The incredible transformation at the Rochester City Hall Annex almost didn't happen. In 2014, the city council was tasked with planning additional office space and voted 9 to 4 to demolish the former fire station adjacent to the City Hall and Opera House.
In the 1970s, the building had been remodeled. A new brick veneer covered the historic facade, the interior was gutted, and a skywalk connected the city hall and annex. The building looked ugly.
Molly Meulenbroek, chair of the Rochester Historic District Commission, had seen historic photographs of the building and knew that it had potential. The Commission rallied friends and citizens to help save the building and embark on a rehabilitation campaign. They attended council meetings, made visual aids, wrote letters to the editor.
"The restoration of City Hall Annex was a feat of collaboration and perseverance," stated Meulenbroek at the awards ceremony. It paid off. In August 2015 the council reversed course and voted 11 to 2 to save the building.
Aided by an LCHIP-funded planning study and a talented team, the building's historic facade was carefully restored after the removal of the 1970s veneer. Using historic photographs and the original blueprints, the bay doors were reconstructed, the missing granite window sills and lintels returned, and the lunette window reconstructed. The interior is now a modern showcase that houses several city departments.
Today, the annex's successful rehabilitation illustrates the power of community engagement, keen vision of a few individuals, and good work accomplished by a talented team.
This project received the Elizabeth Durfee Hengen Award, a special award for overall excellence in education, planning, advocacy, and restoration.
City of Rochester
Rochester Historic District Commission
Mae Williams, Unlocking History
Oak Point Associates
CMGC Building Corporation
N.H. Division of Historical Resources