By Robert Thompson
The Vienna Town House was a gift to the people of Vienna from one of its native sons, Joseph Merrill Whittier. Whittier was the son of Nathaniel Whittier, an early settler who established a prosperous farm in the area, which was then known as " Goshen ." Joseph Whittier was a successful Boston merchant when he made his offer of the building and the lot it sits upon. A marble tablet, mounted above the building's front window in 1874, commemorates Mr. Whittier's generosity.
Work began on the Town House in 1854 and was completed the Following year. Its Italianate features were thoroughly modern at the time and represented a departure from typical town house styling in Maine . The Italianate style had been introduced in America a mere sixteen years earlier. The design was no doubt the creation of an experienced architect.
Of the small town houses erected during this period the Vienna structure is considered the most stylish and sophisticated. The front facade is ornamented with a bracketed cornice, round corner boards and a continuous molding over the doors and window. The facade's three arched openings prefigure the later Italian Renaissance style. Only the building's exterior colors, white with green shutters, are consistent with local tradition.
The building's interior plan remains intact and the plaster walls, window and door casing and baseboards are all original. Large six over six windowslight the meeting room. At the front of the main room is a raised dais from which the moderator could preside over town meeting. Rows of benches line the sides of the hall. The dais and benches have a faux grained finish, a decorative technique popular in the nineteenth century. The main room also includes three voting booths.
The building was formally dedicated on September 5, 1855 . The occasion was marked by much fanfare and the appropriate solemnity. A community dinner was followed by speeches celebrating the occasion. During his address on the significance of the new town house a local resident, Nathaniel Graves, Esq., remarked that, "within these walls may we assemble in unity and a spirit of kindness and forbearance in the transaction of our town affairs. Here may we ever be true to those privileges guaranteed to us by the Constitutions of our State and Country."
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