LYNN — There’s a heartfelt inscription in the marble facing above the foyer in Lynn City Hall: “This building is dedicated to those who served in all wars of our country.”
It’s been there since this majestic building opened on Sept. 8, 1949.
It was fitting that Tuesday night’s 70th anniversary salute to City Hall, which drew some 500 people to the celebration, focused on the city’s veterans and that it was held in this beautifully renovated foyer.
Mayor Thomas M. McGee said, “We must always remember those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom. It was important to make this foyer look spectacular again, in tribute to all who have served.”
Mike Sweeney, director of Veterans’ Services, said, “This foyer is a living tribute to our veterans. It’s a great way to honor and remember those who fought and gave their lives. There are still people serving today. We can’t forget that. I thank the mayor and city officials for making this foyer something to be proud of.”
Former mayors Thomas P. Costin Jr., J. Warren Cassidy, David L. Phillips, Albert V. DiVirgilio and Judith Flanagan Kennedy were also on hand to participate in this 70th anniversary observance. Each shared memories of their time as mayor and the role the city played in their lives.
The occasion also gave the public its first look at “city hALL,” a celebratory art project that features four floors of art, history and more.
“This is the people of the City of Lynn’s building,” said McGee.
After the brief introductory program, Lynn’s Michelle Guzman of Lynn Walking Shoe Tours guided visitors through the historic building. Videos of Lynn played on the auditorium’s big screen.
“City hALL” is a collaboration of the Downtown Lynn Cultural District, Lynn Public Arts Commission, and numerous non-profits, businesses, and, especially, city residents, who donated much of the art displayed here.
Most of those in attendance stayed to check out the “city hALL” exhibit. Each floor has a specific focus.
Industry and innovation take center stage on the top floor, and it’s a treasure trove of memories. One wall showcases the city’s days as a major shoe manufacturer. At the beginning of the 20th century, Lynn was the world leader in the production of shoes: 234 factories made 1 million pairs every day. A vintage black-and-white photo captured workers on the factory floor at A.E. Little & Co. “Every single worker is a woman,” said one observant visitor.
Other fourth floor exhibits look at the Narrow Gauge Railroad and the Underground Railroad. A Freedom Quilt, a collaborative effort by Lynn’s public elementary schools, is an attention grabber; it’s based on the patchwork quilts used during the Underground Railroad days to lead people to freedom.
The wall next to the Public Health office pays tribute to Lynn Hospital and its School of Nursing. A portrait of a nursing school graduate is the centerpiece, but many were searching to find their mom’s or sister’s name on a gold plaque that lists every School of Nursing graduate from 1883 to 1979. Photos of the operating room with its 1908 state-of-the-art equipment and a pic of the maternity ward in 1916 — several newborns share the same bed — drew oohs and aahs.
The third floor has a history theme and includes a “Hall of Mayors” display that dominates the wall space leading to the mayor’s office. It provides an informational plaque of every mayor since the city was incorporated in 1850.
Hearing Room 302 has been transformed into a community gallery, and it was officially opened Tuesday night. A series of photographs by Lynn Shutter Society members currently occupies the space, which will host a rotating series of exhibits by the city’s creative community.
The second floor has a maritime theme. An impressive 3-foot-tall metal sculpture of a fish, created by Lynn Tech students, that was hanging in the high school’s shop bears the proverb: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” There are also numerous paintings of Lynn’s beaches and waterfront.
The lower level first floor highlights community roots. Attention-grabbing works donated by Lynn artists and the Lynn Public Schools All City Art Show share space with dream catchers and masks created at a Teen Art Therapy Workshop hosted by Oasis in the LynnArts building.
The impressive, renovated foyer is a living memorial to the city’s fallen veterans.
The “city hALL” exhibit will remain open to all for the foreseeable future.