Save Old Town Hall

Save Old Town Hall

THe fate of this 1828 town landmark ,the oldest public building in Hooksett, is uncertian. The Hooksett Historical Society is in full support of the preservation and restoration of this State of   New Hampshire registered historic site. The Town Council is looking for ideas on saving this building. Please contact your Council and tell them to ” Save Old Town Hall”

Hooksett Banner Letter to Editor 

THe following letter appeared in the August 5, 2010 issue 

As President of the Hooksett Historical Society, I Thought it was now the right time for me to give my opinion on how to save Old Town Hall . This historic, State of New Hampshire registered building, was built in 1828 on a perfect setting on the banks of the Merrimack river by Land donated with the intent of serving as a town meeting house. It served us well so it must be restored and maintained to honor it for its important role it has played in the history of our town.

This proud building served Hooksett for 180 years as a town hall, court house , police station. It hosted many a political debate on what course the town should take as we faced many challenges. It was here our leaders debated the issues of economic growth, Stablex, Charter change while also dealing with the flood of 1936 and the Hurricane of 1938. It hosted many a celebration from town birthdays, church services, and military service man gatherings to anniversary parties and Family reunions. Today it can and must continue to serve the community of Hooksett.

But what role can it play today? It can play a vital role as the oldest public building in Hooksett. Two ideas that have been most prominent need to be carefully considered. One is to return the municipal building back into a grand hall, as seen in the recent union Leader Article Photo, or allowing to serve as a larger museum of Hooksett history. I think those two ideas make the most sense and they will uphold the terms of the deed that was signed so long ago.

A restored Meeting Hall would be the most historic approach for it would allow the building to return to its glory days as a true town meeting house. The 1961 addition, which included the old town clerk office, could serve as a expanded museum to compliment the Prescott building or could serve as small offices whether leased or town occupied.

As a full museum, it can meet the space needs of the growing collection of Hooksett history that is now displayed at the small Historical Society, non handicapped accessible , or the numerous antiques stored at Robies Country store. And from what I have heard there other wonderful collections out there that only require a place to be displayed. Along side the 1828 town hall and the 1909 Arah Prescott library these two buildings can serve as Hooksett Heritage Park and as a town information center.

The question remains if you restore will they come. Yes, I believe old town hall will attract visitors whether as a meeting Hall or museum or both with the commitment of the town citizens to have it open to the public on a weekly basis.

Can my dreams for this State registered Historical site come true? Yes, but we must be creative and find a better ways to raise money to restore Town Hall. Donations from town citizens such as Arnold Green or prominent business can and should be sought The initial price tag between 600 thousand and 1 million dollars seems too high and must be clarified. How can a building after only two years of vacancy need that much repair? I think this figure can be reduced dramatically. Does every old building need to meet every code of the 21st century. Yes safety issues must be addressed and public access must be maintained but does every building need to meet those codes. Do the Abraham Lincoln Home, Independence hall, Paul Reveres house or Williamsburg historic park meet the codes of the 21st century. If they can be made safe and accessible while maintaining their historic nature , surely our Town hall can be too.

If visitors are limited to only the first floor than would access problems be need to be addressed with the back stairs or elevator.

Does the current Town hall or even the public library meeting all the codes themselves. Clearly the town can waive there own codes without impacting the visitors safety. Access to Old town hall is not prohibited now for it recently held a open house on Heritage day. I would ask those responsible to determine the cost to renovate to based on those two ideas .

People are concerned with how restoration or maintenance cost will effect their tax rate. That is important but there can be one way were future none tax raised income can be used to maintain the restored building Last year the town council asked if the deed to the new town hall, village school, could be alter to allow for the leasing of its space to outside private groups. Let us use the money gained from leasing that space and have it directed to off set the cost of Old town hall. This way the new town hall can be used to save old town hall. It will be found money. Perhaps we can use the same revenue sources that were used to restore the village school into Town hall.

Saving Old Town Hall is a must. Preserving our past truly will benefit the future of our town. Working together as a community of dedicated citizens and civic minded businesses we can save this historic site. I believe Hooksett has the will and will find a way.