Frankford seeks historic designation for former Town Hall

Frankford town officials are spearheading a community effort to have the former bank and Town Hall at 5 Main St. listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

FRANKFORD — Town officials are banking on community support and historical information in securing recognition for a Main Street structure that is more than a century old and served as Town Hall for more than six decades.

Town Council and community members are seeking designation on the National Register of Historic Places for the 5 Main St. property, which initially was the town’s first location of the First National Bank of Frankford, established in October 1907.

Council members formally voted at their Monday meeting to pursue National Register recognition in hopes that it will lead to support of upkeep of the now vacant building.

“The main reason we are going for National Register is a resident thought we might be able to get some help in keeping it maintained,” said Frankford Town Council President Gregory Welch. “We’ve got to put money towards it, and it is not really making us any money. Everybody does like the building. It is a great building.”

In mid-July, Mr. Welch and Councilman John Wright met with Madeline Dunn, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ National Register coordinator, to discuss getting the First National Bank of Frankford on the National Register.

The brick building displays the original stained-glass “BANK” sign. Above it, in white lettering, reads, “Frankford Town Hall.”

Mr. Welch noted the design of the former bank structure. “There is a lot of banks in the area that is the same basic design and structure. Dagsboro has a very similar Town Hall. It is very similar to this,” he said.

The council president said he has thoroughly examined the 5 Main St. building. “I’ve been up in the attic. I’ve looked all through it,” Mr. Welch said. “It needs work, but it is definitely a great building that needs to be saved and preserved for our town.”

In March 2017, Town Council relocated its Town Hall a few strides to the south, in the building at 9 Main St. that formerly housed the Justice of the Peace Court 1. Prior to that new location, Town Council, for about five years, held its public meetings in the neighboring Frankford Volunteer Fire Co. meeting room, having outgrown the 5 Main St. building.

Later in 2017, the town advertised in hopes of renting the 5 Main St. property, which became Town Hall after a new First National Bank of Frankford opened on the other side of Main Street in 1952.

The tentative plan, Mr. Welch said, is to form a committee to gather information and support of the community.

“We want to find people’s stories throughout the town about the building and things like that to get the community involved in the historic process,” he said. “We’re going to go through it and do it.”

Mr. Welch said historical artifacts tied to the building and its initial era as a bank may exist in the archives of the town’s noted historian, Albert “Ab” Franklin, who passed away at age 83 in December.

“Somebody in the (meeting’s) audience did know that Ab Franklin, the local town historian who has since passed away, did have a couple of those treasury notes,” Mr. Welch said. “Part of the process to get on the National Register is to kind of delve into the community and get everybody’s knowledge from it, get people’s stories. We’re trying to flush out the history of it, which will be interesting.”