The Old Salem Town Hall

Written by Marva Twitchell Davis

The building has the year 1901 on it and was built as the Town Hall.  It is made of light brick and red sandstone.  The red sandstone was hauled from Spanish Fork Canyon.  The outside walls are made of one brick and two adobe.  The divided walls downstairs were three adobe wide.   The ceilings were 14 feet downstairs.  The upstairs consisted of nice wide stairs going up from the back door.  A small room was at the top of the stairs.  The rest of the upstairs consisted of one large room.

There were tall windows all around that were arched over the top.  It had a very high ceiling—possibly twenty feet or more.  Each room in the house had wanes coating about four feet high, and there was a potbellied stove, as well.  Each room had big heavy doors and there were double doors on the front that swung closed if they were left open.

Throughout the house, everything was painted in two shades of green – dark and medium.  The walls were coarse plaster and painted with calcimine, a powder that was available in different colors and could be mixed with water and painted on.  Over that they had used a sponge dipped in a different color to make a pattern on the wall.  The paint was the original color when the house was purchased by Preston George Davis II in 1942.

Many people helped to build it, including unskilled workers who were civic minded who wanted it and the schoolhouse which was built about the same time to be finished so that Salem could become a city.  One of those men was George Preston Davis I, who helped on both.  I was told that he was the one that made the red arches over the windows, even though he was not a stonemason. 

The town hall was the center of activity for the city in those days.  Rex Davis went with his father to the town hall to practice with the band which won many prizes for their excellence.  Many parties, boxing matches, plays, dances, and other functions were held in the dance hall—the upstairs room.

There were four rooms downstairs with a seven foot hall the entire length of the building from the front door to the back door.  The back door on the southeast was a jail with two cells with iron doors on each cell.  There was a walkway in front of the cells and another iron door on the front of the room.  There were red sandstone steps leading to the front and back doors. 

The building was used for extra classes when the school was too full.  Later on, the rooms were used for storage for the city.  At one time, mattresses were made there by people of low income.  People also used the town hall for canning produce in a pressure cooker shared by all. 

There were offices in the building and many meetings were held there.  Notices would be posted on the trees.  There was a park on the grounds surrounding the town hall which was about a half block and contained about 125 trees. 

In 1942, the property was purchased by George Preston Davis II from the city.  It had been vacant for years, and had many broken windows.  George and family moved into the building and slowly remodeled it.  They also put in a sidewalk to the building, lowered the ceilings, painted, paneled, papered, and plumbed and added bathrooms, and  chopped down the trees so that they could have sunshine and raise a garden.  They made closets and cupboards, and so on.  All five of their children grew up there.  They lived there for fifty-two years and sold most of the property, including the house, in the spring of 1994 to Rodney McKee and built a home on some of the property.

Davis Home - 2001 Seven years after the sale.

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