comparables — learning from others

Throughout Massachusetts there are several examples of the historic restoration of landmark buildings. The Friends of Mechanics Hall have visited many of these facilities in order to admire them and to learn from the experience of the citizens who managed the restoration projects.

Summaries of our findings, accompanied by photographs, are presented below in alphabetical order by town.


Bedford Old Town Hall The building is owned and managed by the town and was previously abandoned. The Historical Commission secured funding for a new roof and then sought state grants.

A Survey and Planning Grant covered the cost of a consultant who prepared cost estimate and prioritized restoration steps. A Massachusetts Preservation Project Fund grant stabilized the exterior, restored the original windows and installed interior storm windows. CPA funds were used for electrical and heating upgrades. A rear addition was built to house new bathrooms and an elevator.

The first floor is rented by Bedford Cable TV and includes offices and a TV studio. The basement holds the Bedford Center for the Arts and a few artist's studios. The second floor hall and kitchen are rented for public and private events.
Berlin 1870 Town Hall The building is owned by the town and managed by an advisory committee that reports to the Selectmen.

Volunteer project coordinator, Walter Bickford, organized trades people in town and received donated materials from a lumber company ($15,000 total). He had a good relationship with Building Inspector who oversaw the repairs. A new fire and smoke alarm system was donated by the Fire Dept. In 2007 that was awarded $35,000 from the State. The upstairs hall has a raised platform stage used for performances, dance classes and private functions. Town organizations use the room free of charge. There is a full calendar of exercise classes, craft classes, theatrical performances and contra dances.
Orchard House in Concord We toured the Orchard House, Concord, MA — the restored former home of Lousa May Alcott. See the trip report for a summary.
  Trip report.

Old Academy Building in New Salem We toured the Old Academy Building, New Salem, MA — a recently restored historic landmark. See the trip report for a summary and the photographs of the restored interior.
   Trip report.

Shirley Center Town Hall The Shirley Center Town Hall was built in 1847 (Architect: Wilder Dodge) as gift from the Whitney Family. After serving as the town hall the building served as a high school.

About 14 years ago the town was considering mothballing the building due to its poor condition and lack of use. For years it served only the scouts and was known as the Scout House. Instead of closing the building, the town formed a seven-person committee which took steps to restore the building and make it available for a variety of uses. The committee, which includes one Selectboard person, continues to manage the building and raise funds for maintenance and utilities. Having multiple uses has been the key to the building’s sustainability.

Like Mechanics Hall, the Shirley Center Town Hall is a gable-front Greek Revival with four Doric-order columns. The façade has one center door but interior clues suggest that originally it might have had two separate entrances. The building is a bit larger than Mechanics Hall and has an addition dating to the late 1800s. Neither the right-hand ramp nor left hand handrail obstruct the façade.

The first floor consists of a foyer, two small rooms and a large meeting room. There is also a kitchen and unisex ADA compliant restroom (located in the addition). The second floor has a large hall with a sprung-style floor and platform stage, and separate Men’s and Women’s rooms that are turned off in the winter. There is no lift or elevator.
   Interior photographs
Old Selectmen's Building in West Barnstable The building is owned by the town and managed by a building committee with significant assistance from the town’s DPW. It is used as three-season art gallery by the Cape Cod Art Association.

Funding and planning resources were a Survey and Planning Grant (60/40 match) from Mass Historic, grants from the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod and CPA funds.