Mycea Morris-Hayes was walking down Germantown Avenue on her way to the library when she saw that the door of Germantown’s Town Hall was open. Curiosity drove her to walk up the stone stairs into the historic building.
“I had thought it was closed down because it was going to collapse or that it was haunted,” Morris-Hayes said, “so I decided to come in and look around.”
For the first time in 25 years, the 90-year-old town hall has opened its doors to the public as part of the Hidden City Festival, which is running from May 23 until June 30. During these six weeks, the building is active from 12-7 p.m Thursday-Sunday for Germantown’s residents to explore not only the historical hall but also more intangible aspects of their neighborhood.
Most of the first floor rooms available to visitors are bright and empty with green paint peeling from the walls. In an administrative room, desks are scattered with pencil nubs and other remnants of 1990s paper pushing.
One room, however, features a huge map of Germantown. Tags are pinned to the map and labeled in all sorts of different handwriting. Each one is a resource that a Germantown resident sees as important and can locate. Artist Jeremy Beaudry of The Think Tank Yet To Be Named explains that this is a space for the neighborhood to visualize what Germantown holds for its diverse collection of residents.
“Ultimately we aim to match people who don’t have resources with people who do have resources.” Beaudry said. His three-person think tank worked closely with the Hidden City Festival to create the event at the Town Hall. Made up of Germantown residents Beaudry along with Meredith Warner and Katie Hargrave, currently based in Minneapolis, the think tank is working to combine art and design to enhance the community.
Residents have also been invited to share how they would ultimately like to see the town hall used.
“I think this would be a great place for an after school program,” Morris-Hayes said while writing her suggestion on a white paper card. “There aren’t many after school programs out here for kids ages 10 and above.”
Others suggest that the town hall be used for art, community building or education. Some see it as a potential opportunity for small business.
“It’s really interesting to see the different perspectives,” Hidden City event volunteer Jennifer Schwartz said as she browsed through the suggestions.
Residents are invited to stop by throughout the Hidden City festival to experience activities including knitting workshops and community discussion groups. A complete calendar of activities can be found on Hidden City’s website.