Hamden Memorial Town Hall

The front facade of Hamden Memorial Hall, View northwest; Source - NRIS 01000355.
Historic/Common Name:
None
Address:
2372 Whitney Avenue
Town:
Hamden »
Year:
1924
Historic Designation:
LHP, NR, SR
Property Authority:
Historic Properties Commission
Nature of Authority:
Regulatory
Eligible for Historic Home tax credits:
Yes
General description:

Hamden really came into its own in the early twentieth century, largely due to suburbanization. The unprecedented urban growth in the state created by the industrialization and foreign immigration of the late nineteenth century was reversed. People began to move out of the crowded cities as early as 1900. By the 1920s, a period of rapid residential growth, the town asserted its new identity as a modern suburban town and proclaimed its prosperity by building the Town Hall at a cost of $164,000, an extraordinary sum for this period, of which $3000 was designated for architect's fees. As was the case with other New Haven suburbs, such as Woodbridge, that had a similar history, the building was designed in the Colonial Revival style, the most popular style for municipal architecture in this period. The scale of the building easily dominated what was then the nucleus of an emerging commercial center, then known as Centerville. Although typically a multipurpose building with space provided for municipal offices, a courtroom and holding cells, an auditorium, and fire station, it was the ceremonial function that was foremost in the minds of the architect and town officials. Hamden citizens had expressed a desire for their own war memorial ever since 1887, when New Haven's Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument was erected in East Rock Park. Thirty-seven years later, this dream was realized. Launched with a dedication ceremony on Monday, February 23, 1924, which was followed by a ball in the auditorium, this civic landmark continues to be a center for public life. Constructed in 1924 of load-bearing masonry with brick and concrete exterior walls reinforced with structural steel, the two-story building encompasses approximately 4900 square feet on the first floor. At the center of the facade is a colossal semi-elliptical colonnade, flanked by two long angled wings that have matching projecting pavilions at either end. Three sets of modern double doors with decorative original transoms are accessed by full-width curved stone steps and three pathways. The path in the center is bordered by hedging and floral plantings. The metal balustrades are a modern addition. [NR]

Significance of the property:

Architecture, Social History: The Hamden Memorial Town Hall is a significant expression of institutional Colonial Revival architecture, which is enhanced by its exceptional Neo-Classical features and forms. One of the few public buildings in the state that incorporates a war memorial, this handsome, generally well-preserved building was designed by Richard Williams, Hamden resident and partner in Alien & Williams, an architectural firm with a large practice in New Haven. His design is distinguished by the historically and architecturally significant formal ceremonial lobby that honors the memory of Hamden residents who served in the nation's wars. In the skillful hands of architect Richard Williams (d. c. 1926), the Hamden Memorial Town Hall achieved an exceptional sophistication and coherence. Nominally a Colonial Revival building, the design rises above the conventions of this style. While employing standard Colonial Revival motifs and materials commonly found in many municipal buildings of this period- arched fenestration, key blocks, and red brick with heavy contrasting moldings. It is the Neo-Classical elements that produce a level of significance rarely found in this genre. [NR]

Relationship with the Surroundings:

The Hamden Memorial Town Hall straddles the northwest corner of Whitney and Dixwell avenues and dominates this major downtown intersection.

Features:
Buildings
Historic Use:
Government/ Town Hall; Recreation-Culture/ Commemorative
Present Use:
Government/ Town Hall; Recreation-Culture/ Commemorative
Architectural Style:
20th Century Revivals/ Colonial Revival/ Neo-Classical Revival
Era:
20th Century
Ownership:
Town of Hamden
Owner:
Public/ Local
Sources:

[1] Historic property information retrieved from the town website http://www.hamden.com/.
[2] Assessor information and GIS map retrieved from the website http://www.hamdengis.com/.
[NR] Cunningham Jan, Hamden Memorial Town Hall, Hamden, National Register Nomination Number- 01000355 NRIS, National Park Service, 2001. http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/01000355.pdf; http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/photos/01000355.pdf.

Map:

Map of the historic property retrieved from the online GIS, http://www.hamdengis.com/.

View PDF
Date of Compilation:
12/31/11
Compiler:
Manjusha Patnaik, CT Trust for Historic Preservation