Designed in 1873 by Machias architect, Andrew Gilson, Liberty Hall is an imposing high-style Italianate building. Popular throughout the Northeast from the 1840s through the end of the 1870s, the Italianate style was felt to be the highest style of civic architecture in Maine at the time. Built on a grand scale to symbolize the nobility of civic and social affairs, Liberty Hall was the most prominent emblem of Machiasport's prosperity. The carved decorative elements of the style benefited from new technologies that enabled machine-tooled wood-carving on an elaborate scale. Constructed of native pine and hemlock, mainstays of the town's economic fortunes, the building still pays homage not only to Gilson's vision, but to the skill of Maine craftsmen.
Liberty Hall has a simple rectangular block plan, and is sixty-six feet deep by forty feet wide. Its east facade has five bays, with two four-by-four windows on either side of the grand entrance to the building. On the second floor are three double-hung six-by-six windows, the central oversized pair arched at the top and surmounted by an oculus window. The clipped gable roofline is topped by the square tower of the belvedere, featuring, on each side, a pair of arched openings in a single arched top containing another oculus.
Once topped by a stylish mansard roof and gilded weather vane, Liberty Hall's great arcaded belvedere -- another typical feature of the Italianate style -- can be seen from any number of vantage points. The view from the tower is magnificent, overlooking Round Island and the splendor of Machias Bay.
Supported by an intricate system of braces and trusses, the belvedere tower was cleverly designed by Gilson to withstand dramatic ocean winds. Its details -- the giant scroll brackets and splendid denticulated cornice -- are typical of the expert craftsmanship, architectural sensibility, and masterful woodwork of the structure, both inside and out.
Each of the long north and south elevations show three exceptional six-over-six windows, all with deeply carved moldings and scrolled brackets, that still light the auditorium on the second floor. Like all the windows on the building they have splendid bracketed crowns and the original wavy glass. Two four-over-four windows flank the doors on both sides, with the southern door still retaining its original mouldings and bracketed crown as well.
No one could fail to be impressed by the elegance of the carved architectural details of the facade and side elevations, from the scrolled brackets supporting the crowns of the windows to the bracketed overhanging eaves and the beautiful ornamental detail of the belvedere and its elegant base. In addition to these richly detailed elements, one will also notice the decorative surrounds, cornices, and bold rusticated trim at the corners, no doubt intended to resemble masonry construction. The fluid carving of all the architectural details, from the finely executed rustication of the corner pilasters to the scrolls and brackets that support the moulded crowns over the windows both on the upper and lower stories, give a sense of Gilson's unusual attention to the shape and substance of the building.
The young architect took obvious pride in his masterpiece, which he built at the age of 33. In the decorative relief trim at the base of the belvedere tower, he created a chain of ornamental interlocked G's, which proudly reappear again on each of the capitals of the rusticated pilasters at each of the corners of the building.
The foundation of Liberty Hall is composed of large granite blocks supporting the first floor timber framing.
Entering the building from its impressive main entrance, one is immediately greeted by the beautiful double staircase leading to the second floor auditorium, sixty feet deep by forty feet wide. On the way up one will notice the graceful shaped ceiling over the whole vestibule space. Much of the original grain-painted woodwork survives throughout Liberty Hall.