Jefferson to rename building for county hero

Contributed Renovations inside Judd Hall are seen in this February photo.

The town of Jefferson will celebrate its annual Heritage Day on Saturday with a rededication of one of its most historic buildings.

The Masonic Hall of Jefferson will be renamed the Col. Stephen Judd Hall in honor of the town’s founder, a Revolutionary War veteran who helped secure the name in honor of then-President Thomas Jefferson and donated property for public schools, a cemetery and the village green, according to organizers.

Built in 1865, the building was acquired in 2017 by the Jefferson Historical Society, which will host the 1 p.m. rededication ceremony on the porch.

The men of Mason’s Working Lodge 554 and the women of the Order of the Eastern Star were “pillars of the community” whose legacy will be memorialized with a plaque on the building, according to Gail Rentsch, a member of the historical society and one of the event organizers.

The Jefferson building fell out of use as the organization’s numbers dwindled in recent years and remaining members of the lodge merged with the group in Cobleskill, she said, “so it’s no longer the Masonic Hall because there’s no Masons in it.”

The first floor has been restored as a community area, the site of some “enormously successful” open mic nights, art shows and lectures, according to Rentsch, and the second floor will be repurposed as a historical museum, displaying documents and records important to the town’s history.

Many state and local officials are expected to attend the ceremony, including state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford; Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, and a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck.

The ghosts of Col. Judd and his wife, Statira, portrayed by re-enactors from the historical society, will “haunt” the ceremony and appear in the 10:30 a.m. parade, according to Rentsch. 

In addition to fire trucks, antique cars and horses, the parade will also feature floats created by students at Jefferson Central School.

The day’s festivities will continue across the street from the hall at the village green with live music, a petting zoo, dunk tank, magic show, chainsaw-carving demonstrations, vendors and displays. 

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.