First floor of Lyndeborough’s Center Hall reopening

The Lyndeborough Select Board voted to reopen the first floor of Center Hall to the public.

The Lyndeborough Select Board voted to reopen the first floor of Center Hall to the public. COURTESY PHOTO

By JESSECA TIMMONS

Monadnock Ledger Transcript

Published: 05-30-2024 10:53 AM

After reviewing a report by Building Inspector Leo Trudeau, the Lyndeborough Select Board voted to reopen the first floor of the town’s historic Center Hall to the public, with the condition that access to the second floor be blocked.

The hall, located  at 1131 Center Road in Old Lyndeborough Center, is also known as the Old Town Hall and is part of the town’s Historic District.

In February, following up on concerns raised by the Lyndeborough Heritage Commission about the state of both Citizens’ Hall and Center Hall, the Select Board met with Trudeau to discuss a plan for Center Hall. The town is in the process of repairing Citizens’ Hall, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Trudeau and Lyndeborough resident and engineer Phil Brooks reported that their inspection of the second floor of Center Hall revealed that at some point in the building’s history, the roof of the building had been raised so the second floor could be used as a gathering space. Trudeau said that he found evidence that the original rafters had been disconnected at the ridge of the roof, which caused “severe deflection”  in the structure.

“Whoever decided to lift the roof made a mistake. Either they didn’t understand the physics of what they were doing, or they just ignored it,” Trudeau said. 

Trudeau estimated that the combined weight or 50 to 60 people in the space during events, as well as food and food service service items, coffee urns and other beverages, a wood stove and firewood formerly used to heat the second floor would be around 10,000 pounds.

“The second floor of the hall was not meant to bear a live load. It was only meant to support itself,” Trudeau said. “The building was well-built originally, but it was compromised.”

The space is currently empty, with all furniture, fixtures and the wood stove removed. 

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Both Trudeau and Brooks said they felt the first floor, which Brooks noted has been reinforced with steel rods over the years, is safe for use. 

“Center Hall survived the 1938 hurricane. The building is not going to collapse,” Trudeau said. 

Select Board member Fred Douglas said as long as there was no possible access to the second floor, including from the outside of the building, he was fine with the first floor being reopened. Town Administrator Russell Boland noted that two groups are currently interested in renting the hall, including one group planning an event on June 15.