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Cumberland Town Hall

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1894, William Walker and Sons. 45 Broad St.

The economic importance of Valley Falls and the weighting of the town's population toward its southernmost point doubtless determined the location of the town hall a block north of the mill, even though a site farther removed from the geographical center of Cumberland could hardly be found. It is one of several town halls by William Walker and Sons, which managed to control a substantial portion of late-nineteenth-century civic commissions. This and Warwick City Hall most grandly epitomize the mix of Victorian flamboyance and Neo-Colonial detail in the firm's work of the 1890s—the result being a Victorian dream of what “Colonial Revival” might be at a time when the revival was coming into vogue. The clock tower with cupola vaguely derives from that of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, a feature much adapted for civic buildings of the time because its ebullience and bulk appealed to Victorians groping their way toward the Colonial Revival. The assertive, even aggressive, Victorian quality of its Cumberland translation and the overblown scale of its windows within a very vertical mass are positive aspects of a building which fairly shouts its civic pride. Typical of the Walker's civic work, too, is exuberant naturalistic terra-cotta relief, here seen in a stretched-out, wreath-centered lunette in a side gable. Although substantial refurbishing of the exterior at the end of the 1980s indicates a renewed sense of commitment to the building after a period of neglect, callous window alterations remain, and so does the thoroughly insensitive interior renovation.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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