the town to Chester, after George Augustus Frederick, the Earl of Chester and the eldest son of King George III. Vermont in the 18th century was contested land claimed by both New Hampshire and New York, unsettled until the colonists in the area decided to petition for their own statehood. The town of Chester voted to keep their name. The town grew with two distinct villages, Chester Village and Stone Village. Both villages were very distinct in terms of politics, religious affiliations, and architecture. When the railroad cut through the town, the route passed between Chester’s North and South villages, and Chester Depot village emerged right in the middle. The establishment of a third village by the railroad depot, offered neutral ground on which to erect a town hall, as before 1884, town meetings were held alternately each year in the two opposing villages. The large town hall building in Depot Village is a late example of Greek Revival and Italianate design.

Marion Town Hall // 1876

Welcome to Marion, Massachusetts! Colonized in 1679 as “Sippican”, the town was once a district of adjacent Rochester, Massachusetts. The name, which also lends itself to the river which passes through the north of town and the harbor at the heart of town, was the Wampanoag name for the local tribe that once utilized these lands. Native settlements in present-day Marion dates as far back as 3000 B.C. as the local people were members of the Wampanoag tribe who, when the Pilgrims came, lived in a number of villages in Southeastern Massachusetts under the leadership of the great chief Massasoit. By the 19th century, the town was mostly known for its many local sea captains and sailors whose homes were in town. Today, the coastal town is known for its charming village and large waterfront homes, oh and amazing architecture!

This building was constructed in 1876 by Mrs. Elizabeth Taber (1791-1888), who, at the age of 85, founded Tabor Academy in town. She named it after Mount Tabor in Palestine rather than after herself. The school was built towards the end of the “Age of the Academies”, when in 1852, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to make education compulsory. While some major private institutions already existed, many more were founded in the mid-19th century. Tabor Academy served as a private school for boys and girls over 12 years of age, and was to remain free for local students. With the rise of public schools in the state, many academies began to struggle with admitting students, especially those that had parents willing to pay additional money for enrollment. The school struggled around the Great Depression and thus, traded buildings with the Town of Marion in the 1930s and this building became the Marion Town Hall, a use it retains to this day. The building itself is a stunning Italianate design constructed from plans by Boston architect William Gibbons Preston.

Stay tuned for more buildings and history on one of my favorite Massachusetts towns!

Boxborough Town Hall // 1901

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.

Hopedale Town Hall // 1886

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 Town Hall // 1839

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.

Tewksbury Town Hall // 1920

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.

Reading Town Hall // 1911

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.

Beverly Town Hall // 1783

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.

First Stockbridge Town Hall // 1840

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.