Members of the public will have an opportunity to see the results of efforts to renovate Bordentown’s Old City Hall during an open house on Saturday and Sunday, June 16 and 17.
The event, sponsored by Bordentown’s Old City Hall Restoration Project Committee, from noon to 4 p.m. on both days, is the first community activity at the building since renovations started.
Those attending will have an opportunity to meet with committee members and tour the building, built in 1888, which has served as the mayor’s office, police department, fire department, and court.
At dusk on June 16, a recently produced documentary about Halloween in Bordentown, “Thompson Street,” will be screened. The film documents the Bordentown City’s Halloween traditions, specifically the transformation of Thompson Street and the annual parade.
The documentary looks at the months of preparation leading up to Halloween, the events on the holiday, and the transformation of a one-block neighborhood over the two to three-month period.
The movie was produced by Random Thought Pictures, a digital film and creative services company with documentaries at the heart of their mission. A trailer can be seen at www.randomthought.tv/Thompson_Street.
The open house caps a four-year fundraising effort by a six-member committee to restore the landmark building, located on Crosswicks Street. Renovations include repairs to peeling walls and a leaky roof, replacement of old lighting fixtures, installation of a fire safety compression system, upgrades to the plumbing and electric, and the installation of a new heating system. Almost everything has received a fresh coat of paint.
The restoration is expected to continue for several more years and doesn’t have a scheduled completion date, committee co-chair Carol Hill said in an article printed in the Bordentown Current, the community newspaper.
She points out that although the committee wants to turn the building into a space where groups can hold meetings or rent out the space for events, they don’t want to take away from its historical appeal.
“Our group’s goal is to try to stay within the spirit of the Victorian times,” says Hill. For example, new electric chandeliers installed in the building’s upper level were all made from die casts from original moldings.
“They’re all appropriate for the building and age of the building. We don’t want to do anything that’s inappropriate for the age of the building, but we do want to bring it into the 21st century, so we’re trying to be as respectful as we can,” says Hill.
The main room on the first floor — once the home of the police department — also features four old jail cells, one of which has assorted prison art under a layer of peeling paint.
A stairway leads upstairs to what used to be the court and offices. The original balustrade that blocked the judge’s seat no longer stands but is stored in the firehouse side of the building.
Other historical objects include a horse-drawn fire engine and the original water pump for the city. “We still have a lot of the old fire stuff here, so eventually we’d like to have a little museum,” Hill says.
The building’s use as a city hall ended in the 1960s. Since then it was used for voting, community and senior citizen group meetings, and a group that ran a coffee house. For a short time it was the home of the Bordentown Historical society.
Since the committee formed, it has raised about $18,000, with most of the money going towards repairs.
“The first two years, we didn’t have enough money to do anything. It was constant fundraising. We cleaned the building to have our functions,” Hill says. “It was last year and this year that we’ve had enough money.”