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Bradford Town Hall being restored

In 1797, the residents of the town of Bradford completed construction of their town hall in the center of town. When the Concord to Claremont railroad was complete, there was a station in the northeast corner of the town. Commercial enterprises quickly relocated, as did a lot of the population.

In 1861, Congressman Mason Tappan vacated his seat and organized a regiment to fight in the Civil War. He left Bradford as a colonel, heading the regiment he founded. Tappan owned a lot of land in Bradford, and he granted a knoll overlooking the town for the town hall. The townspeople disassembled the town hall at Bradford Center. Each piece of wood was properly numbered, and plans were developed for the careful reconstruction of the town hall on the property donated by Tappan.

Since most of the able-bodied men had gone off to war with Tappan, the building was reconstructed by the young and the old and was completed in 1863.

The town hall remained a focal point of the community and reflected the pride of Bradford. In addition to town meetings, the first floor of the town hall was used as a school. The second floor became a theater. The stage was in constant use for orations and political debate. The theater was a popular place, and the backdrop that is still there today was painted by the famous artist, playwright and actor Charles Washington Henry. He is known to have done backdrops in just a few New England towns. There were several vaudeville entertainers from Bradford. Square dancing was a favorite pastime, and this all took place here with the musicians and caller on stage. With the advent of basketball, the upstairs area also served as an indoor court, although small and not what we would have today, but rural people made do with what they had.

This town hall still serves Bradford. The town is starting to restore the building, removing mold, lead paint and other potential hazards. The building was constructed when there was little consideration as to energy savings, and improvements will also make the building efficient in that regard. We also need to make the building more handicap accessible so that the second floor can be used again as a performing arts area.

The Bradford Town Hall is in the federal registry of historic places. This building is a tremendous source of pride today as it was 216 years ago when it was built and as it was 150 years ago when it was moved to its current location.

Last month, the selectmen established the Town Hall Maintenance and Renovation Trust account. This account may be used for money raised through fundraising events and for private contributions, including tax-deductible donations. You may also volunteer with the Bradford Town Hall Restoration Committee in order to bring town hall restoration to fruition.

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