Brome Hall, located at 330 Stagecoach in Brome, dates back to the mid-19th century when residents decided they wanted a gathering space of their own for the people of Brome. The community came together to raise enough money to bring the project to life and Benjamin W. Prime, of the Township of Brome, sold a piece of land to Nathaniel Pettes, Henry R. Williams, and Azro H. Chandler, who became the trustees of the building upon its construction, Feb. 13, 1857. Brome Hall was erected in 1859 and officially incorporated in 1914 by an act of legislation. Almost 170 years later, Brome Hall continues to serve the community in more ways than one and the current board of trustees is fundraising to preserve the building for future generations.
When the piece of land was purchased for Brome Hall back in 1857, the deal was that it needed to be constructed within the first two years following the sale or the land would go back to Prime.
The building was officially erected in 1859 with Pettes, Williams, and Chandler managing the building and taking care of the upkeep.
It was originally built to serve as an educational, religious, and public meeting space for the community.
By 1913, all three trustees had passed away, as did their wives, but there was no provision made for replacements.
According to official documents, the heirs and legal representatives of the original trustees “quit-claimed” their “right” to the building and property and encouraged Edgar S. Chapman, George F. Hall, and Herbert E. Chandler, who already took over managing the building around that time, “to obtain the passage of an act of the Provincial Legislator, incorporating them and their successors in office as a board of trustees under the name of the Brome Public Building.”
With this act of legislation, it was determined that the successors to the board of trustees are to be from Brome and the mayor is expected to sit on the board. In the case of death or resignationthe board can choose a replacement.
More importantly, the building belongs to every citizen in Brome and this act of legislation continues to be set in stone today.
“It’s not common. When we create a non-profit organization now it’s quite a simple process where you just fill out a form, send it in, and then your company gets created,” said Josée Carpentier, a Cowansville lawyer who helped the board of trustees register Brome Public Building in Quebec’s business registry. “This is such an old company. It was created in 1914 and the way it was done back then, they had to have a law passed by the National Assembly. It’s kind of cool because it’s all official with a seal and it must have been quite the process too to have it adopted.”
“Technically, it belongs to 220 people. There are 220 tax bills and each one of them clearly states that everyone in the community owns it,” explained Bob Derby, president of the current board of trustees. “Could you imagine if we did try to sell this building? We’d have to get 220 people to agree. There is no deed, no tax bill, no paper trail, other than they incorporated as owned by the community.”
In 2019, the members of the board of trustees at the time decided to resign and they appointed Derby, Pam Garrick (secretary treasurer), and Dominique Theriault (director) as their replacements and they want to keep Brome Hall alive and well.
“We registered as a non-profit in 2020 and that is when we took over as the new trustees, in January 2020, and the former trustees resigned on Dec. 31, 2019. Then we got hit by Covid,” said Derby. “We kind of couldn’t use it for much. We had a few things, but nothing of any significance. They couldn’t even hold town meetings there because the town wasn’t permitted to have meetings in person. It’s been closed up for almost two years; it is what it is.”
Throughout its history, Brome Hall has been used for birthday parties, funerals, municipal council meetings, book clubs, Christmas craft sales, and other special community events.
“At one point we used to have monthly card parties at the hall. People would get together and play cards, and maybe have a piece of pie and coffee before heading home,” mentioned Derby.
Brome Hall was also a gathering space for the annual community suppers that were put on twice a year. They were so popular that volunteers had to organize two sittings due to a limited capacity of about 100 people.
“It’s amazing a little hall that size can serve anywhere between 80 and 180 meals,” noted Derby.
“A lot of people who came for the suppers don’t even come from Brome,” added Garrick.
Recognizing the significance of the community space, the three trustees are now trying to raise funds to update it for future generations to carry on the legacy of Brome Public Building and to keep Brome Hall as an important part of the everyday life of Brome residents.
“On our own we already raised $45,000 and if we had about another $100,000 to go with it, we would be right in business,” explained Derby. “I think it would be good for the next 20, 30, 40 years as long as people want to use it.”
The hall’s regular source of income comes from the municipality, which rents the space, and there are rummage sales organized twice a year by Brome volunteers to help cover heating and other costs, but the present trustees want to change that.
“Brome volunteers are adamant about maintaining and preserving this building,” emphasized Garrick. “They work extremely hard during the year to prepare the rummage sales.”
“We want to put that money back into our community. Whether in the park, a get-together for the elderly, something for the kids, maybe some cooking classes for younger kids,” added Derby.
Needing some changes to its foundation, a new heating system for cost efficiency, and wheelchair access, the trustees have applied for grants and are hoping to reach their goal with the community’s support.
“We are committed to improving the Brome Public Building so that it can continue to serve the needs of the village and its surrounding communities for another 170 years,” said Derby.
To support Brome Public Building, email Garrick at email@example.com or Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.