An Italianate beauty – Clinton Town Hall

By: shortfinals

Feb 06 2011

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Category: textiles, United States

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Focal Length:22mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:NIKON D40

On the 7th December, 1905, the Massachusetts newspaper, ‘The Fitchburg Sentinel’, lead with the story ‘Clinton’s Town Hall Destroyed by Fire’. Clinton, a bustling mill town on the Nashua River, had grown furiously, following the founding of Lancaster Mills by the Bigelow brothers (Erastus Brigham Bigelow invented a power loom capable of producing carpet in 1839). The town had built an impressive town hall on land bought by the Town Treasurer, for $4,000, from H.N.Bigelow, about 3/4 mile from the Bigelow Mills. There had been a High School dance in the auditorium on the night of the 6th December, and it is thought that a discarded cigarette or cigar butt had lodged under the floorboards of the auditorium and caused the conflagration. The Town Hall was totally destroyed, ‘ ……15 minutes after the alarm was given it was a seething furnace and utterly beyond the town’s fire department to check. It is not thought that any of the town records are lost, for so far as known, all were in safes and vaults.’ (Fitchburg Sentinel). The really bad news was that the loss to the town was estimated at $100,000, but only $37,500 insurance was carried.

Two years later, the site had been cleared, and a new Town Hall had arisen, like a phoenix from the flames, a beautiful structure in warm honey-coloured brick and stone, at a cost of $125,000. The fashion, at this period, in many buildings with a public function was for the Italianate style, and the Clinton Town Hall was no exception. Actually, when married to the red tile roof, it sits very well opposite Clinton Central Park. The impressive central tower is decorated in the Italianate fashion, and gives access to a grand foyer via a flight of wide steps. The foyer contains a specially commissioned statue of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), the 16th President of the United States.

There is another Presidential connection, in that the 39th President, James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr. held a ‘town meeting’ on his ‘People to People’ tour,  in the Auditorium of the Town Hall, just one day before he made a major speech on human rights in front of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on 17th March, 1977.

As well as containing the various Town Departments and Selectmens’ Offices, the Auditorium is the venue for many local events. ‘Olde Home Day’, first held in 2000 to mark the town’s 150th Anniversary, now is centered on the Town Hall and Central Park. As well as this, there is a splendid Children’s Christmas Party, organised by the Board of Selectmen (Santa Claus usually arrives onboard one fire truck, with the Grinch and other characters on another!)

Clinton may have taken some economic ‘hard knocks’ in  recent years (along with many other areas), but it still retains pride in its excellent stock of public buildings.

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