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Built in 1881, and on the National Register of Historic Places, Old Town Hall, to just about everyone in Walpole, is the most significant structure in town from a historical, architectural and cultural perspective. It is a true landmark and symbol, and a building that could once again serve as the catalyst for a new era in Walpole’s downtown where residents and visitors alike can experience an attractive and dynamic place to visit, shop, dine and even live.
Because of its importance, earlier this year the Board of Selectmen appointed a seven-member committee to study alternative uses for the Old Town Hall once the Police Department relocates to its new facility on South Street in April of 2018. The group, known as the Old Town Hall Re-Use Committee, includes Chairman Richard Pilla, Vice-Chairman Cliff Barnes, Secretary Christine Cochrane, and members Beth Pelick, Ron Fucile, Roger Turner and Mark Trudell. Serving as liaison between the Committee and the Town’s Administration is Assistant Town Administrator Thomas Gregory.
The Committee meets the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall, and will be submitting a progress report in late September to the Board of Selectmen and then to Town Meeting in October. Throughout the spring and summer, the Committee has been meeting with individuals and groups who have provided a variety of perspectives, insight, and knowledge on subject matter critical to understanding the challenges as well as the opportunities associated with the many options under consideration. At a June 13 public forum held at the Town Library, interested citizens offered many good ideas which the Committee is evaluating as part of its process to determine the most feasible alternative.
The next public forum will be held on September 26 in conjunction with the Economic Development Commission. At that meeting, downtown merchants and property owners will be encouraged to share their ideas not only on Old Town Hall but the downtown as well, as both their futures are intertwined.
Much information on Old Town Hall has been accumulated over the years by the Walpole Historical Society and the Walpole Historic Commission, as well as interested parties who take great pride in their home town of Walpole. To add to the building’s extensive collection of artifacts, documents, stories, plans, photos and other graphics, the Committee is appealing to any resident of Walpole, past and present, who may have stored away in their attics, garages, bookshelves or anywhere else, items associated with Old Town Hall that could be added to enhance the existing collection and create an even better experience for those who will be visiting the new, Old Town Hall.