Town Hall History

Mar 5, 2012 by

Town Hall History

History of the Mokelumne Hill Town Hall
Mokelumne Hill History Society: Julia Costello and Paula Leitzell

Assessor’s Number: 18-007-42
Size: 0.17 acres
Owner: Mokelumne Hill Veterans’ Memorial District

Old Town Hall: Prior to demolition in about 1895. Photo by Edith Irvine.

Featured Photo: Old Town Hall: Prior to demolition in about 1895. Photo by Edith Irvine.

The lot where the Town Hall sits was purchased by the Eagle Hook and Ladder Co. in 1863 and a firehouse was erected. This building burned down in the disastrous fire of 1874 which destroyed much of town (Community Plan: 13). In 1875 a new firehouse was constructed: a two-story wooden building measuring about 28 feet wide and 60 feet long. The first floor contained rooms for fire trucks as well as a “banquet” room. The second story held the town hall. Across the present alley north of the Town Hall was another fire company building housing equipment (Sanborn Maps 1890-1898). By the 1890s the building was in poor repair with the siding curling up and the nearly half of the roof shingles gone.

TH 1890 Sanborn

This 1890 map shows previous town hall on second floor.

In 1900 the old building was razed and the present building constructed as the town’s community hall and theatre with a stage at the west end. This new construction was undertaken by the citizens of Mokelumne Hill through donations of cash and volunteer labor. Like the earlier building, it filled the width of the 36-foot-wide lot, however the length was increased to 108 feet. The one-story frame building was placed on continuous stone footings on the sides and rear while the front was supported on piers. The long wooden floor joists were notched in to each other, providing a continuous span from the street to the rear of the building. The front third of the building (the portion not included in the basement) still has these intact joists supported by posts on stone slabs.

The alley that once passed to the south of the building (currently the Yocoms’ driveway) was abandoned at this time and a small frame office added off the southeast corner. The entrance was a porch that spanned the width of the front; the rest rooms and kiosk had not yet been built.


Office adjacent on south. Photo by Edith Irvine

Office adjacent on south. Photo by Edith Irvine

Office adjacent on south. Photo by Edith Irvine

At this time the property was owned by the town through three trustees: Mae Stuckey, John Gnecco, and Tom Peters (McSorley newspaper article). In 1930, the Community Club was organized, raising money to support the Town Hall through card parties and dances. Following the death of the last trustee, Mae Stuckey, the Community Club assumed full responsibility for the building. Particularly active at this time were Percy Peek, Alex Lombardi, Harry James, Bob Irvine, Daryl Potter, George Pennebaker and Ed Norton. Over twenty organizations used the Town Hall for their meetings and events. The Womens’ Club, founded in 1936, was a major fundraising organization for the Town Hall.


1912 Map: Towh hall “theatre” with office.

In 1936 the current basement was excavated out underneath the building by WPA crews. Sixty feet long and the full 35-feet wide it was framed by thick stone retaining walls on the east and north sides, and a stone wall with window and door on the rear, west façade. The east side was formed of concrete

1912 Map: Towh hall "theatre" with office.

1912 Map: Towh hall “theatre” with office.

poured into board forms. A kitchen and dining room were installed (McSorley newspaper article). The 1936 stone foundations for this lower level are thick and nicely faced, mortared with Portland cement. The earlier (1900) foundations were considerably thinner and consisted of undressed stone fixed with a soft lime mortar (the older footings can be seen along the north side of the building, east of the basement). [May 1, 1963?]

With a kitchen and dining hall now added to the building more events could be held. Until recent years, all eating in the town hall was strictly confined to the lower level. The Women’s Club also renovated the empty space over the rest-rooms as their meeting room, adding cupboards, a sink, and closets to store costumes. Sometime between 1930 and 1950s the small office to the south of the hall was torn down and the front porch renovated to include two restrooms and a central kiosk.

Another crisis occurred in 1958 when the hall was in danger of being condemned by the state for lack of fire escapes from the basement. Other repairs were also needed and the townspeople rallied once again.

Office building removed, front renovated. Edith Irvine photo.

Office building removed, front renovated. Edith Irvine photo.

With donations of cash, materials, and volunteer labor (including volunteer painters from San Andreas) the work was accomplished. A door was added to the east end of the basement, leading to stairs coming up on the south side. Prominent in this effort were Clayton Chatfield, Bob Swanson, Cyril Winkler, Joe Mathos, Eugene Peterson, Lee Androus, Tyler Yale, and Ernie Smith while the Women’s Club prepared lunches and coffee for the workers (McSorley article).

1948 Pageant

“Talent” shows (“follies”) were held every year in the late 1950s and early 1960s, distinguished by elaborate costumes, songs, dances, and general exuberance by the town mothers and fathers. Most local clubs used the town hall for their meetings and events and the school held recitals and graduation ceremonies here. Dances were common.

In 1963 the fate of the Town Hall was again at a turning point. Financially strapped, it had avoided being sold for delinquent taxes on two occasions by appealing to the town for support. As a result of a TH 1948.previewtown-wide meeting in May of 1963, it was decided to turn the building over to the Mokelumne Hill Veterans’ Memorial District which had access to county maintenance funds and was not subject to annual taxes. The town had saved its building once again!

From 1979 through the mid 1980s another series of renovations were carried out. The kitchen was remodeled and wood veneer added to the downstairs while the main hall received florescent lights (ceiling lowered), a bar, and new windows. A Time Capsule was buried under liquid amber tree in 1976.

The Mokelumne Hill Veterans District currently owns and manages this property (as well as the series of town parks) for the community. It is again time for us all to pull together and make sure it is here for another 100 years.

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