‘Community Hall means everything’: Event to honor Heath building’s 150-year history

  • An archival photo of Community Hall in Heath. Contributed Photo

  • An archival photo of Community Hall in Heath. Contributed Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 10/3/2022 2:54:05 PM

HEATH — Over the course of 25 years in the early 1900s, residents sold a building back and forth for $1. They knew they wanted to preserve the building, but did not have the means to keep it running.

Through perseverance, that building, the town’s Community Hall at 1 East Main St., is still standing today. Residents will celebrate its 150th anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 1 to 4 p.m. with an event at the hall and the surrounding area.

“To look through the history and see the length that the residents have gone through to keep this space around, you would understand the hall means everything to this town,” said Elissa Viarengo, a member of the Building Use Committee.

Viarengo, a new resident to Heath, explained her favorite memory of the building was getting a tour of the space when she first moved to town.

“Standing in the main room I could hear the voices and music from people in the past,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be a guardian of that space at that moment.”

People across town and beyond will be able to have this same moment when they attend the celebration. At Saturday’s event, there will be guided tours as well as displays and a timeline to learn the history of Heath and its Community Hall. Along with the educational aspect, participants will record interviews with elderly residents to preserve stories about Community Hall for the future.

Cider and pie will be available, and young children can participate in games.

“What we tried to do is have activities that would appeal to all ages,” said Jean Gran, another organizer of the event.

Gran explained the importance of Community Hall can be understood by examining its location. It is in the town center where seven roads converge. This means people traveling in any direction through Heath will pass by Community Hall, allowing people to see what is happening in town and bringing the community together.

“There are a lot of people who come to Heath because they are drawn to a sense of place,” Gran explained. Community Hall helps create that sense, she added.

Now that the Heath Elementary School at 18 Jacobs Road has closed, many of the events that once happened at Community Hall are now being moved to the building on Jacobs Road, which now houses municipal offices. There are talks of winterizing the Community Hall space, with discussion on closing the building if winterization is not economically viable.

Several people in Heath have spoken about keeping the building open throughout the winter.

“It is an important building that holds us as a community,” Viarengo commented. “I hope we can find a balance of keeping it in use.”

Gran said Community Hall was constructed in 1872 by 60 residents and was originally used as a Methodist church. Members of the church pooled together their resources and labor to build the structure. It cost them $4,500, and much more money raised in bake sales throughout the 150 years to maintain the building.

According to the Heath town website, the last church service was held in the building in 1893. In 1923, the Historical Society acquired it and converted it into Community Hall. The town accepted the building from the Historical Society in 1956.

There have been many different periods of growth and decline in the building that align with periods of history in town. Saturday’s celebration will consider all these periods and bring people together to be thankful for the current moment in the town’s history.

“This building has been used for everything. People have gathered for celebration and for mourning,” Viarengo said. “Community Hall means everything to these people.”

Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.


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