Wilton’s Old Town Hall gardens get spruced up
Sooner or later things get out of shape and they need to be brought back in line.
That is the case at Old Town Hall, where members of the Wilton Garden Club have been gathering for several weeks to clean up the gardens around the venerable building and plan how to rejuvenate them next spring.
The club is responsible for maintaining the building that dates back to 1828 — although it was not completed until 1832 — and pays for its upkeep by renting it out for special occasions. It is a popular venue for birthday parties, bridal showers, meetings and other events.
“We used to hire people to maintain the Old Town Hall gardens,” club president Nancy Greeley told The Bulletin. That was ironic, since the club has more than 100 members with horticultural talents.
“Some of our members said we should be gardening here,” she said, pointing out that in addition to saving the club money, it offered members a chance to get to know one another and share techniques.
When the first sign-up was held a few weeks ago, more than two dozen women volunteered. The grounds are divided into seven areas and small teams were deployed to clean up and assess what was in place and what plants might be added.
The club will go over ideas and coordinate them into a cohesive plan. Most of the plants are perennials, with a few annuals out front where there is some sun.
“It’s been really fun,” Greeley said. “We’re hopeful that by spring we’ll have everything in shape.”
Many of the plants now in place are marked, and people are welcome to come by and enjoy the gardens.
When the building was completed, the first floor was used for Town Meetings. The Wilton Academy, a private school that prepared students for college, used the second floor until 1867. According to a history by Carol Russell, sometime after that the second floor was removed and only a balcony remains.
The town hall continued to be used for Town Meetings, Wilton’s form of government that continues today. The building was also pressed into use as a one-room schoolhouse in 1928-29, around the time the town was outgrowing the building for its intended use.
A new town hall was dedicated in 1931, leaving the “old town hall” derelict and in danger of being torn down. That is when the garden club stepped in, undertaking preservation and restoration. A section was added in 1948 for a kitchen, restrooms, furnace and small greenhouse.
In 1970, Old Town Hall became part of Historic District #2, along with several neighboring buildings.
But, the building was still at risk when rotten support timbers were discovered in 1977 and it was condemned. Again, the garden club organized and led a major renovation project and it officially reopened in 1980.
For information about Old Town Hall, visit wiltongardenclub.org or call 203-834-1032.