Renovations coming to Napanee’s historic Town Hall

Napanee Town Hall on an evening in spring. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

The historic Napanee Town Hall building has weathered a great deal since it was built in 1856. From prime ministers to protesters, many have used its great stairs as a platform for change, and now the Town is hoping to bring some much needed change to the building’s aesthetics.

The Council of the Town of Greater Napanee held a special session on Monday, Apr. 15, 2024, for an annual review of Council Advisory Committees. A report entitled Council Advisory Committees Annual Review had been provided to Council on Tuesday, Mar. 26, 2024, during its regular meeting. At that time, it was decided to hold this special meeting to discuss all of these matters in greater depth.

The first group discussed was the Market Square Advisory Committee, which has the mission of revitalizing the old Town Hall building and Market Square at 124 John Street. Acting Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Brandt Zatterberg began with an update on the Town Hall renovations, which he indicated “are supposed to begin at some point early to mid-May… and an RFQ [Request For Quotes] is going out for some of the landscape work that needs to be done, including the front steps.”

Zatterberg said the renovations of Market Square will generate more interest for the mandate for the committee. “We have already had a couple of people coming forward who want to do a series of art galleries on the main floor… and as far as a vendors’ market, that’s all part and parcel of the renovations of the building and the interest that will generate.”

Councillor Dave Pinnell agreed, saying, “It’s going to be exciting when scaffolding is erected around this building. It’s going to add a lot of hype to the town, and a lot of people are going to be glad to see that we are taking an interest in this building and preserving it.” Pinnell added that the Town Hall Committee had not changed this year and that they were all looking forward to the coming year.

Councillor Angela Hicks asked if there would be any drawings or renderings that might indicate a vision for the landscaping and other changes.

Zatterberg said that there were drawings but they had been done many years ago and that the committee would be looking at creating something new. He referred to the market square at the front of the building and how that has evolved over time: “It’s a people place, but the fountain, for example, takes up quite a bit of room — and is there a chance to create a larger venue for more people to be able to use the front?”

“It’s kind of like a blank canvas right now,” Zatterberg continued. “We’d like to see what the feel is and what can be attained… what the request for proposals would bring out to capture people’s imagination and see if they capture ours as well.”

Councillor Mike Schenk asked Zatterberg to explain the painting aspect of the renovations: “I understand it, but so everyone else can understand.”

Zatterberg noted that there had been past discussions about taking the paint off and going back to the original red brick beneath. “But what happened through the years in the evolution of the building is that there had been windows [and] doorways and archways closed up, which means the bricks don’t match [in spots], and it’s been painted since the 1920s.” Once painted anew, the building will have “a faux brick so the building will look like red clay from a distance.” Any wood trim needing replacement because of rot would be replaced, but the trim would remain white, he said.

Schenk seemed to support the idea, saying that sandblasting would destroy the brick and painting over it would be preferred. He then asked, “Is there any type of warranty that’s going to be with that when they paint?”

Zatterberg said, “One of the benefits of having the red brick-looking paint is that if there happens to be some spalling [breakage], it doesn’t look like a scar on the side of the building because it’s not going to be quite as visible.” However, with the amount being spent on the renovation, a program will need to be put in place “so that we look after things as they happen and not wait 25 to 50 years before we spend any significant money on it.”

Mayor Terry Richardson noted that  “some real flagpoles” would be erected on the Centre Street side of the building “in the not too distant future as well… so we can get what we call a flagpole off the roof.”

Discussions on the mandate of the Market Square Advisory Committee were closed, and the meeting continued with reviews of the other committees. Watch for more in an upcoming article.

Meetings of the Council of the Town of Greater Napanee can be viewed virtually (or watched afterward) on the Napanee Town Council YouTube channel or attended in person in Council Chambers at Napanee Town Hall, 124 John Street. Further information about Council meetings, including agendas and reports, is available on the Town’s CivicWeb portal.

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