SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

November 29, 2013

Old Town House set to reopen after renovation

MARBLEHEAD — The Old Town House had a good run as polling place in town — nearly three centuries. But the tradition came to an end a few years ago with the historical building not being up to code.

That was before the installation of an elevator and other accessibility improvements were made to the three-story building, erected in 1727.

After months of renovations, the building is set to reopen to the public, and selectmen are hoping for voters to return. The work also included new bathrooms, flooring and fresh coats of paint.

“What is nice about the project is it provides the accessibility sought by the original project design, but it maintains the historic character of the building,” said Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren.

Contractors were putting the finishing touches on the renovation earlier this week, including spackling and painting walls and testing an electronic accessible door on the basement level of the building.

Voting used to take place in the cramped basement with an accessible ramp that was too steep. The elevator will now allow for voting on the building’s spacious first floor.

The building is known for hosting pre-Revolutionary War meetings, with George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette and others attending. It is one of the oldest town halls in America that has been in continuous use, according to the town.

Chelgren said selectmen have voted for the polling place to return but are awaiting approval from the state.

All major work has been completed, said Pam Peterson, executive director of the Marblehead Museum and Historical Society. She also served on the town’s Old Town House Oversight Committee for the project.

“It is just the last little tweaks,” Peterson said. “It is just like moving day where there are little bits and pieces.”

The Marblehead Forever Committee will host a grand reopening on Dec. 7, with a ribbon-cutting at 10:30 a.m. Old photographs of the building will be on exhibit during an open house until 4 p.m. and noon to 3 p.m. the next day.

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