Millis’ Niagara Hall to Celebrate Grand Re-Opening

J.D. O’Gara
Celebration Slated for Saturday, May 25th, 12 Noon
Shown is Millis’ Niagara Hall in 1936, following a fire, in a photo taken by Mr. Chilson. The building at that time housed fire and police, including a jail (see bars in right photo.)  Niagara Hall has been restored over the last 20 years and will celebrate a grand re-opening on May 25th, at noon.
Issue Date: 
May, 2019
Article Body: 

20 years in the making, and it started with an idea Jeff Hardin had.
That’s how members of the Millis Historical Commission tell the story of the restoration of historic Niagara Hall, at long last about to celebrate its grand re-opening on Saturday, May 25th, 2019, at noon, complete with a color guard, police and fire escorts, and performance by members of the Greater Boston Firefighters Pipes and Drums band.
“Jeff started this thing in 1999,” says Millis Historical Commission chair Nathan Maltinsky. It all began with a $50K grant secured by Cheryl Jacques, Mass. Senator at the time.
“That was enough money to do the front of the building,” says Maltinsky. Later, he says, the Historical Commission sent out fundraising letters and held a few fundraisers. “Many local businesses and townspeople donated toward the restoration,” he says.
The real restoration, he says, began in 2010, when the Niagara Hall project received funding from the Community Preservation Commission.
“The building was picked up, and a new partial foundation was poured,” says Maltinsky. That cost $60K, he says, which was a bargain for the foundation, the slab underneath, a new floor and framing. Later, a hose tower that had been taken off in 1974 was recreated and dropped into place about four or five years ago.
As much money that has gone into it, however, Maltinsky stresses, the volunteer labor that has gone into the building easily matches in monetary value the CPC funding.
“We have had some very dedicated and committed Historic Commission members,” says Maltinsky. “I’m very proud of this building and all the effort that’s been put in,” says Maltinsky. “This whole corner, the building, with the library, it sets the tone for the whole town. It’s the fabric of Millis, and everyone recognizes it.”
Millis native Dennis Anderson is among those who’ve put in numerous hours to finish up with a lot of the painting work at Niagara Hall.
“I joined the Millis Historical Society a couple of years ago,” says Anderson, who explains that the private society differs from the town board that is the Millis Historical Commission. Anderson is one of four generations of his family to have worked in the Niagara building.
“The tradition continues,” he laughs.
Maltinsky also credits Mitch Bobinski as part of the heart and soul of getting the work finished at Niagara. “I think we’ll always be doing little things on this place,” says Bobinski, Millis resident of 30 years, who jokes that he was blackmailed into it, but feels “very satisfied with it, now. It was a fun process.”
Maltinsky sends out thanks as well to Marc Prufer, for donating his architectural expertise, Tri-County students, Scott Fuzy, Jacquie Gracie, Joanne Gannon, Carol McNiff and Meg Watters Wilkes for their contributions in restoring the building. In addition, whenever possible, local tradesmen, such as John Hourigan, were hired to complete work inside the building.
Charles Vecchi, longtime member of the Millis Historical Commission, agrees that restoring Niagara was a fun process. “It’s satisfying to preserve something from the past that we can pass on to future generations.”
Over the years, says Vecchi, the building, which survived two fires and was struck by lightning in 1939, has been the location for police and fire, once including a jail. Just recently, laments Vecchi, the town lost the last two firefighters that had been stationed at the Niagara firehouse, Lacroix and Volpicelli. When the Millis Fire Station was built in 1951, says Vecchi, Niagara housed ambulances, and later it was converted to office space, home of the Board of Assessors, the Tax Collector, the Board of Health and the Recreation Department. These offices remained at that location until 1997, when the Veterans Memorial Building became home to Millis Town Hall.
“After it was Town Hall, it was set to be torn down. Jeffrey Hardin, who used to be a Selectman in town, wanted to save the building,” says Mark Slayton, Commission member, who adds that also preserved are the two original handtubs that belonged to the Niagara and Rockville stations. “After 20 years of planning and work, I’m excited to see it finally come to completion, where we can now have an official town museum. It was piecemeal when we started with Jeffrey, but once we got CPC funds it really took off.” Growing the collection of artifacts to be housed at this museum will be the next order of business, says Slayton.
Looking forward, the first floor will continue to house the old engines and act as a museum of sorts. Maltinsky says the Commission hopes to open the building to the public at least once a month and by appointment for school and other groups. In addition, the second floor, which features two restored historic murals, will be available for town functions (and private functions for a fee that will support the Millis Historical Commission) and can be used by town organizations, says Maltinsky. Those interested in renting the hall can contact the Millis Historical Commission at
The Millis Historical Commission will coordinate Niagara’s grand re-opening with Millis Fire Chief Rick Barrett. Exchange Street will likely be closed during the presentations.