Old Ipswich Town Hall Arts & Entertainment Center
Ipswich, Massachusetts












Thomas Mayo Associates / Architects & Urban Designers participated as a primary member of the development team that won the Town of Ipswich competition to purchase and develop the former Ipswich Town Hall and District Court Building.  TMA is currently working with the new building owner, Entertainment Management Corporation to develop the building.  The adaptive reuse of the Old Ipswich Town Hall will convert the formerly vacant building into a vibrant and exciting new Entertainment/ Cultural Center for downtown Ipswich.  TMA’s concept for the reuse of this historically significant downtown landmark includes a 340-seat Theater for film, musical and live theatrical productions on the upper level, a Restaurant, and other retail uses on the main level, and a Coffee House/Jazz Club, which would provide a smaller venue for local and regional performing artists, on the lower level.  Our development team’s vision for the Old Town Hall is that the project will build on, and strengthen, the growing local and regional popularity of Ipswich restaurants, galleries and retail shops.


TMA’s proposed design takes advantage of the historic character and past of the building.  The upper level Theater, for example, will actually be a restoring of the large 2-story space originally built in 1833 as a Unitarian Church, and later expanded in 1876 as the Ipswich Town Hall.  This magnificent space has remained “hidden” since the mid 1980's when it was divided up into town offices.  In addition to the large meeting hall space, the restoration plan will utilize the original raised stage area and balcony, and restore and reuse interior historic details, such as the balcony railing, the large ceiling medallions, decorative cove and pilaster moldings, window casings, and doorways.


A new grand entrance lobby will be constructed at the South Main Street entrance to the building with stairways leading to the upper level Theater.  The entrance lobby will also open to the existing center corridor leading to the back of the building. TMA’s concept is to treat this interior central corridor as a “mini galleria” with mullioned glass interior storefronts for the retail spaces. On the first floor, the plan utilizes the original curved corridor walls, tin ceilings, as well as many of the historically significant doors, trim and remaining historic detailing.  The plan includes the reuse of  existing carved wood courtroom furnishings in the project.


The renovation plans include the construction of a copy of the original front portico, shown in early 1900's photos of the Old Ipswich Town Hall, as the new entrance to the building. This new South Main Street entrance would be designed to accommodate handicapped accessibility and includes restoring and reuse of the existing granite steps. The plans also include preserving the existing historic decorative exterior details and window trim of the building. The design will maintain the present decorative door frame and architrave at the Elm Street building entrance, and restore the original larger opening in the right-hand portion of the architrave with a wood-mullioned storefront design that would reflect the historic character of the building.


 The plans include the construction of a new raised deck on the park side of the building which will serve a dual purpose. First, it would be utilized as a small outdoor dining area for the Restaurant, and, secondly, it would be utilized as an outdoor stage for “theater in the park” type plays or musical events.  As a part of the projects’ traffic/parking plan developed in conjunction with the Town of Ipswich, metered parking and/or time limit parking will be implemented in the lots and surrounding streets in order to keep these spaces available for the commercial uses in the area, while also allowing overnight parking for area residents. 


The new Entertainment/Cultural Center will help to reinforce the overall goals of economic and cultural growth for the Town of Ipswich, not only by bringing additional property taxes to the Town, but in helping to stimulate additional income for downtown businesses. The Entertainment/ Cultural Center will create new employment opportunities and new markets, and responds to the community need for a center which will provide entertainment for all ages.  The project will play a major role in the revitalization of the “SoCho District,” an area of town which is beginning to establish itself as an arts and cultural destination, not only for Ipswich, but for surrounding communities.


Floor Plans

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