Rarely, am I surprised by anything in Holyoke, but a little tour of city hall with the Holyoke Historical Commission on Thursday turned into a surprising discovery.
Holyoke City Hall Slideshow
The Historical Commission has just recently fleshed out into what I would call a viable group. Regular monthly meetings over the past year have seen attendance increase dramatically. They went from 3 lonely Commissioners two years ago to several new commissioners being appointed, and many historically concerned residents regularly attending meetings.
The tour started in the great hall on the second floor. The Historical Commission had been asked by Mayor Pluta, and others if it could help with grant writing for the funds to repair some broken stained glass windows. The Commission decided to have a full tour of the building to examine what needs attention, and familiarize its members with the structure.
The maintenance guy didn't have keys to the bell tower, so that would have to wait for another day, but the group began to explore the unused rooms of the upper floors. I really had no idea all there was so much unused space is up here, or that they're in such bad shape.
The maintenance guy didn't have a key to the padlock on this door either.
Without elevator access this space hasn't been much use to city in years. The further we climbed, the more dark empty rooms we found. The lights don't work in most of these areas.
The idea of the Historical Commission establishing an archive office of its own has come up recently, and the apparent availability of this previously unknown space was not lost on the Commissioners, and Associates. The Commission has struggled with access to records stored at Wistariahurst, and the History Room for years. Without any place to keep records of its own, the work of the Commission moves at a snails pace. This is one of the reasons the Historical Commission hasn't updated its property inventory forms since the 70's.
Because the Commission has no place to live, it looses the thread of continuity between new, and old commissioners. Even though the Commission has recently become very robust, it still struggles to exercise its powers.
The attic space looks like something from the set of a Hollywood movie.
Down to the basement to find where the bodies are buried.
The basement is chock full of old records, and antique equipment. There's also a pistol range down here.
The flooded zone. Where it goes, no body knows....
The tour lasted for an hour and a half. I could have spent at least another hour just taking photos.
When it was completed in 1875, The Holyoke city hall was called "The finest public building in Massachusetts west of Boston".
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