Wolcott Historical Society News - February 2020
By Florence Goodman
Ever time I enter the Town Hall I enjoy looking to see what different artifacts of our history I might find. This month, I'd like to share with you the story of this building.
Our Town Hall has seen significant changes throughout its history culminating with a major renovation and addition in 1991 on this historic site. In Colonial times there was no separation of church and state, therefore town meetings were held at the Congregational Church until 1839 when that structure was destroyed by fire. After that frightful night, town meetings were held outside on the Green until 1856. At that time the town selectman purchased an old store located on the south side of the Green from Anson H. Smith for a sum of $350. This building became the first town hall and was referred to as "Old Town Hall." It was used for government and social events for seventy years. The Wolcott Drum Band and the Grange used the upstairs of the building for their weekly meetings. The Grange later purchased the building next door and no longer needed the use of the Town Hall.
In 1923 "Old Town Hall" was replaced with a new brick structure. It was a two and a half story Federal Revival style structure featuring a gable-to-street front and trap rock foundation. In 1924 the town library was moved into a room off the entryway of this building and remained there until 1957 when the townspeople voted to renovate the interior and exterior of the structure.
In 1987 an inspection of the building by the State of Connecticut revealed that the vaults in several offices were not large enough to safely store and preserve public records, which was a violation of state statutes. Thus the town was required to bring the building into full compliance with the law. On September 8, 1989 the groundbreaking for the new building took place and seventeen months later a totally new structure emerged. The new building added 9,300 square feet of new office space to the original 5,700 square feet; we now had a Town Hall with expanded working space in every department while keeping the original 1923 structure. If you stand in front of the building on Kenea Avenue and look to the far right side you can see it along with the 1923 date above the circle top window. In the entranceway of the Town Hall you will find a bronze plaque from February 28, 1991 when the new addition/renovation to the building was completed. This plaque lists all those who were responsible for these improvements to the structure.
As you enter the foyer you are welcomed on the right by a large plaque with a very brief history of our town, which was erected it in 1971 for our 175th Anniversary. If you look to the left in the foyer area you will see a beautiful display and sitting area dedicated to our veterans. Mae Flynn from the Assessor's Office has done a wonderful job setting up this area, which was sponsored by the generous donations from the American Legion and the VFW. There are also several items on loan from our local veterans. Across from the Tax Collector's office is another military display of photographs and bios of active military, veterans, and Gold Star.
Further down the hall on the wall between the Town Clerk's and Assessor's Offices is the Freedom Shrine display, which was donated by the Exchange Club in 2005 in honor of one of their members, William Lyga. You can find this same display in each of our schools. The Brian P. Borghesi Town Council Chambers is also found on the main floor. As you enter this room you will notice photographs of our mayors and the dates that they served the town. Hanging around this room are paintings of several historic structures found in the town. Many years ago the Junior Women's Club hired artist, Tracy Sugarman to paint them. The Junior Women's Club sold framed and unframed prints and note cards to residents as a fundraiser.
The upstairs area has some interesting displays that I never knew existed. There is a large WWII ROLL OF HONOR, which lists those men and women from Wolcott who served in World War II. There are two plaques dedicated to the WOLCOTT VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT 50 YEAR ACTIVE MEMBERS, listing the name of those members that reached that milestone. There are also two GOLDEN DEED AWARD plaques from the Exchange Club given to the Mill Pond Way Walking Trail Committee as well as plaques from Cheerleading Competitions and one for the 45th Anniversary of the Miss Wolcott Pageant.
If you have never taken the time to explore the inside of our Town Hall you should do so and enjoy some of our town's hidden history.
(Much of the information for this article was taken from the "National Register of Historic Places Registration form" completed in 2000; "Wolcott Town Hall Dedication Ceremony" booklet from articles by Michael Brennan & Eileen Coe Jensen; Samuel Orcutt's History of the Town of Wolcott From 1731 to 1874; "Old Saltbox Dwelling On The Green" by Nancy Russo; and "The 1986 Historic Resources Inventory" by J.P. Loether)
(Information for this article was taken from The Journals of Charles Somers Miller-January 1877 - November 1898 that were transcribed by Todd Alan Kraft, November 1935- May 1937 and December 1941- March 1943; History of the Mattatuck Drum Band by Charles S. Miller, leader (1927); emails and pictures from Bonnie Fleming-Richardson and photographs from Robert Kraft; Ancestry.com-Karen Wilk Family Tree; >The Sunday Republican Magazine, Sept 29, 1963) Access the Journals of Charles Miller at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/rak/gen/miller/journals.htm
This is a postcard showing the Town Hall, Grange and the 1792 Daniel Tuttle House. This photo was circa 1890s-1900.
The new Town Hall in 1923; the old Grange Hall that stood next to it was dismantled. This photograph was turned into a color mural and can be viewed at the TD Bank next to Pat's IGA.
Tracy Sugarman's painting of the Town Hall after the 1991 addition/renovations. Notice the original 1923 part of the building at the far right.
This building plaque can be found in the entrance of the Town Hall.
This 1971 Town of Wolcott plaque was placed in the foyer of the new Town Hall in 1991.
This WWII Honor Roll can be found hanging on the wall upstairs in the Town Hall.
These Fire Department plaques honor members that have served for 50 years.
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