These are selected images from the 2013 Centennial Celebration of Arlington Town Hall display at Robbins Library, and the “Picture Postcard Perfect!” display installed in the lobby of Town Hall. The complete storyboards, displayed throughout May 2013, were designed and written by Richard A. Duffy. Images are from the collections of the Arlington Historical Society and Robbins Library.
Select any image to start a slide show.
The old town hall served as the municipal headquarters for exactly 60 years: from 1853 to 1913. It stood at the present-day corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Mystic Street, where the Uncle Sam statue and park are located today. The old town hall served various functions until it was torn down in 1960 for the realignment of Mystic Street.
Town Hall was photographed from many angles just prior to its dedication in 1913. It was designed by architect R. Clipston Sturgis. Notice the trolley car wires above head, and the landscape before construction of the wall in 1939. The markings on the face of this card indicate that it was a sample, rather than one intended for sale to the general public.
The Winfield Robbins Memorial Garden was designed by the same architect as Town Hall, R. Clipston Sturgis. His landscape approach was highly formalized, as exemplified in the square waterfall pedestal for the Menotomy Indian Hunter, and other “hardscape” features. When Olmsted Associates redesigned the garden in 1939 they opted for a more primitive, natural rock cluster in which to frame the sculpture.
This montage of four different views of the town hall and fountain area of the garden was composed of individual post card views seen elsewhere in this display. The design of this postcard was considered a novelty of sorts. It is believed to be a sample by photographer William J. O. Doane that never was mass-produced for sale.
This view looking northeast from the head of the Winfield Robbins Memorial Garden reveals the Massachusetts Avenue streetscape of 1913. The garden wall was introduced in 1939 by Olmsted Associates landscape architects, who also removed the small arched bridge above the ripple pool for an uninterrupted perspective of the flowing water.
Hundreds of views were taken of “The Arlington Pageant” honoring the dedication of the new Town Hall, a production written by Vittoria Colonna Dallin, the indepently accomplished wife of sculptor Cyrus E. Dallin. The extravaganza was held on the shore of the Upper Mystic Lake in June 1913. This scene depicts the discovery of America by the Vikings.
Printed as postcards, the Arlington Pageant view found a ready market among the 600 residents featured in the epic history of Arlington. In this scene members of the Arlington Historical Society are attired in garb worn by the townspeople when the town of West Cambridge (incorporated in 1807) was renamed Arlington in 1867.
O. L. Story of Devereaux Road was a renowned painter of scenic theatre curtains and stage backdrops. His studios were in Somerville. He designed several backdrops for the new town hall stage.
This is a nother of Story’s painted backdrops. There is speculation that these may have been painted over in the 1930s or that they have been removed. Concerns about the potential for asbestos in the material would not make them suitable for regular use by today’s standards.
This 1962 “Plastichrome” postcard is the style that came close to true color reproduction in the printed postcard medium. Variations on this type of postcard manufacture remain the standard today, although with the development of Internet-based ways to share images, the era of the postcard seems to be rapidly approaching its end.