New future for West Stockbridge's old Town Hall

Thursday December 1, 2011

WEST STOCKBRIDGE -- The old Town Hall, built in 1854, is being redeveloped by the Historical Society as a museum and public meeting space.

The site, at 9 Main St., was vacated by the town's government when it moved into new offices at the former Village School on Route 102 in 2007.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Sites for more than two years, the old Town Hall is eligible for planning and matching grants aimed at restoration. In 2009, Town Meeting voters authorized the Board of Selectmen to transfer ownership to the Historical Society, the only bidder for the building, for $1.

Fundraising has been under way to convert the building to a history center and museum, including a restored second-floor auditorium for public meetings, concerts, talks and presentations by civic organizations, said Robert Salerno, president of the 220-member Historical Society.

"The building has been a centerpiece of the community since 1854, and our goal is to have it back in that role, safely," said Salerno. "We've had tremendous support from residents, second-homers and former residents from as far away as California."

The building is in good shape, he said. "The town took decent care of it, and we replaced the furnace last year."

Work to be performed in phases, after a development plan is completed, includes ADA compliance for access to the second floor, bathroom refittings and other physical work. Salerno estimated the cost of the three-year project could range from $300,000 to $500,000.

"We want to restore the building to its original configuration, as close as we can," Salerno said, citing preliminary design work by two area architects, Pam Sandler of Stockbridge and Dana Bixby of West Stockbridge.

"We'll apply for a lot of grants, state funding and we'll raise a lot of money," Salerno said. "The first priority is health and safety for the building, including alarms."

So far, the state has authorized a $15,000 matching grant and the society has raised more than half of its share.

The second-floor auditorium hosted a performance by the West Stockbridge Chamber Players last Memorial Day weekend. Salerno said the four Boston Symphony members of the group pronounced the space "an acoustical jewel."

The same group will offer another benefit performance there on Friday, Dec. 30, at 7 p.m. Tickets at $20 will be sold at local businesses around town.

The Historical Society is now seeking bids from architectural firms experienced in renovation projects for a preliminary development study, preparation of plans, specifications and a preliminary budget.

Supporting funds are being made available from the Massachusetts Historical Commission's Preservation Projects Fund. Proposals, to be examined for price as well as the developers' previous experience and references, are due by Dec. 16 at 4 p.m.

The society plans to award a contract by Jan. 16, and it seeks completion of the plans by May 1, 2012.

For more information, contact Carter White, (413) 274-3821 or

To reach Clarence Fanto:,
or (413) 496-6247.


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