A New Town Hall for Whitman
By John Galluzzo
By 1906, Whitman was a little more than three decades old. Once a village of Abington, the young community had a sense of local pride, not to mention its own economic identity. The population doubled between 1880 and 1910 to roughly 6,000 residents, who were in need of more services than ever. The old Village Hall had seen its time come and go (it burned down in 1910, leaving a lot on Washington Street that is now used for parking beside the First Baptist Church). It was time for a new town hall. The town held a ground breaking on August 2, 1906, and the local Masons ceremonially laid the cornerstone at the southwest corner of the building on September 29.
The finished town hall was picture postcard-worthy. The building still stands to this day, 110 years later.
An event like a groundbreaking called for pomp and circumstance. The Grand Lodge of Masons of Massachusetts lined up on South Avenue – right along the rail of the street railway – as the band from the Regal Shoe Company urged them to step off toward their final goal.
More than 6,000 people lived in Whitman at the time of the cornerstone laying, and it seemed like they all turned out for the ceremony. In keeping with the fashions of the day, men mostly wore bowlers, women wore decorated bonnets and young girls wore bows in their hair.
Officially, the Masons would record the event this way: “A special communication was held in the town of Whitman, September 29, 1906, for the purpose of laying the cornerstone of the new town hall, Grand Master John Albert Blake presiding and conducting the ceremonies.”
The building would be constructed through 1906 and into 1907, and would come in a remarkable three percent over budget. It would become a true gathering spot, for politics, for dances and for the town library, which moved into the building in 1908 and stayed for 75 years. In 1912, the Whitman Town Hall hosted a bicentennial party for the town of Old Abington that still echoes through the halls today.