About The Town House

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Mrs. George E. Mathews, Regent, D.A.R., greeted visitors to the Town House in 1924.
Courtesy, Norwalk Historical Reference Library, Lockwood House.
Photographer: Alexander J. Rummler


After 1913 and the consolidation of the City, use of the Town House by the City declined. In 1924, the City leased the building to the D.A.R. for $1.00 per year for 50 years. In October of 1923 the D.A.R. members held a bazaar “to raise money to pay for remodelling of interior” [of Town House]. Some of the committee members at that time were Harriet Sherman, Mrs. Christian Swartz, Mrs. Leroy Montgomery and Mrs. Harry Shufelt.23 With their funds they added a kitchen wing to the building.Mrs. Robert F. Way quoted in an article in the Norwalk Hour at a D.A.R. meeting held in the Royal James Hotel, spoke of plans she foresaw in the use of the Town House by this organization: as a museum for their collections, for teas and meetings.24

In 1954, the building was in need of major repairs, but there was controversy between the D.A.R. and the City as to which was responsible for financing the work. In 1962 Mayor Cooke appointed a committee, chaired by John R. Cuneo, to study the need for restoration of the building. Recommendations were made and plans for the work were drawn by Felicia D. Kingsbury, architectural historian. The work was then undertaken; $50,000 was spent for the restoration and repair of the building. The City continues to support capital improvements and supplies funds for some operating expenses of the Town House.

The D.A.R. relinquished their lease and a new one was entered into between the City, the Norwalk Historical Society and the D.A.R. These two groups agreed to maintain a museum opened to the public. In 1983 this lease was renewed for three years.

Town House 2

The Fitch Law Office, the Downtown District School House and the restored Smith Street jail were added to form the Mill Hill Historic Park.

There are seven buildings at present, including the Mill Hill burying ground, which come under the jurisdiction of the Norwalk Historical Commission.

The 1835 Town House architectural design is of the Federal/Greek Revival style. The building is of brick, with a large hall measuring 40′ by 65′. The kitchen wing, added about 1926 is 18′ by 22′. The building has two front entrance doors and a cupola. It was not always an attractive place; a report of a town meeting held during the administration of Mayor Arthur C. Wheeler (1896, 1897), in the South Norwalk Sentinel, stated: “Considerably less than one hundred electors gathered in the dimly-lighted and dungeon-like town house, last evening, to transact the business called for by the adjourned annual city meeting.”

The 1965 restoration work was contracted by Anthony F. Conte of Norwalk who took care to use or replace as closely possible details of the original construction. Wooden pegs which were used in 1835, were retained or replaced, those replaced were cut by hand. The wooden molding holding the window glass was carefully copied and handcarved by carpenters. The hand hewn beams of the 1835 building had to be replaced by factory cut beams. The interior of the building was modernized with heat, light, plumbing and fireproofing. Random oak plank flooring, like the original, was replaced.

White cedar roof shingles which were used in the 1835 structure were again used in the 1965 restoration. Brick walls were sandblasted and the wooden four-spired cupola was rebuilt. The bell in the cupola was cast in Troy, N.Y. in 1871. Final restoration of the cupola by Gidley Brothers and Ryan, Inc. of Darien, was completed in 1985.

Mr. Conte commented that in 1835 it probably took a dozen men two years to build the Town House. Working with Mr. Conte were Nicholas Pepe, Michael Restuccia, Andrew Papp and Michael Santella.25

Within its walls, in 150 years, many Norwalkers have gathered for various purposes. This building will continue to serve as museum and meeting place; its use being a part of the history of Norwalk.

Joan G. Robidoux
November, 1985

FOOTNOTES

  1. Town Proceedings, Vol. 3 page 74
  2. Town Proceedings, Vol. 3 page 75
  3. Town Proceedings, Vol. 3 page 77
  4. Town Proceedings, Vol. 3 page 80
  5. Town Proceedings, Vol. 3 page 85
  6. Town Proceedings, Vol. 3 page 92
  7. Town Proceedings, Vol. 2 page 83
  8. Town Proceedings, Vol. 2 page 20
  9. Town Proceedings, Vol. 2 page 97
  10. At City Hall, Town Clerk’s Office
  11. At Norwalk Historical Reference Library, Lockwood House
  12. Records, Court of Burgesses, Borough of Norwalk (later First Taxing District)
  13. School Society Records, 1799-1844 at Lockwood House
  14. Martin, Rev. Harold Edgar, Historical Papers Concerning the First Congregational Church on the Green. Norwalk, Conn.
  15. It has been stated by some Norwalk historians that the Blacks in Norwalk held church services in this Town House. No evidence has been found to document this statement.
  16. Hall, Edwin An Exposition of the Law of Baptism, Norwalk, Conn. Published by John A. Weed, N.Y. Gould, Newman and Saxton. 1840.
  17. History of the Baptist Church in Norwalk, Manuscript Coil. Lockwood House
  18. O’Donnell, Rev. James H. The Diocese of Hartford Boston, D.H. Hurd Co. 1900.
  19. Duggan, Rt. Rev. Thomas S. The Catholic Church in Connecticut N.Y. States History Co. 1930. p. 445
  20. Original owned by Kevin Callahan of Norwalk
  21. Norwalk Gazette editorial, 1 November 1848
  22. Original handbill, Collection at Lockwood House
  23. Norwalk Hour 17, 18 October 1923
  24. Norwalk Hour
  25. Norwalk Hour 27 March 1965