Happy New Year from Historic Buildings of Massachusetts!!! Rising up over Marblehead is one of the town’s most notable landmarks, Abbot Hall, which serves as town hall and also as a museum. Abbot Hall was built through a bequest of Benjamin Abbot (1795-1872), who was born in Marblehead and became wealthy through his cooper business in Boston. In 1875, the town voted to accept his $100,000 bequest and to follow his wishes that part of the legacy be devoted to building Abbot Hall. As related in The History and Traditions of Marblehead (1881), by Samuel Roads, Jr.:
The selection of a site for the new building had for some time occupied the attention of the people, and various localities were strongly advocated through the columns of the local paper. On Saturday, May 22, a town meeting was held for the choice of a site, and a majority of the citizens voted in favor of the Common. Several meetings were held for the election of a building committee, and Messrs. James J. H. Gregory, Simeon Dodge, Moses Gilbert, Henry F. Pitman, and Thomas Appleton were chosen by a majority vote.
In December, the town voted to appropriate $75,000 of the Abbot fund for the erection of the building, and the, committee were instructed to proceed with the work. The opponents of the site chosen by the town, though in the minority, were active and determined in their antagonism; and when, in the spring of 1876, ground was broken on the Common for the erection of the building, a bill in equity was filed in the supreme judicial court to restrain the committee from further proceedings. The bill was based principally on the claim that the town had no legal right to erect the hall on the Common, as the land was the property of the commoners of Marblehead.
The case was tried on Monday, April 17, before Associate Justice Ames, of the supreme judicial court. Hon. Ebenezer R. Hoar appeared as counsel for the town, and Mr. S. B. Ives, Jr., for the petitioners. A decision was rendered in favor of the town, the petitioners being unable to prove an adverse title.
The cornerstone was laid July 25, 1876 and the building, designed by Lord & Fuller of Boston (who also designed the Saugus Town Hall), was dedicated December 12, 1877. Abbot Hall, located at 188 Washington Street, has a historical collection in the Selectmen’s Meeting Room which includes the original version of the painting “The Spirit of ’76” by Archibald M. Willard and the 1684 deed to Marblehead from the tribe of Nanepashemet. The building has a clock tower with a Bell, installed in 1876 and cast by Meneely & Kimberly in Troy, New York.