City Hall in downtown Bath.

Public buildings are expensive, and Bath found itself with two major projects in 1928. 

The Bath town hall was an old brick building on Center Street which had long been outgrown. The city had been putting off a new building for financial reasons, but a nice gift pressured the city to act. 

At the top of the hill where the present City Hall stands, there had once been a home belonging to Charles Davenport. His son George was born there and later used the building as an office. When George died, he left the building and $10,000 to the city on the condition that they build a city hall on the property. The city had already raised about $8,000 for the project, but they were still well short. It’s possible that the city might still have done nothing, but the Davenport Trust authorized another grant. Even then, a bond had to be issued for $160,000 for the building construction, adding to the city’s debt.

The Davenport lot was not big enough to build the new city hall, so the wooden building next door had to be purchased and torn down; the total cost of the new building was $209,536.98. Ninety years later, that new City Hall is still serving us well. 

A few artifacts of the past can still be seen there: a jail cell in the basement, which used to serve as the city jail; a fallout shelter sign next to the side door; and a massive siren on the roof whose job was to warn Bath citizens if the Maine Yankee power plant melted down. Other reminders of the past have disappeared, including the creaky old original elevator where you could see in between the floors as it rose and fell. I went there a few years ago just to ride it up and down, and I practically cried when I saw a new modern elevator in its place.

As if a new City Hall was not financial burden enough, Bath was forced to build a new high school in 1928 when the old Morse building burned down. Charles Morse, who funded the first building, was reportedly very sad when it went up in flames. But he did not pay for a new building, so the city was forced to borrow again for the $291,000 new Morse High. The timing was bad, and Bath owed $440,836 on these projects as the Great Depression descended upon the nation.

Source: Owen’s History of Bath, Maine 1936

Zac McDorr is a Coastal Journal contributor. He can be reached at [email protected]

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