EASTBROOK — Built 135 years ago, the Eastbrook Town House could be called the Swiss Army Knife of buildings.
Over the years it has served as a dance hall, polling place, movie theater and site of town meetings, plays, socials and Christmas parties. It was, according to a history of the building, where one “Marion Bartlett DeMeyer spoke her first piece” and beginning in the 1980s was used as a library.
The last book was checked out years ago, however. The building has since become a residence for bats and rodents, littered with droppings and broken glass from windows and marked by water stains from melting snow and falling rain.
The situation got so bad that in 2013, a motion was made at the annual Town Meeting to have the Town House torn or burned down. The proposal failed, in part, because the building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
A group of residents wants to change the status quo, however, and once again make the building a hub of the community.
The building was added to the Register in 1978. Mike Pullen is an architect who has worked with the residents, and committee member Diane Collar said he told them the building is “an excellent example of Greek Revival architecture.”
The history of the building has a detailed list of all the expenses incurred in its construction. John D. Crimmin, for example, was paid $4.46 on March 5, 1881, for “oil, locks, knobs, bolts, etc.”
Washington Abbott was paid a total of $248.77, according to Collar, and the history notes he was a “top-notch carpenter” who actually built the Town House.
The plan to erect eight wind turbines in town as part of a larger wind farm brings with it the potential for millions of tax dollars. That money must be used for economic development, however, and the Town House committee sees a chance to reinvent the old building.
“We would like to make this a place for artists to come, or maybe in the summer a farmers market could be outside,” Collar said. “Maybe get some people from out of town to come to Eastbrook.”
Collar and others spent a recent morning cleaning up the inside of the building. For Collar, the effort is personal. Her mother, Marion (Gordon) Collar, was born in Eastbrook — one of 18 children of her thrice-married father — and came back to town when she retired.
It was Marion Collar who got the library up and running in 1981, using the book collection she had built over 40 years as its basis.
The stipulation that tax dollars from the wind project must be used for economic development means using the building as a library in the future is not an option.
Benefits from the wind project will not materialize until the project is operational years from now, and getting the building into a condition where it can be used for other purposes will require money in the meantime.
Diane Collar and others have a plan. On Sunday, Sept. 27, they will hold an open house at the Town House to coincide with one of the Greenwood Grange’s well-known monthly breakfasts.
The breakfast will run from 6:30-10 a.m. at the Grange hall (917 Eastbrook Road, across from the town’s fire station and Baptist Church).
The open house at the Town House, which is next door to the Baptist Church, will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors can step inside and get a look at the Town House, and are also welcome to leave with any of the old books, many of which are from the 1960s and ’70s.
In return, organizers hope those who take books will make a donation to help with the effort to restore the Town House.
Collar said the committee hopes to do an assessment of the building — find out what work needs to be done and in what order — and then act accordingly.
The building will definitely need a foundation, and the committee has applied for — but not yet heard back on — grant money to help with that work.