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Town Hall 1873

More than 125 years after Port Perry's Town Hall opened for use, it remains one of the most important and imposing historical structures in the town.
  Discussions about construction of a new town hall began in 1871, but it wasn't until almost a year later that plans finally got underway.
  In February 1872, the subject of building a town hall for the new corporation of Port Perry was brought up at a council meeting, which resulted in the forming of a committee, consisting of Reeve Joseph Bigelow and councillor Tate, Philippo and Sexton to obtain plans and the possible cost of building a suitable town hall.
  About six months later, Port Perry council passed a by-law at one of their regular meetings, to debenture $10,000 for organizing a fire department, securing a fire engine and to build a town hall.
  They settled on a site on the south-west corner of Queen and Lilla (Simcoe) St., owned by Benjamin Crandell. Mr. Crandell sold the lot to the village for $1,000, and construction got underway during the summer of 1873. Most of the exterior work was completed that year, with work on the inside taking place throughout the winter.


  In March, the editor of the Observer filed the following progress report: "We had the pleasure the other day of visiting our new Town Hall. The mason work is being done in a manner which would do credit to any of our cities and fairly establishes the reputation of Mr. Wm. Spence, as one of our most skillful contractors.
  The ceiling is really handsome, surrounded by a fine cornice about six feet wide with some six or eight centre pieces. This hall will be no less an ornament to the village than a credit to the liberality, enterprise and intelligence of its inhabitants.
  From the appearance of things the Town Hall will be dry and thoroughly ready for use in a couple of months, and we would say by all means let us have an opening worthy of so splendid a building."
  It appears there never was a special celebration or official opening of the new Town Hall, as work seemed to plod along for the next few months. Council purchased 75 bench seats for the hall in March at 35¢ per foot, and by June the Town Hall's handsome new tower was finally installed.
  Exterior bricking was underway when council received an offer from a Mr. Jones of Markham to supply a bell for the Town Hall on a trial basis, and if considered satisfactory the cost to the town would be $120. It is unclear if this offer was accepted.
  Even in its uncompleted state, the building began to be used for a number of events over the next few months, including a concert, church services and an election meeting for Reeve Joseph Bigelow, when the hall was described as still "naked of bricks on its lofty walls, had gaping joists and was in a general uncompleted state."
  The hall came under the scrutiny of the Observer editor once again in the spring of 1875, when he complained of the inadequate lighting in the building. "Some six pieces of rusty crooked iron with four rush lights sticking on the ends of them are dignified with the title of chandeliers and made to do duty by furnishing sufficient glimmer so that people may not run up against each other or stumble over the benches," he wrote.


He also commented on the state of the bell tower, saying "it is certainly no credit to this thriving town to have a bell tower on our splendid Town Hall, looking down like a great dummy through its leather spectacles on the passers by. One looks up for a clock and finds the bottom of a flour barrel meeting his gaze. One thousand dollars will place a suitable four dial clock in the bell tower."
  In May 1875 council discuss the merits and necessity of a bell and clock for the town hall, but no decision was made at that time.
  Estimated cost to build the hall in 1873 was about $6,000.


TIMELINE - Town Hall 1873
December 1875 - Arbitrators awarded contractor Wm. Spence $354.53, money which was owed to him by the corporation for his work on the erection of the hall.

February 1876 - G.W. Ross, MP for North Middlesex lectured on prohibition at a meeting of the County Temperance Association.
April 1876 - Council authorized the closet, under the stairs of the Town Hall, be converted into a lock-up for prisoners. Cost not to exceed $25.

May 1882 - A motion in council to suspend the caretaker from ringing the town hall bell three times a day, as it was a waste of time, was defeated.

November 1882 - The Town Hall basement is consider a possible site for the establishment of a public market in town.

July 1884 - A day after the tragic fire which destroyed the town of Port Perry, a meeting was held at the Town Hall to determine the amount of loss and to find ways for relief.

May 1890 - A shed was constructed at the rear of the Town Hall to store the village road scraper.

February 1893 - Miss Pauline Johnson, a Mohawk Indian poet-reciter appeared at the Town Hall.

May 1894 - Council enters into an agreement for 10 electrical services in the village, with one light to be provided for the Town Hall.

May 1895 - A new roof was put on the Town Hall by T.H. Philp and Company.

June 1899 - Tennis courts are built in the park along side the Town Hall.

November 1899 - The Town Hall was filled to over capacity to listen to Ontario Premier George W. Ross speak.

April 1901 - The Port Perry Board of Trade was established at a meeting held in the Town Hall.

July 1906 - The village paid F.W. Nott, $8.50 for painting the exterior of the hall.

February 1911 - Council purchased 100 chairs, formerly used by the moving picture show, for the basement of the Town Hall.

August 1911, local contractor John Stovin renovated the interior of the hall, including installing the metal ceiling we see today.

September 1913 - A School of Infantry Training was established with classes taking place in the basement of the town hall.

February 1914 - Council initiates an unusual procedure for fires, which enables the person sounding the alarm to break the glass in the Town Hall door, then pull the rope to ring the bell.

April 1914 - New machinery was installed in the Town Hall tower which will ring the bell automatically, ending the job of bell ringer performed by the local police chief four times a day.

September 1922 - A new era in Port Perry took place at the Town Hall as hydro was turned on by Port Perry's eldest citizen, John Rolph.

January 1923 - The old box stoves at the Town Hall wee replaced with a 'suitable' furnace.

December 1923 - Renovations work was completed at the hall to replace all the rotten joists under the floor and rebuilding the back stairway, which was unsafe.

April 1925, the Town Hall became temporary location for school classes after the local combined high and public school burned to the ground.

November 1925 - Moving picture shows return to the Town Hall, after being stopped for more than two years, due to unsafe conditions.

Throughout 1933 (the great depression) more than 500 transients were fed and housed in the Town Hall.

October 1939 one of the biggest renovations to date was undertaken. The tower was removed and the roof replaced. Inside the stage was enlarged, by removing the stairs and wings and the front entrance remodelled.

February 1951 - The Canadian H.W. Gossard Co, opened in the town hall, manufacturing women's undergarments.

October 1951- Local contractor Ed Storry and his crew removed the tower from the town hall, which had been unsafe for quite some time.

December 1959 - Town Hall 1873 got a new neighbor, with the opening of the Masonic Temple.

January 1962 - The H. W. Gossard Co., completed renovations to its plant in the Town Hall building.

January 1974 - The town council decided not to restore the aging old Town Hall and it was slated for demolition. A group of local citizens determined to save the hall was formed and six months later council voted unanimously to save the hall, accepting an offer from the Town Hall 1873 committee to lease the building for 99 years at a charge of two dollars annually.

November 1974 - The committee organized to save the town hall began a campaign for funds to restore the building.

May 1975 - An 11 mile walkathon from Durham College, Oshawa to Port Perry raised more than $1,800 for town hall renovations.

In June 1975, as part of the ongoing renovations of the hall, a new tower constructed by Dale Procunier, was reinstalled on the hall.
The tower was the generous gift of Marjorie Letcher, whose husband Merlin was the respected reeve of the town of Port Perry for 13 consecutive years.

October 1975 - The first official function int he restored Town Hall was an antique show.

February 1976 - The official opening of the restored Town Hall 1873 included selections performed by Maureen Forrester, internationally known contralto.

April 1986 - Town Hall 1873 celebrated the 10th anniversary of its re-birth with a gala, which featured jazz musician and composer Moe Kauffman.

February 1994 - Local theatre groups banded together to upgrade the town hall with repairs estimated to be about $56,000.

December 1997 - Mayor Doug Moffatt and his council were sworn in at a special inauguration ceremony held at Town Hall 1873. A practice which hadn't been done for more than 50 years.

In 1996, the century old Town Hall 1873 was designated a historic site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

During 2003-2004 the hall was completely renovated and enlarged with additions to the south and west. Cost of the expansion was more than $1 million dollars.

Since being given a second life in 1974, Town Hall 1873 has been home to the Scugog Choral Society, Borelian's Community Theatre, Miller Lights and many other small community arts and musical groups. It is also the site of an annual professional concert series.

In 1996, the century old hall was designated a historic site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

During 2003-2004 the hall was completely renovated and enlarged with additions to the south and west. Cost of the expansion was more than $1 million dollars.

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