Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Southeast Old Town Hall is located at 67 Main Street, Brewster, New York in Putnam County. It was constructed in 1896, the architects having been selected through an open bid process. The town solicited designs through local newspapers and even in the New York Real Estate Record and Builders Guide (January 5, 1895). After months of searching and after it appeared that a local Brewster architect had won the bid, a surprise announcement was made:
Child [&] de Goll, 67 New Street, N.Y., are the dark horses who jumped into the competition at the eleventh hour and captivated the Town Board by showing on paper the neatest, most artistic and most practical public hall ever constructed outside of a municipality. It is a beauty and it is no wonder it received four votes against 2 votes divided among the other five competitors. (The Brewster Standard, May 3, 1895)
Child & de Goll’s final winning design responded to the unique needs of the town for municipal functions with an office for the town clerk and judge’s quarters, but in fact much of the building footprint served a broader civic need – providing the community with gathering spaces for social and cultural functions. The top floor of the building houses a 4000 square foot theater and the middle floor served as a dancing hall. In the early 20th century, a small jail was added to the rear of the building.
The building served as the seat of Town government until 1965, when the town moved its primary offices to another historic structure on Main Street. Yet, it continued to play an instrumental role in cultural and social activities. The local youth program was housed in the building, the Southeast Players staged productions in the theater space and the Southeast Museum found a home in the former “dancing hall” on the middle level. Then, in the 1980’s fire safety code requirements lead to the closing of the top floor theater space. While use of this wonderfully and renown acoustic space has been unavailable for decades, several years ago the Town of Southeast Cultural Arts Commission (TOSCAC) brought back concerts, art and theater activities to the ground floor space. TOSCAC made improvements to the old basement floor, but the main upper level theater space suffers from non-use. Additionally, we face the problems of many 100+ year buildings - aging infrastructure and building systems and critical exterior envelope issues.
The restoration of Old Town Hall will:
·Align with historical preservation principles
·Satisfy building code requirements
·Be a self-sustaining cultural center with theater, arts space, and museum
·Serve as catalyst to revitalize Brewster Village
Restoration efforts began more than 40 years ago. At least five different sets of architects did substantial work on the endeavor. The difference this time is that a volunteer not-for-profit organization, the Town of Southeast Cultural Arts Coalition (TOSCAC), has stepped in to promote and raise funds for the project and to operate a theater and cultural arts center at the facility.
TOSCAC began spearheading the project in 2010 making real progress as follows:
Contact us at info@CulturalArtsCo.com or (845) 363-8330 for more information. If you would like to become involved in the restoration effort or make a donation, please let us know. CAC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation; donations are tax deductible.