Berlin Chamber Redesign Rejected

BERLIN — Plans to honor Edward Hammond went back to the drawing board this week after the Berlin Historic District Commission (HDC) failed to approve the design.

“I don’t like it,” said Commissioner Rick Stack at Wednesday night’s meeting.

The proposed Edward H. Hammond Jr. Visitor Center would be located at 14 South Main St. where the current Chamber of Commerce building sits. Former Berlin Councilwoman Ellen Lang, who spoke on behalf of the chamber, explained that the current building’s façade would be modified and then the building would be dedicated in memory of Hammond, a town icon and long-time attorney who passed away last September.

“We’re trying to conform,” she said of the design. “We’re trying to make it fit into the town.”

However, several members on the HDC agreed with Stack, expressing issues with how the building looked.

“It just doesn’t seem to match well,” said Commissioner Kit Mathews.
“It’s a lot going on to your eye,” said Commissioner Mary Moore.

Common concerns felt by many in the HDC included the building’s canopy, parapet, the use of brick only in some areas and thin columns, among other things.

“It looks top heavy … It’s not a pretty building,” said Moore.

Though Moore had issues with the design, she stressed that she approved of the idea of a memorial to Hammond. However, she guessed that Hammond himself might not have been thrilled about the proposal.

“I think Ed would say, ‘I’m not sure, this isn’t what we have in mind,’” said Moore.

Stack sympathized with the chamber and pointed out that crafting a significant memorial was “difficult with this small of a building.”

Chamber Executive Director Olive Mawyer acknowledged that there wasn’t too much to work with in regards to the current building.

“Unfortunately, it is an ugly building,” she told the commission.

However, Mawyer argued that the proposed façade changes would “improve the building 100 percent.”

Commissioner Joel Todd was the only HDC member to endorse the design.
“I think it’s beautiful,” he said. “I like it.”

The rest of the commission retained doubts, however, and asked Lang to table the request until a later date and return with a new plan that takes into account some or all of the recommendations of the HDC. Suggestions were varied and included things like opting for a cloth canopy, using more brick, removing the top parapet and making the side of the building more attractive, among others.

Lang agreed to come back within three months.