100 years ago today, Milford Town Hall destroyed by fire

Today, Feb. 19, marks 100 years since the previous Milford Town Hall burned in 1915.

Fire destroyed the remodeled Town Hall in the early morning hours of Feb. 19, according to an article forwarded by resident Daniel Ortoleva.

“Five vagrants who were lodged for the night in the basement were awakened by the distressed mewing of a cat,” the article states. “They battered their way through the basement ceiling with a pipe wrenched from the wall, made their escape from the burning building, and sounded the fire alarm.”

Old Town Hall

The article, which appears to be a history recap published in a newspaper years ago, states that in 1874 the Town Hall and the Baptist Church were made into one building by the erection of a central connecting section. The colonial type building was in the shape of an H with an auditorium on the east side.

“The central part and the west side were two stories high and housed the town offices, as well as the graded and high schools. The jail and lodgings for transients were in the basement. The row of fluted pillars across the front was approached by steps running the entire width of the building. The central part was topped by a cupola, containing the school bell.”

The fire

“With help from neighboring towns and cities, the local fire department fought desperately, but high wind defeated all attempts to check the blaze,” the article states.

The loss was estimated at $50,000.

Fortunately, the town records, as well as the valuable silver communion service of the church, which were stored in a fire-proof vault, escaped destruction, according to the article.

A little more

Former City Historian Richard Platt said that earlier town hall was located where the current City Hall is today.

He also recounted another part of the story. A distant relative of his, Omar Platt, was on the scene and instructed a firefighter to aim his hose through a window and keep the hose pouring water on the vault.

Omar Platt was a political leader in Milford during the first half of the 20th century, and he was one person who could get away with issuing directives to a firefighter, Platt said.

“The firefighter kept his hose on that vault, and we still have those records today,” Platt said.