The History of The Community House
In 1921, George and Emily Mandell of Hamilton decided to build a community center in memory of their son, Samuel Mandel, and seven other local men who died during World War I. They were inspired by a national movement to develop spaces that would bring people together after the hardship of war.
The Mandells commissioned renowned architect and landscape designer Guy Lowell to design our building. They then gave The Community House in trust for the use of the residents of Hamilton and Wenham.
For the first 22 years, Emily Proctor Mandell self-funded the needs and maintenance of the building. After her passing in 1943, the organization faced financial hardships but remained resilient in its mission.
During the 1980s, TCH met the needs of the community with new programs, including after-school care for children, social enrichment for adults with disabilities, and large community-wide celebrations. The organization also raised funds to make critical repairs to its historic building. In the 1990s, TCH launched a program to provide social events for adults with disabilities. That program, which has been running continuously for three decades, is now called the Friends Club.
In 2006, Melissa Elmer joined TCH as Executive Director, and her vision was transformative. In 2008, TCH expanded its arts programming with Stage 284, an in-house theater company. In 2016, TCH hired its first Director of Development. Flagship programs hit new milestones, and the organization grew to almost 30 employees. In 2019 The Community House launched The Kids Community @ 284 (TKC), a new childcare program, with an initial enrollment of 98 children.
In 2020, TCH redesigned its flagship programs to unite our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. TKC provides safe childcare that matches the quickly evolving needs of families in the HW School District. Stage 284 creates new content and shares it widely through digital channels. And, of course, we continue to offer special events that bring our community together.
TCH remains a thriving non-profit, 501c3 charitable organization dedicated to promoting the arts, enrichment and civic unity. In 2021 and 2022, The Community House will launch its centennial anniversary celebrations.
To learn more download the history of the Community House through the year 2003 here.
Much of this information was gathered from the text of a speech given by former Community House President and Mandell family grandson, C.G. Rice. The speech was given April 25, 1985 to the Hamilton Historical Association. Marie Saunders, Executive Director, and her staff gathered other material from The Community House records in 1983-85. Finally, Ann Chivakos, Administrative Assistant and Margo Druschel, Executive Director, made a cursory search of the files, and interviewed board members and residents as well.
*(The history is provided in portable document files (pdf) and is readable and printable through Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader you can download it free, by clicking here.)