For fifty years, a daily habit of William Grant, local builder,
was to write in his diary. A sampling of the entries is used
to tell the story of "Bill" Grant building the present
Town Hall. This was the second Town Hall he had supervised,
having designed a wooden structure erected 1891-92 on the site
of the Post Office and Masonic Hall on Maple Ave. This building
burned July 4, 1894 along with the rest of the business section.
The town officers felt there should be a replacement.
July 28, 1894 - Town meeting to rebuild town hall. Clear
Apr. 15, 1895 - Mr. Williams of Ogdensburg, Architect
for the new town hall in town looking over the sights to locate.
Apr. 18, 1895 - the Town Board located the Town Hall on the
May 27, 1895 - made contract to build Town Hall
May 28, 1895 - let job to Rosco Todd and Norris
Rushton to deliver the stone for $3.75 per cord 128 ft.
12, 1895 - helping square basement to town hall. Dick Moran
and Ashabel Earl to work.
June 29, 1895 - Went down to Gouverneur
with Dick Moran. Bought marble of John Webb for $79.00. Expenses
July 1, 1895 - Finished foundation. Settled up with
July 2, 1895 - Went to Potsdam to buy sandstone with
Miles. Expenses $5.41.
July 22, 1895 - began laying sandstone.
Aug. 7, 1895 - to work on Town Hall ½ day. rain & wind.
Water tank run over.
Aug. 19, 1895 - to work on Town Hall.
some rain. masons laid off for to get on joice.
1895 - Iron girders, posts and sandstone came. got them over
to Town Hall.
Oct. 25, 1895 - hired blacksmith to work on
roof of hall. began to work at noon.
Oct. 26, 1895 - to work
in shop making window frames for roof and ventilators.
12, 1895 - to work helping fit roofing steel. fine weather.
Nov. 15, 1895 - to work on town hall, some rain misty. 62 years
Nov. 20, 1895 - finished chimney on town hall.
Nov. 26, 1895 - furnace to hall come.
Dec. 6, 1895 - to work
on casings for stage. Men putting in windows in town hall.
Dec. 10, 1895 - Cross brothers began to plaster town hall.
Dec. 23, 1895 - Boys laying floor in hall.
Mar 24, 1896 -
Band concert in town hall. Receipt $41.95.
Apr. 18, 1896
- helping on town hall cleaning up shavings & painting window
Apr. 25, 1896 - Around home & village. Special
town meeting to vote for $400 to seat town hall.
1896 - to work in shop making letters for town hall.
13, 1896 - to work in shop. finished letters.
The above entries were page 31 of the Edwards Bicentennial
book, "Edwards on the Oswegatchie" and titled "History
In A Diary".
|The newspapers of the time kept the
townspeople abreast of the progress of the building
of the new Town Hall in 1895-96 by Wm. Grant, and then
described the activities that took place in the building
through the years that it was the main site of happenings
in the community.
When it was voted to build the Hall the newspaper
noted that the firm of Johnson & Williams of Ogdensburg
was commissioned to design it. They also had designed
the St. Lawrence County Courthouse as well as other
north country structures.
After the building was completed the Town Board voted
$400 to purchase 336 "plain oak chairs, guaranteed
for ten years". These chairs were for the upstairs
auditorium and are still in use, so it appears the Board
got their money's worth.
The Town Hall ca. 1896
|On the stage still hangs the original roll down
curtain made of unbleached muslin with an intricate
hand painted scene on it. The artists' initials, a B
overwritten with a Y, and the date 1897 written in the
lower right hand corner are plainly visible. A news
item of 6 April 1897 notes - "Great satisfaction
is being expressed in the work of Messrs. Yerance and
Berry, the scenic artists, who are painting the scenery
for the town hall. They gave entertainments in the hall
last Friday and Saturday evenings, which were well attended.
They present the comedy drama, 'Kathleen's Dream', next
|This upstairs auditorium, with a stage, was termed
the "Opera House" and was used for nearly
all the programs of interest to the public. One of the
programs noted in a news article was - Feb 1898 - "Widow
McGinty" was put on by the Masons in the Town Hall.
Total receipts were $68.00. Profit to the Masons $47.00.
The school in the village had no facilities for public
gatherings so all programs involving the students were
held in the Opera House. From the first graduating class
in 1914 through the class of 1935 graduation ceremonies
took place in the Main Street Town Hall in the upstairs
Medicine Shows were one of the entertainments that
came to town and held the interest of the people with
vaudeville type acts while expecting the audience to
buy whatever patent medicine they were selling as a
way to make a living. One medicine show mentioned in
Velma Hall's diary was in September 1918. She wrote
that "the Franklin Medicine Show was here all week
in the Town Hall - free shows". On another occasion,
in 1930, she mentioned that a show played to large crowds
and charged 10 cents a show.
A view of the artists' initials and date on the curtain.
Another show that was sure to bring the parents to an evening's
entertainment was a "Tom Thumb" wedding. A company
specializing in this would come to town, enlist nearly every
child in the village to be part of the "wedding" and
provide costumes (which weren't very clean and needed mending
usually). This took very little preparation on the children's
part and ensured the outside company of a full house of proud
parents paying to see their children on stage, thus making a
profit for the promoters. The children, while having their "fifteen
minutes of fame", were promised ice cream as a reward for
their cooperation during the show. While a number of Tom Thumb
Weddings were recalled, one has its program preserved. This
particular one was sponsored by the Eastern Stars organization
and held on 26 May 1922. It is recalled that the little three
year old girl (Helena Freeman Evans) who played the Maid Of
Honor nibbled on her bouquet all through the performance.
The beginning of silent movies in Edwards wasn't found, but
apparently it was before 1917 because Mrs. Velma Hall wrote
in her diary on 15 October 1917 that Myron B. Clark and Mott
Meldrim bought the movies from "Frenchy". (Frenchy,
was found to be Frandy Dulack, who lived next door to the Town
A view of the "Opera House" in its early days
|Silent films needed music to make them "come
alive" and one of the early pianists was Ruth Bancroft
Adams. Later, Myron Clark's married daughter, Eva Clark
Gore, played for the films. At the time Mrs. Gore was
the pianist, our present historian, Edith Cleland Duffy
was a small child and a friend of Mrs. Gore's daughter,
Lucille. She would sometimes sit together with her friend
when they were at the movies at the same time. They
would watch Mrs. Gore as her very talented fingers followed
the plot and adjusted the piano music to the action
on the screen - all without any written music.
When "talkies" came into being, Roy and
Lee Meldrim, sons of Mott Meldrim, brought them to Edwards
Town Hall Theater after a hiatus of no movies for about
a year. Mrs. Hall's diary notes on 19 December 1930
- "First talkies started tonight. They were all
right. They have not got the machine so it works very
Movies were held in the Town Hall until television became
more popular and attendance dropped off in the mid 1950's. James
Edwards ran the theater in the late 1940's until around 1951/2.
Then Wm. Clark and Grant Webb bought the business and Clark
was the last proprietor.
The room that seemed to be a favorite for conducting businesses,
was the ground floor room on the front left. Among the first
businesses established there was a dentist's office. Dr. Willis
Campbell moved into the village in May 1897 and set up his office
there. He attended to the dental needs of the community and
surrounding area until he purchased a Main Street building of
his own in 1906 where he had his residence as well as his dental
office for the remainder of his long life.
This room was a barbershop for a variety of tonsorial artists.
One enterprising barber, Fred Dulack, also had a public bath
in his shop, presumed to have been in the back of the shop about
where the vault is today. A relaxing bath in a large tub of
hot water would have been a real luxury in the days when indoor
plumbing had not yet arrived in Edwards. Of course this luxury
was available only to the male population of the community.
In November 1906 the Post Office moved into the front, left
room on the ground floor of the Town Hall. There it stayed until
the community organized a bank and that group wanted the bank
in the Town Hall. The Post Office moved to the location on Maple
Ave. in the Masonic Hall until 1976 when there was a new building
erected for it on East Main Street.
The Town Hall ca. 1911
|The officers of the First National Bank
purchased a walk-in vault, which was installed in the
back portion of the much used front, left room in the
Town Hall and conducted business in that room beginning
27 June 1914. This same vault is in use today as safe,
fireproof storage for valuable town and village records.
The Bank did business in the Town Hall until it needed
a bigger area and moved across the street in the brick
building on the corner of Main St. and Maple Ave.
Now this same front room is used as the Town Board
office and business is done there every day.
The center front section appears to have always been a lobby
from which people could pass through to the basement, or the
rear room, or wait a turn to buy a ticket for a program in the
second floor Opera House. At times one could also buy popcorn
or soft drink while enjoying intermission, or going to a movie.
In 1990/91 a major portion of this space was remodeled into
an office for the village officials.
The ground floor rear section was an open room for a long
time with only an area partitioned off with iron bars making
two cells for unruly townspeople who perhaps had imbibed too
much "Tanglefoot" on a Saturday night, or were involved
in some other undesirable activity. The newspaper correspondent
for Edwards referred to it as the "Blackhole". When
it was deemed that the cells were no longer needed, Stanley
Given bought the cells to use the bars in the addition to his
new dairy barn on the Fine Road, Route 58, in 1964. (Farm now
owned by Robert Hathaway).
Town and village board meetings were held in this room and
it was noted in an early Book of Minutes that members had to
bring their own kerosene for fuel to keep warm during meetings
in the cold months of the year. Also on Election Day voting
is always held in that room.
The "Opera House" ca. 1976
|About 1970, a portion of the rear room
was partitioned off for a small museum for the Historian,
Miss Leah Noble, in which to house her growing collection
of artifacts. In the museum there is a back staircase
leading up to back stage so participants in shows could
come downstairs to change or wait their turn on stage
in the Opera House.
Now the remainder of the room is used regularly for
the assessors' office, the judges' office and local
Secular programs were not the only activities held
in the Opera House. When Edwards Catholics wanted to
be active members of their religion, but had no church
building, the priests held Mass for them in the Town
Hall. This worked fine until a fallen away Catholic
objected to religious services being held in a public
building (he lived next door to the Town Hall), so the
practice had to be discontinued.
One of the citizens of Edwards always took an active
interest in his adopted community. He had been born
in Russia, but, as a child, immigrated with his parents
to Clayton, NY. When the United States was in WWI, the
newspaper of 30 May 1917 noted that a flagpole, purchased
by Morris Rothenburg, was placed on the lawn of the
Town Hall. During WWII he purchased a large sign, and
had painted on it the names of all the residents of
Edwards who joined the military to serve their country.
He then had this sign placed on the front lawn of the
Town Hall. It stayed there all during the war, then
was stored in the old fire hall behind the Town Hall
and forgotten. In 2004 it was discovered, refurbished,
and now hangs in the courtroom in the Town Hall as a
memorial to Edwards veterans of WWII.
The Town Hall of Edwards has been the site of some
unusual as well as serious events. In the mid
1930's, not too long after Prohibition was repealed,
Sherman Brown was driving his 1936 Buick down Maple
Ave. toward Main St. and, having been participating
in a "Happy Hour", neglected to stop
at the intersection and drove right up onto the front
porch of the venerable building.
|His speed was such, (a resident of Maple Ave. remarked
that he went by his house "doing at least 70 Miles
per hour"), that the car went through the nearly
twelve inches thick stone front of the Hall pushing
the octagonal ticket booth located near the front of
the lobby to the back of that room, smashing it flat
against the wall. The story goes that it was half
an hour before the wheels stopped spinning!
Frank Hall, local handyman and mason, was hired to
rebuild the front wall in the same design as before
the accident, but the ticket booth was beyond repair
and therefore discarded. A description of the
booth was given as - 'An octagonal booth with a wooden
lower portion about four feet high and painted black.
The upper section made of glass and the whole
structure just big enough around for one person to be
inside.' While the building suffered considerable
damage, apparently Sherm was not hurt particularly.
The town hall as it appears today.
In 1998 there were a number of renovations to the
Hall including a new roof and the trim around the building
being painted white (as opposed to the usual dark green).
The Town Hall, built of durable sandstone and marble,
stands in a prominent place on Main St., visible and
accessible to all. If it could talk, it would have marvelous
stories to tell of life in Edwards from 1895 to the
present, because it has seen a "heap of livin'".