remember many nights o’ the skates, “speeding”
warnings, etc. My uncle Cleo Johnson worked there many nights.
Prior to skating, mom took us to movies at the Hall. I believe
it was 50 cents. Traveling shows I remember were Western Singers;
Smiling Ernie and his wife, Candy; and Gene Krupa with his drum
band. Patty McIntyre singing Buttons and Bows. I believe it
was Hot Dog Raymond who came sliding down a wire from the projector
room to the stage, and I remember Mrs. Quillia reciting “poetry”:
boys went to Canada
To shoot a giant big moose.
The Johnson boys are home again,
The moose is still running loose!”
And always Bun Bronson, warm fires,
and a watchful eye as kids “toured” the building
top to bottom.”
— Nelson and Jane Johnson
|Nurses office in Pierce
Built in 1916, Pierce Hall was
commissioned to be a Community Center by Julia Pierce and
Ellen Pierce, in memory of Chester Pierce Sr., and his son,
Edward L. Pierce. The Pierce sisters planned
and envisioned the structure as a community center.
It was designed by local architect Charles Kinsman. At its
1916 opening, over 600 community members attended, welcoming
this glorious center to the Valley.
In 1932 Pierce Hall was given to the Mason Rural Lodge #29
F&AM. The building still functioned as a community center
with town meetings, theater events, movies, and roller skating.
In 1971 the Masons deeded the Hall to the Rochester Town School,
which used the building for kindergarten and shop classes.
The Masons also continued to meet at the Hall.
In 1973, because of needed repairs and an inadequate
heating system, the State Fire Marshall’s office condemned
the building for public gatherings. When the current Rochester
High School opened in 1974, Pierce Hall was deeded back to
the Masons, who renovated the Hall for limited use of the
space. The Masons owned and occupied the
premises for almost thirty years.
1916 view of auditorium
Old movie poster
Pierce Hall is listed with the State of Vermont’s Division
of Historic Sites, and its location in the town of Rochester
has been determined to be part of the Designated Village Center.
Pierce Hall is integral to the cultural heritage of this Valley,
and its architectural integrity will be retained. The stage
has a handsome proscenium arch and a fly loft to augment the
space. The seating is flexible—for theater in the round
or standard row seating of at least 350 people. For banquets,
more than 200 people can enjoy the grand and historic atmosphere,
and the U-shaped balcony has fixed seating for at least 100
people. The overall dimensions of the main floor are 50 by
100 feet, perfect for large gatherings as well as the returning
of the legendary roller skating.
2001 nine community members, Charlie Biederman (deceased),
Ken Landis, Dean Mendell, Ann Mills, Dick Robson, Nancy Sanz,
Midge Scanlan, Kathryn Schenkman, and Bill Zucca created a
non-profit association (PHCC) to begin discussions with the
Masons to restore Pierce Hall to its original beauty and its
use as a viable community center. In September, 2002, Valerie
F. Levitan, Ph.D was asked to serve as the (volunteer) Executive
Director. In May, 2004, the Masons voted to give Pierce Hall
to PHCC, Inc., in exchange for a permanent meeting place within
the building. October of 2004 PHCC, Inc., received through
deed transfer, ownership of Pierce Memorial Hall.
During 2004-2005, PHCC worked with the Preservation Trust
of Vermont on plans to most effectively maintain the integrity
of the building and to restore the facility to its original
design. Through a series of ongoing meetings, proposals and
drawings were discussed and reviewed. On October 21, 2005,
The Preservation Trust of Vermont approved the concept designs
for the restoration and additions to Pierce Hall. On November
1, 2005, the PHCC Board of Directors voted and approved plans
for the Project Architect Robson Bilgen to proceed with the