The Norman Rockwell Museum is exploring an expansion into downtown Stockbridge’s historic Old Town Hall.
It’s the subject of one of Norman Rockwell’s most recognizable depictions of the Berkshires — and now it might the newest addition to the museum that celebrates his work.
Stockbridge’s Old Town Hall lies just west of the town center immortalized by Rockwell in his 1967 masterpiece “Stockbridge Main Street At Christmas.” The white building, with its dramatic columns and austere Greek Revival design, was immortalized by the artist in 1971 when he captured a glowing portrait of the town square titled “Springtime in Stockbridge.”
“We’re very excited by the prospect of examining the Old Town Hall as an expansion location for a number of the Norman Rockwell Museum’s programs," said Director and CEO of the Norman Rockwell Museum Laurie Norton Moffatt.
“We have simply outgrown space for many of our educational activities, our scholarly and research work, our collections management work, our exhibition production, essentially all of the activities that fall within the curatorial suite of work of a museum, and the Rockwell Museum is looking at the Old Town Hall as a wonderful location that could house these programs- and to that end, we’re pleased to be partnering with the First Congregational Church and speaking with the Town of Stockbridge to advance that possibility,” said Norton Moffatt.
The collaboration between the museum, the church, and the town was announced in mid-February. The First Congregational Church is adjacent to the hall and owns the land the building sits on. Reverend Brent Damrow sees the expansion as a reinvigoration of the community.
“It really will bring this west end of Stockbridge back to life again, with this campus being fully enlivened with the presence of the church, the chimetower, the war memorials, and then of course, this new building," said Reverend Damrow. "So in many ways, I think it benefits not just those who drive by, but those who call it home.”
“First of all, it’s important to preserve in a town like ours," said Stockbridge selectman Don Chabon. "It’s the histories, both the personal and physical kinds of histories that make us special. And by the way, I believe that Rockwell’s paintings captured both the personal histories and the physical histories of our town, and this building was in one of his paintings, and the proposed museum preserves our histories, increases use and value, it’ll be a great asset — it’s natural, as far as we’re concerned we’re glad to have it happening.”
The Old Town Hall was last utilized as the town’s offices, before they were moved to the former Stockbridge Plain School in 2008. Now, after 10 years of locked doors and darkened windows, Reverend Damrow looks to a future where the building shines again.
“I think my greatest hopes for what the Rockwell’s planned use for that building is would be that it takes the weight off of the community’s mind, first and foremost, that this building which has been the center of shared community life for a long time and over which we have invested a decade or more in trying to imagine how it might come back to life, that it will indeed come back to life and become part of the community again,” said Reverend Damrow.