By James Pruitt
In groups of three or four, visitors toured the Montpelier Village Hall to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the structure.
The skies outside were blue, and the mood inside was just as festive as visitors partook of cake and cookies and ventured into the upper floor of the hall. The simple reason for the tours was the village wanted to show off the hall for its birthday, Director of Finance Kelly Hephner said.
The upper floor used to house the police department and dispatch, Hephner said on the tour. The village council used to meet at the hall, but space limitations forced the move to the police station. Dispatch is now handled through Bryan. The renovations gave the village manager a larger office and moved the Clerk of Council to the former dispatch area. The engineer’s office now occupies the former police station. The basement, which still has the old jail and the third floor, which used to host basketball games and vaudeville shows, were off limits.
Fiscal Officer said the upper floor was really cool and woodworking fans would appreciate the intricate work, but there were bats up there and the village didn’t want anyone being swooped down upon. The space now houses records, Hephner said. A timeline provided by the village notes the Enterprise newspaper wrote editorials calling for a new hall as early as April 1884. At the time, the editor said the existing hall was a disgrace to be used as a hog pen. The editorials continued in 1889, but the idea was abandoned in 1890.
In January 1891 the town council got a majority to place the current hall on the old park ground. Ground was broken in August 1892. It was a joint project for the village and Superior Township. It was built at a cost of $4,190.85 (about $107,000 in today’s dollars).
The mayor (J.D. Hill) moved in to the hall in January 1893. Health officials closed the building in 1921 and after renovations and the addition of restrooms and a basement, the building reopened sometime in 1923. In 1945, the village council approved a $25,000 levy for a fire station at the hall. The station opened in 1947. Over the years, the upper floor ceased to be open to the public as the fire escape had to be torn down.
In 1976, after the new fire station was built on Monroe Street, the old station was renovated into the utilities office. In 1977, the police department occupied the main building. In 1985, the band stand was added in memory of J.W. Bill Winzeler. The ramp was also added to the building.
In 1995, the garden was installed to the yard in honor of the village’s sesquicentennial. In 2001, the police move to their current home on Empire Street. The council moves there as well for meetings. The hall is renovated to expand the village manager’s office to use the old council chamber.
In 2015, a slate roof was replaced by steel and security improvements were included.