“If only these walls could talk.” A remarkable space preserved from the victorian era that most people will pass without notice, in a building that holds incredible historic significance for Willimantic. Franklin hall is located on the third floor of 796 Main Street (historically known as the “Franklin Block” named for Benjamin Franklin and now the location of “A Cupcake for Later”). The original building was completed in 1848 and was constructed of wood. This was Willimantic’s first public space, a place for meetings, rallies, concerts and plays. Having been burned to the ground in 1868, the block was rebuilt to the same design, becoming the first all brick block on Main Street in Willimantic.
What’s truly remarkable about this space is the fact that it has been so lightly used over past 90 years. The detail that still exists in the original unpainted plaster, the remaining portions of the proscenium, the original wood floor that is still in remarkable condition and the benches that were built into the balcony. The fact that this space was once crammed with hundreds of people on a regular basis (imagine climbing up the tiny staircase behind a sizable crowd). And the fact that this space never fell to the many eras of redevelopment in Willimantic’s past and has never been renovated to destroy what’s truly special about this space.
This was the place that held the first Catholic Mass in Willimantic, and was a major center for the community for a long time. In the offices below, Willimantic’s first high school operated, and this was the original location for the Willimantic Chronicle. Many traveling vaudeville and minstrel shows would have performed in the hall and was Willimantic’s main outlet for entertainment until the much larger Loomer Opera House was constructed in 1879 (which seated 1,100). It was a space of worship and organization, and for meetings and lectures. Franklin Hall is truly a relic and an incredible artifact preserved from Willimantic’s past.