WALLINGFORD — The wooden seats of the Town Hall auditorium are slated to be replaced with softer seats, which the town scooped up as Bristol-Myers Squibb purged its furniture preparing for demolition.
The rows of cast iron and laminated wood folding seats in the Robert F. Parisi Town Council Chambers were probably installed more than 100 years ago, when the building served as the original location of Lyman Hall High School.
That’s the consensus of Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., Public Works Director Henry McCully and Dr. Stephen Hoag, a former Lyman Hall coach who is chairman of Lyman Hall’s athletic Hall of Fame.
“I hope they do choose to let people who want them pick them up,” said Hoag, who served as co-chairman of Lyman Hall’s centennial committee in 2017. “There’s sentimental value in them for people.”
Dickinson said the old seats “aren’t very comfortable.”
“There’s been significant deterioration,” he said. “The laminated wood is separating on a number of seats, and they can’t be used due to deteriorating wood.”
McCully said the new seats are dark red and coming from the BMS teaching auditorium. The town also took other office furniture, like chairs, desks and file cabinets, for use in Town Hall, the David Doherty Municipal Building and the firehouses.
The furniture was donated by BMS. All the town had to do was hire movers to transport the furniture out, which cost about $10,000.
“We certainly got more than $10,000 worth of furniture,” he said. “This was a great deal for the town.”
Although there’s no installation date yet, McCully hopes the project is completed this winter.
The new seats will be installed in the lower area first. There may not be enough to replace the seats in the balcony, which is locked most of them time but has been used, he said.
Hoag said there’s “magnificent history” in those old seats.
When the seats were installed around 1915-1916, he said, Lyman Hall was “the center of everything. Art, entertainment, the big town meetings.”
The four-story opera house, located on Simpson Court, was the other large auditorium in town.
But when the ambassador of France once visited, Hoag said, he went to Lyman Hall.
The seats at Lyman Hall were generic chairs, similar construction to the seats at the Wilkinson movie theater and the opera house.
“The ones at Lyman Hall were meant to last,” he said, “and obviously they have.”
The seats survived when Lyman Hall became Town Hall in 1988, even when the auditorium was renovated.
“The stage and pit area were all replaced when it became Town Hall,” Hoag said, “and appropriately so. It serves a different purpose. It stands to reason that at some point they would replace all those chairs.”
It’s unclear what will happen to the old seats once they are removed. Dickinson said it’s town procedure to make unneeded items available through auction, and whatever is not taken would be scrapped.
“I hope I’m first in line to get one,” Hoag said.
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