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Old Somerset Town Hall replaces steps with new staircase

New steps are replacing the old at the original Somerset Town Hall on Main Street. The previous steps were approximately 20 years old. Gaylen Schilling, local contractor, won the bid to redo the staircase.

The former steps were, according to Melissa Tuura-Johnson, "scary."

She would know. For the last several years Tuura-Johnson has been actively restoring the original Town Hall, along with fellow Somerset resident Rita Lawson.

"The steps were so irregular in terms of height," said Lawson. "It was dangerous to come down them, especially with a big step from the building to the platform."

The previous steps leading to the 1886 building were not original; they were estimated to have been built approximately 20-50 years ago. When the town celebrated its sesquicentennial in Sept. 2006, new boards were placed over the existing framework.

"We've been trying to get new ones for six years," Tuura-Johnson said.

The Old Town Hall is open only occasionally during the year, for Pea Soup Days and the Haunted Hall at Halloween, because it has no water or HVAC/AC. However, it was the original seat of government for several decades and is a historical building.

It's a legacy that Turra-Johnson and Lawson are dedicated to preserving.

The Township has allocated a $1,500 budget for the maintenance of the building and grounds. In addition, Tuura-Johnson and Lawson have been selling memorial bricks for the Helen Landry memorial garden located beside the building. Between the two sources, they have raised enough money to purchase a new staircase.

Having already designed the landscaping, Tuura-Johnson also designed the steps.

"I wanted to make the steps easier to climb: made the rise shorter and the tread deeper," she explained. "Plus we put a handrail on it so it won't be so scary."

The building itself got an update when the Venturing Crew painted the exterior over the summer. The Somerset Township board donated $750 to the youth group for their labors.

Gaylen Schilling, of Schilling Construction in Somerset, won the bid and the stairs should be completed by the end of the week.

Lawson said that with a building this age, there are always projects to be done.

"A window here, a window there, rotting out," she said. "Our front door has a crack in it from top to bottom. But we would like to extend the brick walk to take the concrete steps out."

The maintenance of the Old Town Hall is done solely by volunteers. For more information on how to help, contact Tuura-Johnson at 612-802-9021 or Lawson at 715-247-3242.