FROM TOWN HALL TO CITY HALL
The population of Chelsea in 1830 was recorded as 771 inhabitants, of which only about twenty resided in the Ferry Village. The whole of the Winnisimmet district, known as "the Village", which comprised the present day Chelsea, consisted of about ten farms, the Marine Hospital and about fifteen dwellings. Among the farms of the Prattville area there was a few scattered homes and farm buildings. The principal settlement of the Town of Chelsea was in Rumney Marsh (Revere) in the area commonly called "the Center". Most of Chelsea's population, the church, town hall and burying ground were located in the Center. All town meetings were held in the town hall. Naturally the majority of voters resided in Rumney Marsh and Pullen Point (Winthrop). Being a conservative group, an appropriations vote for the Village, many times was considered unnecessary.
Beginning in the 1830's the Village became the most populous and developing section of the town. In 1831, the Winnisimmet Ferry Company began running steam ferries that could carry whole team loads of goods. In 1832, John Low opened the first general store with a post office in the village on the corner of Broadway and Malden Street (Everett Avenue). Francis B. Fay and a committee for the Winnisimmet Company , purchased the Williams Farm of about one hundred-thirty acres Two years later the Winnisimmet Company purchased the Shurtleff Farm of about two hundred-twenty acres. With these purchases came the layout of a very attractive town. The population increased with the growth and soon the majority of voters were in the Village.
Most in the Village found it a hardship to travel to Revere to vote. Every other year the town meeting was held in the Village. With the majority of votes now in the Village, the other sections, Rumney Marsh and Pullen Point, thought that they were paying too much taxes for Village improvements and petitioned to be set off as the Town of North Chelsea. On March 19, 1846, North Chelsea was set off from Chelsea and incorporated as a town.
After the town separation, Chelsea town meetings were held in the Baptist Church vestry, Gerrish Hall and Low's Hall. After a great deal of discussion that began in 1851 and a number of town meetings, it was voted at the March 1853 meeting to build a town hall. The town hall was constructed on Central Avenue corner of Shurtleff Street on 16,626 feet of land at a cost of $3325, purchased by the town. A three story brick building was substantially built for town use while six rooms were used for a girl's grammar school. When completed the building was dedicated with appropriate exercises. When Chelsea changed to city government in 1857, first mayor Francis B. Fay, presented an elegant clock that was placed in the City Hall. The lower story was altered to accommodate the City Council. The city charter of 1857 called for a mayor, eight aldermen and twenty common councilors. In 1894, a new charter abolished the common council and increased the number of aldermen to twelve. The City Hall was completely destroyed in the catastrophic fire of 1908.
After the Chelsea Fire of 1908, in order to create a greater civic and commercial center, the block of properties running north from Bellingham Square along Broadway to Library Street (City Hall Avenue) and south on Washington Avenue to Bellingham Square, amounting to approximately 74,200 square feet, was taken over by the city to build a new City Hall. Prior to the fire the block contained small commercial businesses and private dwellings. The new City Hall was designed by the Boston architectural firm of Peabody and Stearn to resemble Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Boston contractors Whiton and Haynes, constructed the building.
The new City Hall was dedicated on Saturday afternoon October 22, 1908. Nearly 2500 people were in attendance. Among the celebrities were Governor Eben S. Draper, who ordered the militia to Chelsea at the time of the fire, U. S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, U. S. Representative Ernest W. Roberts, and John F. Fitzgerald (Honey Fitz), Mayor of Boston. Music was provided by the 5th Company Coast Artillery band, before and between speeches. The dedication of the new City Hall brought about the resurrection and regeneration of the people's energenic faith in Chelsea