Arden Town Hall

1958_july_proposedEarly in the 1950's when Arden on the Severn was known as Sunrise Beach, the earliest conception of Arden as a formal community began to take shape in the homes of those community members who were dedicated to the longevity of the place in which they lived. Around the middle of 1954, those members formed a formal group that met regularly to discuss community business and garner input from the residents of this area. Ultimately, that group organized as the Arden Civic Association, known today as the Arden Community Association. What was missing during all of those early meetings was a community meeting place where regular meetings could be held and an open forum of ideas could be exchanged.

In 1957, ACA president Charles Jones worked faithfully to locate suitable property for the construction of a building in which the community could hold events, meet on a regular basis, and be available for general community use. The community received its answer in March of that year when Beach Shores Incorporated (the owner of much of Arden's land and the operator of the beaches at that time) offered 4 lots to the community organization for a building to be constructed. After voting to accept these lots, the association formed a building committee, secured an architect (Tom Di Laura), and set about the task of properly surveying, title searching, and sketching ideas for the property. Ultimately it was decided that the dimensions should be about 32x80 feet. Surprisingly, while planning the construction of the building, much discussion focused on the roof of the first floor because the future plans for the building included a second story to be eventually added.

Much of 1958 was spent clearing the land to be used. Volunteer efforts allowed for the site to be cleaned up, cleared of trees to allow for building, and a suitable roadway constructed to permit building materials and vehicles to access the area. In early 1959, a rezoning application was successfully passed and building and septic permits were submitted, but the septic permit was the only one approved right away. A drywell septic system was started, but multiple cave-ins forced the association to bring in professionals to dig the system due to fears that someone would die digging it voluntarily. The issue halted building on the site due to the cost and the fact that the building permit was never approved.

1963_october_colonel_mattheDuring the long delay, money continued to be raised through community donations, but over time the interest and participation in the building committee waned. The final step of constructing the building was never taken and the original committee disbanded due to lack of interest. However, in 1960, with a new board elected, the committee was reformed and the scope of the building project was reconsidered due to the problems experienced earlier. Now that smaller building ideas being on the table, the committee actually considered abandoning the donated land, purchasing an existing house, and converting it for their needs. However, that idea ultimately died in discussion.

In 1961, a building permit was approved for a new concrete block structure design and work finally began with a dedication ceremony at the annual Arden Day Celebration (now called the Annual Bull Roast) on August 19th. The new design was to be a modest 32x40 feet block building, with closets, men's and women's bathrooms, a boiler room, and a kitchen area. Construction started with an estimated cost of $8,000 as all of the major work was to be accomplished through volunteerism by local residents. Slowly but surely the walls were constructed as donations from local families came in to the association's treasury. The roof was completed and the building closed in between November and December 1961 and in 1962, the floors were poured and drywell septic system installed. The first official community meeting was held in the building on May 19, 1962; however, the building was far from finished!

From 1962 into 1963, the preliminary heating system was installed and the septic system was connected to the building, but lack of funds halted additional construction (heating, electrical, and the formal kitchen) into 1963. In 1963 a well permit application was submitted, approved and the well was installed. By 1964, the association realized that the building would need long-term maintenance and a Building Trustees group was organized to manage and maintain the building. In that year they managed to finish installing the insulation in the ceiling and in 1965 they finally installed the decorative trim in the building.

In February 1966, a $3000 addition was proposed for additional storage of community related items, but lack of funds and a loss of interest in the idea permanently postponed the idea. Eventually, the idea resurfaced and alternate ideas were floated for an auxiliary building to be used for storage; however, the only action taken was to begin setting aside money for the project. Amazingly, it wasn't until 1971 that a 12'x24' metal storage building with electrical hookup was added on a poured concrete slab behind the association building. In that same year, full length screens were added to the windows, land grading was completed, gutters were finally added to the building, and concrete sidewalks were added from the doors to the road and also leading to the parking lot.

1966_februaryIn 1969, Arden Town Hall was oficially dedicated to Russell F. Smith, of the Jarrell Family (still living in Arden). Russell was the only resident of Arden that died serving his country in the Vietnam war.

On or around July 21/22, 1975 someone broke into town hall via a window, removed some articles of little value, and then set the drapes and the American flag on fire. The only reason the entire building didn't ignite is that volunteers had just finished applying a fire retardant so only ceiling, wall, and floor scoring occurred. Through volunteer efforts, the damage was repaired and the ACA Board held a series of meetings that included ideas on how to better secure the building to prevent the same damage from occurring again in the future. Ultimately, the decided to completely enclose the front of the building with corduroy sandstone, block up the side windows and small side door, add an air conditioner, enclose the furnace room and bathroom windows, and add ventilation.

Since that time, many adjustments have been made to the building. To further secure the building, the outer doors were replaced by steel doors with crash bars, illuminated exit signs were added inside, bathroom renovations were completed, kitchen renovations were completed, the front doors were replaced, fences were added around the building, signage was added, the parking lot was paved and the garden was added in the parking lot along the road. In over 50 years, this little building has seen a lot of history. It is now up to the residents of Arden on the Severn to make sure that the next 50 years show it even more.

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