New Market has outgrown its old town hall and has moved to new digs that will better serve the town.
The new town hall, located at 40 South Alley, was originally a house built in 1973, according to state records.
The 3,684-square-foot home was designed and built by Wayne Smith for his father, William Franklin Smith.
William Franklin Smith was the mayor of New Market from 1949 to 1969 and served on Town Council from 1945 to 1949 and from 1969 to 2001, The Frederick News-Post previously reported. He died in 2008 at 93.
In 2016, the home was donated to the town by Wayne Smith with requests that the home be used as a town hall, according to Karen Durbin, New Market town clerk.
“The thought was that we needed to have a larger gathering space since the town has been growing for a number of years,” said Pat Faux, town planner and zoning administrator.
The town spent about $96,000 on renovations, according to Durbin. Upgrades included a fire escape, new flooring, an ADA compliant entrance and bathroom, new furniture and additional windows.
The converted home, currently valued at $526,200, according to state records, includes the town council meeting room, offices, a kitchen, a copier room and conference rooms. There’s about a dozen parking spaces outside.
The meeting room will have about 30 seats, compared to the roughly 15 seats available at the old town hall at 39. W. Main St.
While town staff is still moving between both buildings, their computers and phone systems are set up in the new building.
“If you’re sending someone to see staff, the staff is here,” Faux said at the new building.
Upcoming town meetings will also be held in the new space. The Historic District Commission and Architectural Review Commission meeting will be held there on Aug. 13 and the Town Council meeting will be held there on Aug. 15.
At a recent Town Council meeting, the question came up whether to sell the old town hall or hold onto it.
The old town hall was built in 1850 and is 2,544 square feet, according to Durbin.
The town had one offer on the building for $325,000 by a mechanical company wanting to use the space for offices, but council members ultimately decided to not sell with hopes to eventually rent it out.
They also want to keep and maintain the public bathrooms connected to the building and eventually use the lot behind it for public parking.
While council members wish to see the building be used for a start-up company, and local businesses would like to see an artisan move in, nothing can happen until a deed restriction is removed.
The deed restriction states that the property must be operated as a town hall and public meeting hall in perpetuity, according to Mayor Winslow Burhans III.
“Oddly enough, this place hasn’t always operated like that since we got this place in 1977,” Burhans said.
“That covenant is archaic because we’ve outgrown the facility,” he added. “When that covenant was put there, I don’t think there was the thought that 50 years from now we’d outgrow this place [and it] will no longer be suitable for that purpose.”
Before the building could be used for another purpose, the deed restriction would have to be removed by a judge, the mayor added.
While the old town hall was in a historic home in the middle of Main Street, both staff and the mayor are excited about being in a new space.
“I think we’ll be able to do more here,” Durbin said.“The space is going to be very functional for everything that we do. But I will miss the people walking by. It’ll be a little quieter over here.”
“This is a different era of historic,” Faux added. “It’s outside our historic district, but it’s definitely part of the town’s heritage. I think it will be a better center of activity.”
Burhans said the trade off of having a bigger place for staff and town meetings outweighs the perks of being on Main Street.
“It was easier for people to get to, but I just think the pros outweigh the cons,” he said. “It has a more professional feel to it than the old town hall. The old town hall was quaint and homey but New Market moved into a different age of where we are and how we serve our community.”