Last week we traced the history of the Mansfield Historical Society’s museum building. Now we are shifting one door over to examine the origins of the Old Town Hall building.
Separating from the town of Windham, Mansfield was incorporated in May 1703. At this time, and for well over a century to come, there was no official town hall in which meetings were held. Instead, the townspeople met in the homes of prominent settlers. These meetings took place long before the separation of church and state, so it was natural that over time, the Ecclesiastical Societies’ meeting houses became the natural locations for town meetings.
Finally, at a meeting on December 3, 1838, the desire was expressed for an edifice to be built specifically “for the purpose of holding Town and Electors meetings and of doing other necessary business of said Town” (Smith 33). For three years, electors squabbled over the implications and complications of building such a structure.
At last residents assembled at the North Society’s meeting house on January 24, 1842, and voted to confirm a building committee. The building would be 50 by 38 feet in dimension and one story high, and would be nestled into the village of Spring Hill, near the geographic center of the town.
On September 4, 1843, the voters met within their new Town House. Over the next century and a half, the building faithfully served the government and residents of Mansfield. Aside from its governmental role, the building functioned as a sort of community gathering place where events such as dramatic exhibitions and balls were held.
In 1935 the town built a stone building next door to house its valuable records and to centralize government offices. Up until the 1970s, though, the town meetings were held in the old wooden one-story town hall. In 1971, a vote was passed allowing for town meetings to be held “in locations other than the Town Hall, which is 127 years old” (Chronology 147).
For the rest of the story, in which the town moved its offices and meeting rooms to the shortly thereafter-named Audrey Beck Municipal Building, please see this post. In 1980, the Mansfield Historical Society moved into the Old Town Office Building (the colonial-style building built in 1935). Two years later, restoration of the Old Town Hall was completed.
Today, the Old Town Hall serves as a second building in which the Mansfield Historical Society displays exhibits and holds events. Though the edifice is no longer the heart of the town’s government, it remains at the heart of the town’s history. Standing strong 169 years after its construction, the Old Town Hall calls us to remember the presence of the past.
If You'd Like To Learn More:
- Chronology of Mansfield, Connecticut: 1702-2002. Mansfield, Conn.: Mansfield Historical Society, 2003.
- Smith, Roberta K. Listen to the Echoes: The Early History of Spring Hill, Mansfield, Connecticut. Mansfield, Conn.: Mansfield Historical Society, 2004.
Please click here for the Mansfield Historical Society's website, which includes further information about the Society's services, programs, and publications, as well as archived articles and newsletters.