One of the Essex Community Heritage Organization’s (ECHO’s) earliest projects was Wright’s Inn. In the center of Essex, NY, this historic inn constructed by Daniel Ross and finished with the later addition by Daniel Wright now serves as the Essex Town Hall.
Built in the 1790’s, the building was in bad shape by the 1970’s when there was deliberation about demolishing it and creating a park in its place. However, ECHO and the community worked to save the inn and restore it as much as possible while making it a usable space for the town.
In 1969, Christian Heurich Jr. donated the Wright’s Inn building to the Town of Essex (“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” 11). When the building was converted to the town offices, it was still run-down.
The building had been slated for extensive renovation since the 1970’s, and though some occurred over the years it wasn’t until 1999 that the extensive renovations on the first floor were completed. Press Republican reporter Louise Spring interviewed Robert Hammerslag, then executive director of ECHO in a June 7, 1999, article about the restoration.
Renovating the Wright’s Inn into Essex Town Hall occurred gradually over three decades under the direction of Robert Hammerslag. In 1986, the New York State Council on the Arts funded a historic and structural report, and four years later ECHO received a $200,000 matching grant to move the renovation project forward. However, there was a problem–the town still had to come up with the matching funds.
”We had a very strict ground rule going into this project — that it could only proceed without money raised from taxes,” Hammerslag said. (Press Republican)
Although it took several years to raise $200,000 from community members and reallocation of unused funds from from other projects, by 1997 the bidding process began. The original plan included the rehabilitation of the entire building, but that proved too ambitious for the funds available, and so the project was scaled back to a renovation of just the first floor. A second round of bidding followed, and Rabideau Bros. Construction Co. ultimately won the contract and undertook the ambitious but well executed renovation.
Many modern features were added and updates made in the building.
The building […] got a new sewage-treatment system; plumbing, heating and electrical systems; a new room; a standing-seam metal roof; and handicapped-access improvements. (Press Republican)
However, many of original features were also restored or recreated. For example, “rather than buy prefabricated windows and doors, Lee Adams of Westport built reproductions” (Press Republican).
ECHO donated the property adjacent to the town office as part of the town’s contribution, and the group also contributed toward restoration of the stairway. “Both the stairway and stair hallway have been completely restored, as they would have existed in 1790” (Press Republican).
By the turn of the century the Wright’s Inn building was successfully repurposed into the Essex Town Hall, bringing to a close a lengthy but important chapter in the Essex Renaissance. Until renovation of the second floor! Perhaps one day the old second-floor ball room will be renovated and open for events once again?
Hammerslag said the historical value of the Town Hall is “enhanced. The work started in 1790, and it’s not over yet,” he laughed. “But to see it from on the brink of being demolished less than 30 years ago to being restored as one of the town’s most important buildings is really something everyone in the town can be proud of.” (Press Republican)
Contact Essex Town Hall
Town Hall office hours:
Monday through Friday 8:30 pm to 3:30 pm (Except holidays)
Closed for lunch from noon to 1 pm.
Go here to see current town officers, town board, and committee members. You can also find records of the Essex town meeting minutes and other town government information there as well.
Call the Town Office at (518) 963-4287. Fax: (518) 963-4288.