The historic building at 45 Main Street, Newtown’s Edmond Town Hall, is about to get some special attention thanks to a fairly recent Wilton transplant. Hayden Bates, who lived for the first quarter-century of his life in Wilton, moved to Newtown and discovered Edmond Town Hall and its amenities two years ago.
“I moved into town in July 2009 and I remember driving down that main strip for the first time, taking in all those sights. I spent a lot of summers growing up in Nantucket, and the architecture there on Mains Street really brought back a lot of memories,” Mr Bates said last week.
The first time he went into the building, he believes, was when he and some friends paid their $2 per ticket to see a screening of The Fantastic Mr Fox.
“You walk into that main area there and you’re hit with the smell of popcorn, and the candy stand. It’s a very inviting atmosphere, even if it isn’t very formal,” Mr Bates continued. “I love pulling open those giant wood doors and walking into the theater. I remember thinking this would be a perfect place to have concerts, not even knowing at the time that they do that sometimes.”
One of town benefactress Mary Elizabeth Hawley’s gifts to Newtown, Edmond Town Hall was constructed in the late 1920s, dedicated in 1930, and was named for Miss Hawley’s maternal great-grandfather, Judge William Edmond. The town’s former town hall (which also used to house a bowling alley) is now under the supervision of a bipartisan elected Board of Managers, including a full-time manager who supervises the maintenance of the building.
While the majority of the town offices moved into Newtown Municipal Center by late 2009, the building is still home to a formal office for Newtown Chamber of Commerce, along with the Borough of Newtown office, the town historian’s office, Newtown Parent Connection, Newtown VNA’s Thrift Shop, and Lathrop School of Dance.
Edmond Town Hall also offers a variety of rooms for all occasions, including the Alexandria Room for weddings, parties, and recitals; a gymnasium for sports, parties, and craft shows; and its theater, which screens films for $2 a ticket and hosts public concerts and other special events.
With nearly 100 years of steady use, the building is due for some upgrades. Newtown Lions Club did a major overhaul of the theater’s seating a few years ago, but Mr Bates says there is still plenty that can be renovated to return the building to its original glory.
“You don’t have to have much of an imagination to picture how the building would have looked when it was dedicated in 1930. Simply put, it probably looks a lot now like it did then, for better or for worse,” Mr Bates said in part in a letter in the June 3 issue of The Newtown Bee. “The Edmond conjures up nostalgia for old-fashioned New England even as it cries out for 21st Century amenities. It means so much to so many people, and yet I think it has the potential to be so much more.”
Mr Bates would like to see the movie theater in the former town hall receive some financial attention and upgrades, beginning with a Blu-Ray projector.
“Not only would the image look a million times better, but the Edmond would be able to play many more films than it can now via this technology,” he said. Technological updates would do more than create a better movie experience, he said.
“Imagine how much more vibrant the live music experience would be with state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems,” said Mr Bates. “An overhaul of the electrical system, new paint, new stage curtains... the list of needed improvements is extensive.”
Over the past year, Mr Bates has developed the idea for a series of live concerts, “At The Edmond for The Edmond,” he says.
Music For The Edmond
The first show is scheduled for Friday, June 17, at 8 pm, and will showcase Providence, R.I.-based indie folk-rock quartet The Low Anthem. The group released its latest album, Smart Flesh, in February, spent part of last year touring with Emmylou Harris, went on the road earlier this year with Iron & Win, and just wrapped opening duties for one leg of the Mumford & Sons tour.
Mr Bates met The Low Anthem lead singer Ben Knox Miller when the band was performing in Ridgefield last summer. The two stayed in touch, and when plans began forming for the Edmond Town Hall fundraisers, Mr Miller was immediately agreeable to performing here.
Opening next Friday night will be another Providence-based band, Brown Bird. An original band which draws influence from country, blues and eastern European music, Brown Bird’s members are David Lamb (vocals, guitar, banjo, percussion), MorganEve Swain (vocals, violin, viola, cello, ukulele), Mike Samos (dobro, lap steel, electric guitar), Jeremy Robinson (vocals, accordion, banjo) and Jerusha Robinson (vocals, cello).
“Our friends The Low Anthem — who took us to Europe with them [as part of the Mumford & Sons tour] and are longtime friends — invited us to join the bill when they play at The Edmond Town Hall on the 17,” said Ms Swain, a Newtown native who graduated from Newtown High School in 2003. “Of course, I am elated. It’s obviously very special to me that I’ll be able to come perform in my hometown.”
Tickets are $24.99 each, and can be ordered through EdmondTownHall.org/TheLowAnthem.
Every dollar of profit from the June 17 show will go toward updating and restoring the Edmond. Mr Bates plans to continue fundraising efforts, with The Low Anthem show to be just the first show of a larger series devoted to this cause.
“The future of the projects is very much predicated on the response of next week’s show,” said Mr Bates, who is working with Jennifer Rogers and Newtown Cultural Arts Commission on bringing the series to fruition. Because the funds raised will all be turned over to the town hall board of managers for use in building upkeep at their discretion, Mr Bates has been given a break on the normal rental fee to use the theater.