Town Hall (Postcard;
Interior Town Hall
Photos by Gavin Ralbag
The Grange Hall was built in 1832 as Gilbertsville's
Presbyterian Church, the earliest church building in the village. It was
built by the Rockwell brothers, a family of builders who moved to
Gilbertsville from New England. Later generations of Rockwells continued
as carpenters and ran a lumber business on Marion Avenue, next to the
Empire Hotel, through the early part of this century.
Hall is a pleasing mix of traditional New England meetinghouse design and
the Greek Revival style which was popular in the 1830s. The clock in the
steeple was probably installed around 1850. The Presbyterian congregation
held services at the Hall until 1884, when it moved to new quarters.
In February, 1889 the building was bought at auction by John Henry
Gilbert. Four years later he gave it to the newly-formed Village
Improvement Society for use as the Village Hall. Then in 1899, the Hall
was turned over to the town and used as the Town Hall. In was after this
time that the stage was added on the main floor, and a hand-painted
scenery curtain was added in 1903. The pulpit of the original Presbyterian
Church was removed and installed as a balcony on the second story of Oxbow
House on Rt. 51 (now owned by the Simon family), and can still be seen
there. The church bell was also moved to Oxbow, where it served as a horse
watering trough behind the house. It was later moved to the Presbyterian
manse for storage.
n 1902, Major James L. Gilbert and Colonel B.
C. Gilbert donated a gilded dome and weathervane for the steeple, in
memory of their parents. The weathervane, which Maj. Gilbert named "Uncas"
after the character in James Fenimore Cooper's "The Last of the Mohicans",
stands almost five feet tall. Made by the J. L. Mott Iron Works of New
York City, it was originally gilded like the dome. The weathervane was
toppled and extensively damaged by high winds in April, 1945, and many
doubted that it could be repaired. Thanks in part, however, to the
persistence and ingenuity of the then-Town Supervisor, the weathervane was
repaired and reinstalled two years later.
One account of the
repairs tells us that the weathervane was given a new and stronger metal
foundation. A steel shaft was passed from the Indian's body down through
the hub of a old car or truck, and then into the original wooden mast. The
ball underneath the directional was created from a headlamp, also taken
from an old vehicle. Two directional letters, E and S, had been destroyed,
so new ones were cut from cook stove lids.
Butternut Valley Grange
bought the building in 1952, and it has served as the Grange Hall ever
since. In the intervening years, the Grange has invested close to $100,000
in Hall maintenance and repairs.
Grange is now embarked on an extensive restoration project which includes
preservation of the massive arched windows and painting the building's
exterior. Costs for the project are estimated at over $15,000, much of
which is being funded through public dinners and individual
Butternut Valley Grange
The Grange was founded in America in 1867;
Butternut Valley Grange was organized and held its first meeting on May
14, 1934. Traditionally, the Grange, like some fraternal orders, has been
seen as an organization of secret members, with rituals that are closed to
outsiders. But over the past eleven years, members of Butternut Valley
Grange have spearheaded a movement to modernize meetings and activities,
and open up the Grange to the entire community.
Grange has achieved nationwide recognition as a growing, exemplary and
forward-thinking Grange. The changes we instituted here in Gilbertsville
are now being copied in Granges around the country.
We are proud
of Butternut Valley Grange, and we invite anyone to attend our meetings
and see what we are all about. We meet upstairs in the Grange Hall at 7:30
p.m. on the second Monday of each month.
Put our next
meeting on your calendar; we promise you interesting programs, music,
singing and usually some good laughter, too!
You can help with the Grange restoration project by sending
your tax-deductible contribution, payable to:
"Butternut Valley Grange
P.O. Box 304, Gilbertsville, NY 13776.