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The building of the town house.

[compiled from town records by Helen T. Wild.]

IN the warrant for town meeting given under the hands and seals of the selectmen of Medford, October 29, 1832, the second article was as follows: ‘To hear and act upon the representation of Isaac Sprague and others of the necessity there is for the Town to provide some suitable plan [place?] for the transaction of municipal affairs and the preservation of records.’ At the town meeting held November 12, 1832, it was voted ‘That the subject matter of the 2d article relative to the Town Hall be referred to a Comee of three to consider inquire & report thereon at the next meeting.’

Isaac Sprague, Daniel Lawrence, and Elisha Stetson were chosen on the committee for the Town Hall. This meeting was held at the Medford Hotel, following an established custom of convening at taverns to transact public business. The records were kept by the town clerk in a ‘chest,’ but the location of this receptacle was wholly at the disposal of that official.

At the March meeting, 1833, the committee reported as follows: ‘Report that they have attended to that duty and are of an opinion that it is the wish of a majority of the Town, that they should have a suitable place to transact their Municipal business your Comee therefore recommend, that the Town build a house for that pupose; they are of the opinion that a house can be built including the land, to set it on for about twenty-five hundred dollars, of the following dimentions; 65 ft. long, 40 ft. wide, 18 ft. posts which will contain a hall 44 ft. 40 wide and entry 15 ft. a projecting front 6 feet with two rooms over the entry for the accommodation of Town officers, [p. 41] of which size and form your comee recommend as the best for the accommodation of the Town; Your Comee have inquired and find that the Town can have a piece of land of Mrs. Hepzibah Hall on the Andover and Medford turnpike [Forest St.] for ten dollars a foot of front, 75 ft. deep with the barn thereon standing, or she will deduct fifty Dollars if the Town should not want the barn, in which case it will cost $450. The Town would want about 50 feet; this piece your Comee recommend as the best and most suitable for the Town they have the offer of a piece of land of Mr. Cotting, on the opposite side of the same Turnpike 67 ft. front × 70 ft. deep for $600. they also have the offer of a piece of land of Mrs. Buel 47 ft. front & 106 ft. deep with the buildings thereon for $3000—but your Comee are of an opinion that the piece of Mrs. Buel's will cost more than the Town will be willing to pay. The Comee recommend that they be discharged from any further duty on the subject. Isaac Sprague, Elisha Stetson, Daniel Lawrence, Committee.’

This report having been made and considered, it was voted ‘To adopt the recommendation of the Committee in said report so far as to build a Town house.’

It was then moved to build on Mrs. Hall's land as recommended by the committee in said report, ‘which motion was negatived 108 to 80.’

In spite of the committee's opinion about the wishes of the town in regard to paying as much as three thousand dollars, the selectmen and town clerk were empowered to purchase Mrs. Buel's land at a price not exceeding the amount mentioned.

In April, 1833, the above committee reported that they had agreed with Mrs. Buel for the land on the corner of High and Main street, and the town voted that they be empowered to complete the purchase, take a warranty deed and draw upon the treasury for the money. This deed is now on file in the office of the City Clerk of Medford.

John P. Clisby, Turell Tufts, and Daniel Lawrence [p. 42] having been chosen at the March meeting to employ an architect and form estimates of the expense of a building in wood, brick, or split stone, also reported at the April meeting.

These gentlemen stated that it was proposed to erect a building seventy-one feet long, providing for a hall forty feet square in the second story. On the lower floor there were to be two rooms for shops, proper accommodations for the town clerk's office, and apartments for town officers, such as selectmen and assessors. A cellar, forty by sixty feet, was also provided for.

The estimate for a building of wood, according to plan, was $3,600; for one of brick, only one story and no cellar, $3,300; of brick, stone posts and caps, according to plan, $6,200; of rough stone, according to plan, $7,300.

The committee recommended the first estimate, and it was voted to build in accordance with the recommendation.

March 3, 1834, the report of the building committee was accepted and placed on file. [Where is the file?]

It was moved to postpone the building of a town hall for one year, but the motion was lost, 109 to 88.

In November, 1834, the building committee was discharged, and a new committee was appointed with instructions to build a town house on the town's land, corner of High and Main street. John P. Clisby, John Sparrell, and Thomas R. Peck were chosen for the purpose, by ballot.

The committee was instructed to follow as nearly as possible the plans made by Mr. Benjamin, the architect employed by the previous committee, ‘as regards the general exterior appearance of the building.’

The town treasurer was authorized to ‘hire on the credit of the Town, under the direction of the Selectmen from time to time, all such Sum or Sums of money at an Interest not exceeding 5 pr. ct. pr. annum, as may be found necessary to pay all Drafts on acc. of the Town [p. 43] House, and to give therefore a note or notes on behalf of the Town payable at any time not exceeding Twenty years.’

The Hook and Ladder Company petitioned at this time to be granted room for their ladder truck in the proposed building, and their petition was referred to the building committee, but later other accommodations were provided for the company.

May 4, 1835, the building committee and the selectmen were empowered to let the tenements in the town house for the term of from one to five years. Money for a stove for the selectmen's room was appropriated by the selectmen, October 27, 1835.

November 9, 1835, the report of the building committee was received and laid on the table, but the portion of the report in regard to leasing the stores under the Town Hall to Messrs. Coburn and Fowle, and to Mr. Samuel S. Green, Jr., was accepted and confirmed.

There was a disagreement and some litigation before the terms of these leases were decided, and Coburn & Company did not receive their lease until December, 1835.

Taking even this last date as the time of its completion, the building has served the town and city for over seventy years. It was built to accommodate the town meeting, one official and two boards; it now shelters, not accommodates, six officials, including the mayor, and three boards, while the other departments of our city life are relegated to an ‘annex.’ It has served its purpose to the best of its ability. It is not the fault of the good old building that it is now inadequate.

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