With the history and architectural legacy of the Town of Litchfield in mind the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust last year purchased the Litchfield Courthouse for one reason: to donate it to the townspeople so that they once again could have it as their town hall. The 1888 plaque mounted in the courthouse entrance reads: “Erected by the Town of Litchfield for use of the County and of the Town.” Completed in 1890 the building was the Town Hall for 70 years until the current town hall was built in 1960. The Trust believes – along with many of town’s residents – that this most prominent landmark in the Litchfield Historic District should be restored to its original purpose as the Town Hall.
Our sense of community and pride in our town ties in closely with its history and architecture. Forty-three years ago Sunny and Hans Seherr-Thoss recognized this when they created the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust to “preserve Litchfield’s architectural heritage and maintain the economic viability of the Borough.” The commercial block and the post office (preserved by the Trust in 1975) serve as places where we meet, greet, and chat with neighbors. Having the town hall in the courthouse building gives us another center for these casual and business encounters.
Over the past year more than five hundred residents have visited the courthouse during three open-house events. They walked through the 21 offices, two large courtrooms, one large meeting room, the law library, two small vaults and one huge room-size vault. Ninety-five percent of the folks could see its potential and said it was the only option for a new town hall. They could see the convenience of a new rear entrance from the spacious municipal parking or walking in the front entrance off the town sidewalk.
In a letter to the Litchfield Town Hall Review Committee Gregory Farmer of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation wrote: “A recent walk-through confirmed that the courthouse was built for the ages with quality materials and workmanship throughout. Later additions and improvements have generally respected the architectural character of the building while upgrading the functional components to meet changing needs. Since the building is listed on the state and national registers of historic places, its renovation could qualify for grants and special code considerations that would further reduce the project cost.”
Recent estimates on the options for a new town hall reveal the lower cost to repurpose the courthouse, but members of the Trust see the possibilities of further savings as Farmer suggests above. Also, with closer compliance to the original plan presented by architects of Cambridge Seven Associates the Trust believes further savings can be had. We townspeople can have a fresh town hall that will accommodate all the town’s agencies in one location while respecting the fine woodwork, the decorative fire places and the spacious windows that remind us of the history reflected in this historic building.
In sum the members of the Trust hope the townspeople will accept this gift and allow the Litchfield’s Town Hall to return to its iconic location on the Green.