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Wilton’s Town Hall sits on the site of the former Whiting House Hotel, which burned in the first Great Main Street Fire of 1874. Begun in 1883 and and dedicated in 1885, the building was designed in the fashionable Queen Anne style by the firm of Merrill and Cutler of Lowell, MA. The building’s auditorium, constructed primarily to house the annual Town Meeting, was from the outset used for concerts, lectures, dances, vaudeville, and even basketball games. In 1912 the first silent films were shown there, and by the 1920’s it was in steady use as a motion picture theatre, continuing as such to this day. In 2009 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Whiting House Hotel, ca. 1873

View of the Whiting House Hotel looking West up Main Street

Wilton Town Hall, ca. 1900

View of the Wilton Town Hall looking East on Maple Street

Architect's Rendering of Wilton Town Hall ca. 1883

Rendering of the Wilton Town Hall, designed by Merrill and Cutler, Lowell MA; from American Architect and Building News, 5 April 1884

Photograph taken from the site of the Whiting House Hotel after the 1874 Fire

In the foreground one can see the rubble which was all that was left of the Whiting House Hotel on Main Street after the Great Fire of 1874

Aftermath of the Great Fire of 1874; Looking East on Main Street

A view of Wilton's Main Street after the Great Fire of 1874; the remains of the Whiting House Hotel are to the left

Wilton’s Second Meeting House, located in the old colonial center of town, burned to the ground in 1859. The town built another, smaller Town House near the site in 1860, but by that time the economic and social locus of the town had already been shifting away from Wilton Center down into the section of town known as the East Village, in the Souhegan River Valley, where a great many businesses – carpet and woolen mills, furniture and woodenware factories, and a burgeoning dairy industry -- were already making use of the abundant water power available in Wilton, not only along the Souhegan but from several other water sources such as Blood Brook and Gambrol Brook, the development of which was further fueled by the extension of the railroad line from Nashua and Milford into Wilton by 1851.

By the 1870’s the Town had decided to sell the “new” Town House and had moved Town Meeting into temporary quarters in the East Village until a suitable building could be constructed. In 1874 Main Street in the East Village was destroyed by the first of three great fires that struck over the space of eleven years, in 1874, 1881, and 1885. One of the casualties of the 1874 fire was the Whiting House Hotel, arguably the most prominent structure on Main Street. Built in 1866 and enlarged again prior to 1874, it served as a convenient stopping place for travelers heading west to Peterborough or Keene. The property remained vacant through 1881; in the aftermath of the second fire that destroyed a great many of the new structures built after 1874, the Whiting family generously decided to donate the land to the town for the site of a new Town Hall. Construction began in 1883, and the structure was completed and dedicated in 1885.

Abiel Abbot Livermore and Sewell Putnam, History of the Town of Wilton, Hillsborough County New Hampshire: With a Genealogical Register. (Lowell: Marden and Rowell, 1888), pp. 185 -187; pp.219-226

Bryant F. and Carolyn K. Tolles New Hampshire Architecture: An Illustrated Guide.  (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1979), p. 103.

Young’s Amusement Company Advertisement, Wilton Journal, 6 June 1912, p.8, col. 5.

Young’s Amusement Company, Cancellation of Picture Shows at Town Hall, Milford Cabinet and Wilton Journal, 8 August 1912, p. 8, col. 1.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Wilton Historical Society, John Hutchinson Collection

Wilton Historical Society Collections

Author's Personal Collection

Wilton Historical Society Collections

Wilton Historical Society, John Hutchinson Collection