City Hall : Mendon Center's Building of Many Uses

    In Mendon's electric street railway days in the early 1900's, a trip from Milford to Uxbridge included
    passing through Mendon center. It was customary for the conductors to announce certain landmarks
    along the route, so when the trolleys travelled along Main Street, they would announce that they were
    passing in front of "City Hall." It was a nickname that they had given to the small, brick federal style
    building at 13 Main Street. The humorous nickname was partially accurate. The historic structure has
    had many names and a variety of uses since it was built eighty-one years before the trolley existed.

    The first use of the building was for a law office.  Attorney Seth Hastings had it built in 1820 for his
    family law firm. It included his sons, Atty. William Soden Hastings and Atty. Charles C. P. Hastings,
    and his son-in-law,  Atty. Caleb Hayward, who was married to his daughter, Mary. William was also the
    town's postmaster, so he used part of the building as a post office. It had a dual purpose until 1836,
    when William decided to move to Virginia to become a congressman. Seth had died in 1831, and
    Caleb had passed away in 1832. Charles moved his law practice to his father's former bank at 3 Main
    Street. The building's legal and postal uses ended after sixteen years.

    Jabez Aldrich purchased the edifice in 1836 and used it as a general store. He also was the
    storekeeper at the larger general store at 1 Maple Street. When he died in 1837, his sons, Henry and
    William took over the operation of both stores. An 1857 map shows that brother-in-law, James
    Cunnabel, ran a tailor shop from the building. The Aldrich family retained ownership until 1889.

    The town authorized the purchase of the brick building at a town meeting on March 4, 1889, which was
    continued to April 6. The purchase price was  $500. Its purpose was for the storage of town records,
    weights and measures, and town law books. It also provided office space for town officials to conduct
    their work. The inside woodwork was oiled, and the walls were calcimined. New windows and doors
    were installed, and new safes were put into the vault. The cost of the renovations was $253. The
    selectmen, Gustavus B. Williams, Albert W. Gaskill, and Liberty Freeman, conducted their first meeting
    there on October 5, 1889. The building continued to be used for a variety of governmental purposes
    through the 1960's. As improvements were made in the Mendon Town Hall in regards to new office
    rooms, the documents and books were moved to the improved location. Today, the building is
    commonly called the Record Room, and it stores historic materials under the jurisdiction of the
    Mendon Historical Society.

    City Hall has served the people of Mendon in many ways  since 1820. Its durable brick structure has
    weathered the elements and endured the wear and tear of 193 years. The philosophy of its
    successive owners has been to adapt the interior of the building in accordance with its proposed use.
    It is one of the many examples of why our historic  village center is mostly intact today.

    Richard Grady
    May 9, 2013

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