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A LOOK BACK: Godard Memorial Hall

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By Jolene Hawkins

How many of us have attended a event at the Godard Memorial Hall? Ever wonder how the hall got its name?

In 1901,  Calista Godard contracted with L J Shuttleworth to build a large fireproof building to be devoted to religious, scientific and educational purposes, and when completed, it was to be presented to the Village of Springville.  The building was to have a seating capacity of upwards of 1,000 people.

The Godard Memorial Hall was erected on the corner of Franklin and Mechanic Streets in the year 1902.  It measures 50 by 100 feet; the floor is on an incline from the lobby to the stage.  Across the north end of the auditorium is a hanging gallery of steel.  About 1,000 can be seated in the large auditorium.  On the south end of the building is the stage, and on one side of the stage is an office and restroom.   All of this was built in 10 months!

On March 20, 1902, the hall was opened to the public where 650 people attended the opening. The first person to speak from the new platform was Professor Steel, the principal of Griffith Institute.  He gave a few words of merited praise from the philanthropic spirit, which provided the elegant and commodious building for the benefit of Springville.

The entertainment of the evening was a monologue rendering of Joseph Jefferson’s dramatization of Rip Van Winkle.

Over the years, the Lyceum courses were presented at the Hall, along with troupes, and speakers, such as Honorable J Wright Giddings, Rev. Russell H Conwell and Arctic Explorer Signor Campanari; various plays and even a few political meetings have also been held there.    

In 1935, the building went through alterations where the labor was donated under ERB, according to the newspaper.  A gang of 30 men did the work.  The floor was raised in line with the first floor windowsills; the ground floor story windows were enlarged to give more light.  A new waterproof cement floor and walls were laid for the ground story, which included offices for the village clerk, town clerk, Justice of the Peace, assessors, restrooms, vaults and court room. A police office and three detention cells were all going on the first floor.

The upper floor was converted into an auditorium, the stage was enlarged, and the stationary seats were changed into moveable ones, so the floor space could be used by various clubs and other types of meeting.

Since that time, the Godard Hall has continued to be used by the public for meetings and events, and the courthouse and offices are still being filled.  What a wonderful idea that Calista Godard had, back in 1902 to build and donate the building for the Village— she wanted the hall to be used for the higher education of the young people and it has been!

She died on Sept. 28, 1904, and in her obituary, it says that she was the oldest of 10 children and was born on July 8, 1822.  Her mother died in 1846 and she and her father came to live in Springville; they lived with her brother, Edward, in 1848. She accumulated her money through teaching and working as a tailor.  Later, she inherited 1,500 hundred acres of farming land when her brother Edward died. She distributed most of the land among her heirs.  She devoted most of her time to reading and studying, completing the Chautauqua reading course. She received her diploma in 1886 and was a constant patron of the public library.  She is buried at Fairview Cemetery in Concord.

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