Officials discuss signage at Royalston Town Hall

Royalston Town Hall

Royalston Town Hall PHOTO BY GREG VINE—

By Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 02-27-2024 3:42 PM

ROYALSTON – One might assume that installing signage for a municipal building would be a relatively simple matter.

In the case of Royalston Town Hall, however, such a task has proven more challenging. The building, which opened its doors to conduct town business in December 1867, lies within the town’s historic district. That means any changes or additions to the building or property requires the assent of the Historic District Commission.

“The selectmen have been working for almost a year on a project to put some signage on this building,” said Selectboard Vice Chair Deb D’Amico at a recent meeting. “Over the years there have been lots of incidents where someone was supposed to meet at the Town Hall, but they don’t know which building is Town Hall. We often miss deliveries at the Selectboard office because there is no signage to indicate what this building is. A lot of times, we’re supposed to meet someone at Town Hall, only to find they’ve gone to Whitney Hall and are sitting in the parking lot there.”

Selectboard member Shelby Bronnes has met with the commission several times. A public hearing to discuss possible options for signage must be held before a final decision is made.

Bronnes said that talks with the commission centered around the possibility of a free-standing sign on the lawn in front of Town Hall. The commission ultimately determined, however, that a sign affixed to the building would be preferable, according to Bronnes.

The board was presented with a letter from former commission member Pierre Humblet opposing the addition of a sign to the building.

“Historical preservation practices, such as the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards (for the Treatment of Historic Properties),” wrote Humblet, “frown upon adding new elements to a significant building and making them look as if they have always been there…As the main objective of the historic district is the preservation and protection of the distinctive characteristics of buildings, I think that placing a sign near the building would be most appropriate.”

Robert Hendrie, who, like Humblet, owns a home within the district, said, “We’ve never had a large sign on town hall before, or on any other buildings in the common area. It’s been nearly 160 years that we’ve had no sign.”

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Hendrie argued that delivery drivers can easily find town hall by employing their GPS, but added that simply posting the street number to the front of the building could address the issue. He also said that attaching a small plaque to the building that includes the date of the building’s construction might be appropriate, since other buildings in the district are also fitted with these kinds of markers.

“Basically,” Hendrie continued, “I want to shoot down the idea of a ‘wild west’ style sign or billboard that is way, way larger than anything we’ve ever had in the town.”

D’Amico pointed out that there is a free-standing sign in front of Old Schoolhouse #1, which houses the society and the post office. However, Historic District Commission Chair Peter Kraniak said he thought it would be better to mount a sign on the town hall itself. Public Works Director Jaret Thiem added that placing a free-standing sign anywhere on the common would create an obstacle for the mower used to cut the grass.

Former Selectboard member Gary Winitzer said, “There should be a number 13 on this building, not for deliveries, but for public safety. Numbers were required after the town approved having 911. And I don’t believe the Historic District Commission can stop somebody from putting up a house number that’s required by state law. You could make (the number) larger than the required three inches.”

Bronnes said she would meet with the commission to try to finalize a new sign and to get a better idea of the thinking behind the commission’s thinking behind placing the sign directly on the town hall.

Greg Vine can be reached at