Perhaps you’ve noticed the netting that veils the face of Ghent’s Town Hall on Route 66 and wondered what’s going on. A restoration project which began in the Spring of 2023 has been underway to renovate both entrances and repoint the bricks and mortar. The work is being performed by LG Stone & Restoration based out of East Chatham NY. It is anticipated that the full project will be complete by March of 2024.
If you visited the building before the construction, you may have noticed that the steps at the front entrance were cracked and pulling away from the building. The plan involves replacing and repairing one entrance at a time so as not to interfere in the town’s normal business hours and accessibility. All of the services normally provided in the building including the Ghent Food Pantry will continue during their normal hours.
Shortly before the pandemic struck, Gregg Berninger (Ghent Town Historian) started the process of applying for a SAM (System for Award Management) Grant for the restoration of the grand building that has graced the center of town since 1878. These grants are federal funds which states can designate for specific projects, such as this one. Former Town Board Member Mallory Mort assisted in the process, along with staff from State Assembly Member Didi Barrett’s office. The application was delayed as the building’s status as a historical site required further research. Recently, Town Supervisor Craig Simmons assisted with resolving the historical status and the Town of Ghent was awarded the grant.
An historic photo from when it was the Ghent School
Town Hall during renovation
The stately brick building, with its unique roof and central belfry, wasn’t always the site of Ghent’s Town Hall.
When the construction of the building was completed in August of 1878, it was dedicated as the Ghent School, a function that it served until 1985, when the Chatham School District was centralized into its current location. At the time of its construction, The Chatham Courier declared “that the people of the place should feel a glow of local pride in the enterprise of public spirit which have given them a new school-house.” The new building on Route 66 was considered a major step forward for local education from the small wooden schoolhouses scattered throughout town, though some of them continued to be used until as recently as 1950. With the larger space and advanced equipment, for the first time, students could be grouped together by age and ability. From 1894 to 1987, the building that currently houses the Ghent Playhouse, located on the appropriately-named Town Hall Place was the site of the original Ghent Town Hall.
Whether out of Ghent civic pride or fond memories of their years as students at the Ghent School, many local residents will be glad to see the beloved building repaired and restored before its 150th birthday, so it can continue to serve as the center of Ghent’s town life and be enjoyed by many more generations.
– Mary Redler, 6/29/2023