This impressive-looking building, with its enormous, church-like windows, no longer stands. (If you know when it was torn down, please let me know.) As quiet as it looks in this postcard, it was sometimes the scene of major social events.
I’ve written before here about the regular summer visits to Rockport of the U.S. Navy’s North Atlantic Squadron and of the celebrations the town would throw to welcome them. On Aug. 14, 1906, the Town Hall was the scene of perhaps the largest such event ever — and perhaps the largest since, with the Boston Daily Globe reporting, “Several thousand persons attended, in fact about all the townspeople able to get out and many of the summer residents.”
The draw that evening was the presence of the squadron’s commander, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans. The Globe paints a picture of the scene:
Tonight is the greatest night ashore for the citizens since the squadron first came here. The people of this truly representative New England town, their wives and daughters had an opportunity to shake the hand of Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans and his officers.
Never was the town hall decorated so profusely and tastefully. The women of Rockport outdid themselves in collecting flowers and foliage. The entire front of the stage was banked in hydrangeas, while the arch was of evergreen and white flowers. In the center was the word “Welcome.” To the left of the stage was a smaller arch of evergreen under which Admiral Evans and the receiving party stood. The keystone of this arch was a floral blue flag on which was two stars, the flag of the commander-in-chief. …
In the full dress uniform of his rank and flanked by Judge Sumner D. York, the admiral established the handshaking record of his career. From 8 to 9:15 an incessant stream of people passed him. More than 2000 tickets of admission had been issued, and many of them were used twice. Judge York made good his claim to knowing personally every man, woman and child in Rockport, and he never hesitated for the right name as face after face appeared for an introduction to the admiral.
The next night, the Town Hall was again packed, according to the Boston Daily Globe, as the visiting sailors put on a minstrel show. “On the program was a lightweight boxing bout between Katzenberger, champion of the navy, and Hennessy of the Maine, the first exhibition of this kind ever permitted in Rockport.”
In the 1920s and 1930s, the Town Hall was the venue for the annual Artists’ Ball, an affair so “spirited,” the Boston Globe recently recounted, “that in 1932 local officials called in the state troopers to keep the party in check.”
“Dancing Until 5 This Morning, When Breakfast Was Served,” was the headline of an Aug. 24, 1926, Boston Daily Globe report on the ball. The report began:
Rockport Town Hall was packed last night by people from along the North Shore for the annual artists’ ball given by artists of this locality.
The walls were paneled with representations of fishermen, Indians and other similar decorations designed by Maurice Compris, chairman, and Aldro T. Hibbard, who collaborated with him. The color motifs were purple, green, black and gold.
The orchestra appeared in blackface, from Dixieland, the music being interspersed with short skits.
The news report goes on to list many of the artists who attended and describe their costumes. “The ball ended at 2,” the report says, “but 75 couples continued dancing at Aldro T. Hibbard’s studio until 5 this morning, when breakfast was served.”
And we can thank the intrepid Globe reporter for sticking with it to the bitter end.
This postcard identifies no date or publisher. I am guessing at its date based on similar photos.